Now we all know for absolute sure that Great Britain will get to play in the Olympics, the much-discussed campaign to un-retire Andy Betts has to swing into overdrive.

The 7-1 centre announced his retirement from international basketball in mid-January and it probably wasn’t the biggest shock of the sporting year, but it was still a disappointment.

The Europe-based pivot deserved to play on GB’s Olympic squad, if only as reward for all those games he played around Europe with that miracle of shoestring budgeting that was the Laszlo Nemeth-era England team.

But as long ago as 2009 in Warsaw Betts was sounding non-committal about the Olympics. It was after that EuroBasket that he told GB manager Ron Wuotila he was thinking of retiring from GB.

“He said take a summer off and see how you feel,” says Betts. “I did that but nothing really changed for me.”

So Bettsy’s retirement from internationals, a topic I was selfishly hoping to save for the euphoric post-Olympic glow period of late August 2012, was suddenly and finally a reality. At the age of 33 and after playing 64 times for his country.

Just a minute; 64 Times? In 13 years? He definitely needs to reconsider.

For a start, British fans might like to see Andy Betts for the last time because through all these long, Europe-based years, they’ve been starved of seeing our best home-grown centre in action.

Here’s some more stats: AB played 40 times for England and 24 for GB and only 14 of the last 40 have come at home (and one of those was a DNP at Burgess Hill in – wait for it – 2001). He has played at home for GB only five times, the last time being against Switzerland in Sheffield in 2007.

So most of his greatest work passed by British audiences. Did you know, for example, he has Greek and Spanish championship medals in his collection? And more – here’s a taste of some other stuff that British fans almost certainly missed:

The game where he announced his arrival as a European player was against Latvia in 1999, when Nemeth’s England won 97-90 in a European qualifier held in the forbidding atmosphere of Riga’s creakingly cold-war era icedrome.

Nemeth remembers Betts that night “walking tall into the locker room in front of the hostile Latvian crowd throwing bottles and light bulbs”, but I remember suddenly being reminded how dominant a player of that stature can be in the game. This was King Kong vs assorted bi-planes circa 1933. England suddenly had serious inside options.

Despite being double- and even triple-teamed, Betts got to the basket or at least the foul line most times he got the ball. The crowd wanted something done about it and weren’t backwards in letting their team know about it – hence the glass shower.

“I think it was a game nobody expected us to win which made it even more satisfying,” Betts recalls, neglecting to mention his own performance, which basically announced him as a legitimate presence on the international stage.

He received more attention for a 31-point monstering of the Czech Republic in Opava two years later – his highest score for England – but Riga was the first big game he had.

There were other moments too in the GB programme. When Andrew Sullivan points out the team can win games without the likes of Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, chances are he’s thinking of a win against then world No. 11 New Zealand in Croatia in 2007.

That was sealed by a smart Betts dash down the lane in the final minute that turned an offence going nowhere into a three-point play with two seconds left on the shot clock. Sullivan provided the pass, New Zealand the looks of resigned disbelief. When the and-one went in, it was too late for the Tall Blacks to get back.

So it’s a shame Betts will probably not play in the Olympics.

But is that for sure? Coach Chris Finch and the players would surely let him make a late choice: “It’s a big emotional loss as much as it’s a loss on the floor,” said Finch.

Will Finch try to persuade Betts to give it one last go in 2012? “I’ll only take a run at him if he asks me to convince him to play,” he said. “I think Andy and I have an open enough relationship that if he has a change of heart he’d tell me. I would maybe try and have him involved in the programme in some shape or form,” adds Finch.

I’m thinking maybe Finchy should have a number 15 jersey with the name Betts on it lying around too. Purely by chance of course. Sort of a wardrobe maladministration thing, you understand.

Nemeth, who risked the sack to get the young Betts into the England set-up, would also like to see a late decision from Betts on this. “He should be available to talk to young people, motivate them, explain to them that it is possible.

“Andy was more than just tall, or more than just lucky. The more you practise the luckier you become, and Andy trained a lot. I still think of him very highly – not just as a player.”

I would say check out the way he interacts with officials on court as well. He instantly acknowledges fouls called on him with no more than a quizzical look if he feels the call is harsh.

He opens a dialogue with refs and if he gets a call back, the ref gets a nod. Youngsters who follow a football-style confrontational approach with officials could learn a lot.

But 2012 will all come down to how Andrew Betts feels. I’ll admit he has sound reasons for giving up. Betts has a young family and spends too much of the year apart from them, earning a living around Europe. Last year it was Greece, ditto the year before, but Italy and Spain are other stamps in the Betts passport.

This year it’s Ukraine. He’s in Kiev and the family aren’t. He’ll play something like 70 games this season, most of them in eastern Europe but his air miles from 2010-11 would definitely be worth having. It’s not like he’s whiling away the twilight of his career in some basketball backwater.

There’s the fitness angle too: A big body like that takes a relentless pounding from the sheer physicality dished out in all the major European leagues these days. Betts has already had one bout of back surgery (I honestly thought it was more) and is probably none too keen on trying it again.

To train or play he straps on a lumbar support that appears to be half-corset, half-electric blanket and was possibly designed for a horse originally. He passes it off with a smirk and the dry one-liner: “I wear this for my figure, not for my health…”

Even with the improved medical science in basketball these days, big man careers struggle to last beyond age 35 at the top level, so Betts has to fit in as many seasons while he still can.

So time is short. The campaign has to start now. Sign up, people, like you did with that massive T-shirt. And that worked too.

And Andrew Betts: Never say never, as Sean Connery once said. Promise us you’ll think seriously about being available for six weeks next year.

I mean – 64 caps? Call that fulfilment in international basketball?

Just think of it as working out your notice, big guy. Bring the wife and kids – they’ll love it.

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