“We’re all hungry,” Myles Hesson declares.

No wonder, in a sense. Great Britain’s men have been raised on a starvation diet when it comes to progression at EuroBaskets.

Qualification for four of the past five editions is a thread of consistency in a sport that struggles to punch even at its weight.

But a combined record of 4 wins and 14 losses over those tournaments means there has been no main course of making the knockout stages.

Can 2022, beginning in Milan on Friday, be any different? Expectations are not huge, given an initial group phase that sees Nate Reinking’s men open up with an emotion-laden contest against Ukraine before duels with the might of Croatia, Greece and Italy – with minnow Estonia thrown in.

But there is an appetite to rise to this challenge, Hesson underlines, one borne of the bonds of beating the odds and kicking obstacles out of their collective path.

We’re all like, basically playing at the same levels. If someone there’s no real superstars, there’s no NBA players on our team. So we all know that it’s, it’s on each and every one of us to provide something each game and we just take that into everything that we do.

“There’s no egos, this is one team unit. And that’s a credit to the amount of time that we’ve spent together as this core group we’ve had for the last three or four years.”

MVP Cast: EuroBasket 2022 preview

The Japan-based forward, fresh from his gold medal-winning heroics for England at the Commonwealth Games, is one of the few links now to an era that was more feast than famine in terms of the resources available to British Basketball.

His debut came in 2012, a very-much-fringe contender for a London 2012 Olympic team that contained his co-captain now, Dan Clark, and GB’s current head coach Nate Reinking.

The programme then was a travelling circus, expensed to perform in locations far and wide to be ready for a home Games, money no real object in giving Chris Finch’s squad the best preparation possible.

Fast forward a decade, and the contrast could not be greater. Every other EuroBasket participant has been in a camp for weeks, with a crammed schedule of tune-ups in advance.

GB? A couple of days, then a pair of World Cup qualifiers – both losses – to be ready for a continental championship.

There is so much sensitivity at the issue that the team’s press officer advised that questions would not be taken on such abnormalities.

It has demanded, for better or worse, that GB lean on a continuity, bringing just 13 players to camp due to a combo of finance and injuries, and relying on institutional learnings to beat the odds in Milan.

“That’s probably the premier pillar of what we have,” Reinking acknowledges. “Because we didn’t have the prep of these other teams. So we’re going to rely extremely heavy on these guys, and the camaraderie and chemistry that they’ve built over these past few years.”

In the corridors of international basketball, they roll their eyes at this skirting with amateurism. British hoops playing the poverty card? They have heard it all before. There is pity, but also indignation too.

Creditably, the British players have kept carrying on regardless, no matter what cash is freed up by UK Sport or squeezed out of occasional sponsors or what politics are present upstairs.

Such noise continues, Hesson concedes, to motivate rather than deflate.

“The chip’s always going to be there, whether we get the funding we want or not,” he says. “It’s just the underdog mentality that we’ve always had in this country, because it’s not a France, it’s not a powerhouse basketball country, it’s not Lithuania.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to get to those levels anytime soon. But hopefully, we can. And I think even when we do get to that level, and in our own countries, I think we’ll still have that type of mentality. It’s just our identity as Brits.“

That is a competitive advantage to lean on, Clark believes.

“You hear about the likes of Greece and the likes of Croatia, bringing in their NBA talent and things like that. But they don’t play together, but we have played together for a good chunk of time now.

“We know that the ins and outs of each other’s games and we know as a team, what’s successful and what’s not. Obviously, in basketball as any other sport, there’s no substitute for talent.

“But I do think that the team chemistry and the togetherness and the will to win that we have for each other, I think that that can go a long way. And hopefully it’s can go far enough to take us to a few wins.”

Ukraine, on Friday afternoon, will be critical. A good start ever important, but more so among GB’s likely direct rival for fourth place in this group and a pass to the latter stages in Berlin.

Reinking’s squad arrived last of all, late on Wednesday, after others had already settled and practiced on the Milano Assago Arena floor.

With one late change: Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye has been summoned as a last-minute call-up following the late unavailability of Teddy Okereafor and an injury to Mo Soluade.

Another push uphill. Croatia, with NBAers including Bojan Bogdanovic and Dario Saric, will expect to progress despite an indifferent build-up.

Greece, with two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and a band of brothers, are rightly among the favourites.

Estonia are beatable but it could be too late by then. Italy, at home, will be some experience next Thursday. The Azzurri have lost Danilo Gallinari to injury but remain strong.

For GB, with no NBA contractors in their mix, will have to challenge themselves to fight the big dogs and stand their ground.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Hesson underlines. “I think everyone else has to be. We’re all basketball players at the end of the day, and you want to play against the best. And that’s what we’re going to be up against.

“Maybe afterwards, after the fact, then you can look back and think ‘oh, wow, that was a great experience to play against a Giannis or something like that.’

“But for right now, he’s just another basketball player that we need to play against. And it’s the same as anybody that we come up against.

“It’s basketball at the end of the day, and we’ll go out there and try to win those games.”

Two victories, in all probability, will be demanded to get a detour rather than a return ticket home.

To make some history, to heighten the case for more resources, to boost credibility.

To satisfy the hunger.

“In 2009, the three teams that qualified from our group made the semi-finals,” declares Clark. “In 2011, you’re playing Lithuania at home, Turkey with their NBA players and Spain – another three teams that qualified.

“Again, the same, in 2017. With that group, it was always going to be a very, very, very difficult task.

“But this year, I think we do have a real, legitimate chance of making that second round and taking that next step on our journey.

“And I think our next step is proving that we can get out of the group stages and start to play a bit of knockout basketball.”

Roster: Luke Nelson, Ben Mockford, Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye, Devon van Oostrum, Patrick Whelan, Carl Wheatle, Myles Hesson, Jamell Williams, Ovie Soko, Dan Clark, Kavell Bigby-Williams, Gabe Olaseni

Image: Mansoor Ahmed/Ahmedphotos

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