GB Basketball 'could challenge at Olympics' says Rocks forward Achara

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British basketball can learn from cycling - Kieron Achara

Britain's basketball players say they can challenge for medals at future Games if they win back their Olympic funding.

Basketball had its funding withdrawn in 2014, because it was unlikely to win medals at the Rio Games or Tokyo 2020.

But GB and Glasgow Rocks forward Kieron Achara, 33, says more investment could transform British basketball.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but we are making steps forward and I'm excited about the future," he said.

Grant-making body UK Sport awards £100m annually to sports that are expected to win medals, but a new strategy means participation rates will also be taken into account.

This could help basketball retrieve some funding as more than 150,000 people aged 16 and over play the sport at least once a week, according to Sport England participation figures.

In 2014, Achara said the loss of funding meant he and his team-mates were living on £15 a day as they attempted to reach the European Championships, adding that some players had to sleep in beds that were not big enough for them.

Neither Team GB's men's or women's basketball teams - ranked 22nd and 21st respectively - qualified for the Rio Olympic Games.

GB Basketball's hopes of receiving funding have been boosted by UK Sport's new funding model, and Achara told BBC World Service Sport that basketball was already making steps to improve.

"We have to think about the reasons why the funding was cut and prove how we deserve that funding in the future," said Achara, who represented Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games.

"We're looking at other sports, like cycling, which did a lot on their own, and trying to find private investors, so it's attractive for British players to come back and play in the national league rather than overseas - so we can develop our own style, nurture our own players, and improve our strength and conditioning.

"We are trying to assemble the best team we can, and qualify for EuroBasket and then the Worlds."

Achara also wants more experienced coaches with top-level pedigree to be used by GB as he thinks this could make playing for the national side more appealing to British players in the NBA.

"Many of our coaches have only worked in the UK. We're not a basketball culture so they need people with overseas experience to mentor them," Achara said.

"If we had the best British players in the NBA playing regularly for us, I promise you we would have a great team and be at the top level at the Olympics."

Guard Ben Gordon - who played in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls - agrees.

"It has to do with getting the best talent on the same team - getting the players back from overseas so we have our best representation," he said.

The road ahead...

GB's men have six EuroBasket qualifiers starting from 31 August, with home and away games against Hungary, Macedonia and Luxembourg.

If they win their group they will qualify for EuroBasket 2017 - which is to be held in four different nations next August and September - with the knockout stages played in Istanbul, Turkey.

Their first home qualifier is against Macedonia on 3 September at the Copper Box at the Olympic Park.

On Friday and Saturday they play the Netherlands in warm-up matches in Manchester.

Britain's women have two EuroBasket 2017 qualifiers remaining, away to Italy on 19 November and away to Albania on 23 November.

They are currently third in their group and are likely to require victory in both of their remaining games to qualify automatically, although they could also progress to the final tournament in the Czech Republic as one of the six best placed runners-up.

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