Chema Buceta has told Great Britain’s players to forget the in-fighting and funding wrangles which have plagued British basketball.

Instead, he wants them to cash in on an opportunity to make waves when the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket tips off on Thursday.

Despite what is understood to have been pre-tournament budget cuts imposed without consultation on the team’s staff, and the effective neutering of the BBF and its performance capabilities, the Spaniard will lead his side into their group stage opener with co-hosts Latvia with a real belief that they can survive a pool that also includes Ukraine and defending champions Spain – and then hunt the top six place required to reach next summer’s Olympic qualifiers.

Success could open the door to a return of regular Lottery funding from UK Sport and the kind of commercial spin-offs which netball have collected.

Failure, however, could consign the sport towards deep oblivion. But that potentially disastrous fate cannot be a distraction, Buceta insists.

“It’s important to understand that the future of British basketball does not depend on this team,” he said. “We did our job which is to qualify for here. And now we are here to do our best.

“But not because the future of the sport is on our shoulders. It is not a fair responsibility for these girls. Because despite the organisation, they are here and they deserve to be here. And now they are focused on the basketball. We will do our best. But if British basketball is to grow, this is only one of the things.”


With UK Sport looking for a return on the £75,000 invested in this team, the sensitivities of British Basketball officials was underlined when their media liaison officer attempted to block a question on the issue at GB’s eve-of-tournament press conference.

Yet Jo Leedham, who has scarcely disguised her discontent at some of the moves made behind the scenes, echoed Buceta’s sentiment that winning – not politics – must come first over the next eleven days.

“We’re not really focusing or talking about it,” she said. “Our focus is Latvia, then Spain and then Ukraine. We’re just focusing on what we can control now, which is what we came here to do.”

Photo: Mansoor Ahmed

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