ACHARA PRAYING FOR WIZARDRY IN OZ

Kieron Achara has squeaked shoes onto floor on many of basketball’s premier parquets: Olympic Games, EuroBaskets, big games in some of the biggest leagues of the world.

Yet the man with a Saltire etched in ink onto his right arm claims Scotland’s run through to the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games might be a career highlight, with the possibility of a crescendo to come.

With Australia awaiting tonight in the last four in Gold Coast, it seems improbable that the hosts will not maintain their unbeaten charge into Sunday’s final and their unfancied rivals, finally, succumb to defeat. “We are going to have to be playing our absolute best and Australia their absolute worst,” Achara acknowledged. “But that doesn’t mean we’re not going into compete. We’re up for the challenge.”

Just as Rob Beveridge’s side have been throughout this tournament, and as the Stirling-born forward has been during his entire career. At 34, and now affirmably in the fourth quarter of his playing days, his lone regret is that he has precious few souvenirs to pass onto his young daughter, Adelyn, save for a few runners-up medals from his spells with Glasgow Rocks and a few junior trinkets from his boyhood club Falkirk Fury.

Even London 2012, where the Scotland captain paced Great Britain to their lone victory over China, passed by in a haze. “I can’t even remember much about it,” he admits. “I was too busy taking everything that was going on off the court. Plus the results didn’t go our way. But now to be a part of a team that’s winning probably makes it the most special thing I’ve been involved in. It’s a special group. There’s no egos. No-one playing for contracts. Everyone is working together. It’s been beautiful to be a part of.”

Upsetting the Opals in the bearpit of a home arena may require the Scots to give as good as they take. The Aussies, outstanding favourites from the outset despite the absence of their ten-strong quota of NBA players, have been pushed only once, by New Zealand, who take on Canada in the second semi.

Scotland’s not-so-secret weapon will be their Australian coach, Rob Beveridge, who has worked with all but one of his forthcoming opponents and who has wrung the absolute maximum from his charges, young and old, despite Gareth Murray’s inspirational contribution of 16.7 points per game.

“It’s been a complete effort,” Achara underlined. “When someone has a hot hand, we go to them. Rob’s empowered us to find solutions when problems come up. He’s struck such a good balance between coaching and letting us figure out things for ourselves.”

However they fare against Australia, opportunity will still knock for the first platoon of Scots to reach a team competition semi-final in Games history. “We’ll be in a position this weekend to come away with a medal,” Achara adds, “whether it’s in the final or playing for bronze.”

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