joe Prunty practice 568Great Britain’s education process is over. It is time to put lessons into practice when their EuroBasket campaign begins on Wednesday against Israel (1.30pm, BT Sport 2).

It is time to put the negativity to one side, to forget about those who are not here in Slovenia and pray to the basketball gods for those who are putting body on line. It is time to hope, against odds and reasoning, that Joe Prunty’s 12 good men and true can upset the odds and advance beyond the first round in Ljubljana.

A 2-8 record in the build-up is, in truth, inauspicious. Those two wins came at the outset against a Puerto Rico team that was barely credible. The heaviest in a line of bad losses came at the end to Spain: a record loss in the modern era, the lowest point tally, a troublesome ebb.

Throughout, Prunty has been honest and realistic. The American, robbed of his best three players, and with a fourth – Dan Clark – limping in at the eleventh hour, has been unfortunate but remains admirable upbeat.

Spain was a low ebb (FEB)

Spain was a low ebb (FEB)

“We’ve played teams who have played differently, both offensively and defensively. That’s challenged us,” he declares. “When we get to Israel, the important thing is we’re ready to go in that game. And we will be.

“That’s the reason you play friendlies, and go through training camps, and do the things you do.”

At the outset, the new Brooklyn Nets assistant set about creating a running team, one that could score in transition but also defend. He has accomplished neither but it is hardly his fault.

There is a line of inexperience cutting through his roster, making inevitable mistakes. Among the guards, there has been admirable steel from Justin Robinson and from Andrew Lawrence, whose late return to health is a big plus.

Kieron Achara has flourished. You just hope his confidence has not been stripped by a late extraction from the starting unit. Gareth Murray has been a revelation. Eric Boateng has stood up to be counted.

But still. But still.

“We’ve also got a whole new coaching staff and a whole new philosophy,” Achara notes. ”It’s been a learning year. But we’re up to the challenge. I still believe we’re capable of going on and doing the best we’ve ever done at a EuroBasket. But we need to come together.”

It has to happen now. Five games in six days will test their depth and resilience. GB are fortunate, at least, that they are in a group with Germany, who are undergoing similar growing pains, and with Belgium who have achieved nothing of note. Even if France, Ukraine and the Israelis prove too strong, there is still a pathway towards fourth place in the pool and a spot in the second phase.

Robinson, who has bounced back from missing out on both the Olympics and the previous EuroBasket, sums up an understanding that any victory will be collected by 12 acting as one, rather than the talents of any individual.

And the spark, he knows, must come from the backcourt.

“There is a collective responsibility there among all the guards,” the Londoner confirms. “Coach has said to me: ‘you’re a shooting point guard.’ And that really goes for us all.

“We know we all have to be aggressive. We have to play defence. We have to make open shots. Just contribute any way I can.”

Drew Sullivan: targets

Drew Sullivan: targets

He needs to. Everyone must. GB needs offense from somewhere. The 46 points scored last Thursday must be an aberration. But they will have to generate at least 60 on any given night to stand a chance, while also holding opponents in check.

It’s a tough ask, without Luol Deng, Joel Freeland and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. British Basketball’s future funding may depend on the results achieved over the coming week but, within the camp, it is more about pride and resolve.

There will be, vowed Drew Sullivan, no acceptance of disaster. Even with no expectations on their collective shoulders, progression must remain the target.

“That’s the goal,” GB’s most-capped performer underlines. “Nothing has wavered. Our goal is to go in, compete and win games. We understand that the games we’ve had have been tough. We haven’t played as well as we’d have liked.

“But we start zero-zero at EuroBasket. We haven’t lost any games so we can still focus on going through. If we play the way we can, we’ll be in good stead to win some games in Slovenia.”

No time like the present.

Pics: Mansoor Ahmed/BB

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