JOURNEY NOT OVER, PRUNTY WARNS

Qualifying for EuroBasket is a mission accomplished, Great Britain coach Joe Prunty admits.

On to the next one, the American declares. The second GB’s place was confirmed for EuroBasket 2017 despite a painful loss to Luxembourg, the pre-season for next summer began.

Some should fear for their places. Others have proven their worth during a 2016 spell that have seen, marginally, more moments of optimistic promise than spells of despair.

But in securing their spot in a major showpiece for the first time since EuroBasket three years ago, Prunty senses that progress has been made that can now be built upon.

“I think through the whole campaign, there have been vital and very important things that have happened with this team, with players as individuals, every player committing to the team,” he affirmed. “I think about when I first got here four years ago and the things I talked to guys about: this is a process.

“GB was coming off the Olympics and there were so many people going: ‘yeah, we did it.’ No, it doesn’t work that way. It is a great feeling to have qualified. But the reality is now what does it mean? Now we want to try and get to the worlds, right? It doesn’t stop.

“The part as a player that is hard is that if you worry about the destination, what gets everybody is time. Because it’s a hard game to play. When you have opportunities in front of you, you take advantage of them. We have a tremendous opportunity next summer.”

Without doubt, the majority of the dozen that achieved qualification will go to the finals. Yet there will inevitably be casualties, particularly towards the end of the bench.

Myles Hesson, much-missed this summer, is likely to return. Perhaps Luke Nelson will be handed his chance. And, Prunty confirmed, there will be overtures made to A-List stayaways Luol Deng and Joel Freeland to rejoin the fold for the first time since 2012.

“We talk to players all the time,” confirmed Prunty who, according to several sources, has done a masterful job in maintaining links with the entire British squad despite his heavy obligations as associate head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.

“All year. Every summer. Every winter. We are in contact with guys. With modern media, we are in contact on Whatsapp, on Viber, email, Skype, phone calls, all of it. Every year we’re in contact.

“I can remember people telling me ‘Ben Gordon won’t play’. Guys do and do not play for federations every summer. The fact is there is a family here and that’s one of the things we’ve tried to create from a culture standpoint is a family atmosphere. And if you’re not one of the 12, you’re still part of the family and you can still be selected.

“So you got to go make yourself better. Even in this game, you’ve got to prove you can make yourself better. It doesn’t stop. You’re still on the journey.”

Prunty has signalled he will remain at the helm for his second trip to a EuroBasket. With his tenure certain to come to an end next summer due to the new schedule of in-season qualifiers, the reality is Saturday could have been his final game had results gone against GB.

It never, he asserted, crossed his mind.

“The honest truth is I try to stay in the moment. I wanted to win this game and that’s it, qualify or no qualify.”

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