GB forward Joel Freeland has described the potential demise of the national basketball team as “devastating”.

The 27-year-old Portland Trail Blazer says he was “really surprised” by UK Sport’s decision in February to completely axe GB Basketball’s funding, and is saddened by what it could mean for the future of the programme.

“I played for the team for almost 7 years and put a lot of work into helping it be the team it was,” he said.

“We had some amazing years, playing up against the likes of Spain and going down to the wire with great teams. To have all that taken away from you suddenly is not a nice thing at all. It’s going to be devastating.”

Freeland has opted not to play for the national team since the London 2012 Olympics, a tough but necessary decision he says.

“People have to understand that I really have to devote everything to [the Trail Blazers]  at the moment. It’s hard for me to split the two. If they don’t see my over here during the summer, working out, trying to get better, people kinda forget about you. That’s the struggle I’ve been going through.

“Obviously I love playing for my country. I love playing for GB. But I have to make a decision – and the last couple of years, my decision had to be being over here. I don’t think I would have had the season that I did last year, or the minutes I had last year, if I had played for the national team.

“There has to be a balance. It’s not a nice thing for me to have to chose between my country and my team, but at the end of the day I had to make that decision. But I don’t think it’s the last you’re going to have seen of me. Who knows what’s going to happen in the future. I love playing for the national team, and I’ve love to play for them in the future.”

Freeland is coming off a respectable 14 minutes per game last season, but has struggled so far this year with both injury and more competition for playing time.

“This year, it’s going to be a whole different matter,” he says. “We have Chris Kaman now, who’s going to be playing a lot of the minutes in the back-up position. There are going to be nights this year, probably, where I don’t get off the bench.”

That’s not good news for a guy who’s in a contract year. But whilst he admits it is on his mind, Freeland insists that he’s not going to let it take him out of his game.

“Of course I want to continue in the NBA, but at the same time I don’t want to be on the court trying to do stuff I can’t do. I really want to be level-headed about it, and keep doing the things that have made me valuable to this point – defence, running the floor, not making mistakes – all these things that not a lot of players like to do, but I need to try and thrive off. So obviously it’s in my mind, but at the same time I don’t want it to overtake the way I’m playing.”

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