The signs were there after the Sino-European games, after the Hibernia team played in the FIBA EuroCup and, particularly, after the senior men’s team competed in the European Small Nations this past summer in Moldova: The Irish Senior Men’s Basketball team is back and now it has a new head coach, former George Washington University Assistant Pete Strickland. Strickland will hold the position for two seasons (2016/17 and 2017/18), culminating in participation in the FIBA Small Nations European Championships in 2018.
There has been mutterings recently regarding the possibility of the the return of the senior Irish men’s national team. The team was disbanded in 2010 due to the Basketball Ireland financial crisis and it now seems like a return might not be too far away.With that in mind we decided it would be a good time to start the preparation and see if we could maybe convince a few NBA players to join the green army…
After a concerted campaign, supported by a number of high profile figures including FIBA General Secretary Patrick Baumann, the NBA Commissioner David Stern and Euroleague chief Jordi Romeu, UK Sport have decided to grant funding to GB Basketball for the Rio 2016 Olympic cycle.
The announcement came on Friday with Liz Nicholl, UK Sport’s Chief Executive, saying: “UK Sport is delighted to be able to confirm that we will now be investing in two additional sports for the Rio cycle, taking the overall total to 44 sports. These sports have credible medal potential for 2016 or 2020.”
Roger Moreland, British Basketball’s Performance Chairman, was quick to emphasise that the sport had made a strong case for itself during Wednesday’s informal representation hearing, pointing out that “we successfully presented compelling new performance data, which not only impressed the Board but made them recognise that we are potential podium contenders for 2020.”
Moreland paid particular tribute to the support given by FIBA, who he said “played a crucial part in our success by demonstrating through technical information, how much progress we have made over the last 7 years as well as our position globally.”
That technical information proved crucial to the success of Wednesday’s hearing and in his official response to the decision, the Minister for Sport, Hugh Robertson MP, described the decision as “good news”. He added, “I am delighted that at their informal representations, both Basketball and Wheelchair Fencing, were able to produce new performance data that showed that they have a realistic chance of getting a medal in 2020.”
Team GB’s biggest star, Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls, went one further: “Today’s announcement by UK Sport is incredible news for not only us as a team but for the future development of the sport of basketball…we have to now deliver on a number of levels and ensure that the legacy of 2012 and indeed the last six years is established and continues to grow between now and Rio. In 2016 we aim to reward today’s decision with a medal!”
Realistically, the target for GB Basketball now is to medal in 2020 and FIBA’s Patrick Baumann certainly feels that they are now in a strong position to do just that. “The new funding will allow the sport to build on the progress and growth it has already made in a very short time and aim for a podium place in 2020,” he said.
Indeed, building on their excellent progress thus far is an absolute must for the directors , coaches and players of Team GB. The size of the funding has yet to be specified and when it does it come, will be contingent upon basketball meeting a strict set of requirements as pointed out in UK Sport’s statement: “[the] award will be on a one year conditional basis with the following three years funding released only on the fulfilment of strict performance criteria.”
“We will now enter into a dialogue with UK Sport about the actual details and level of funding as well the support services required,” said Moreland. “This is a momentous day for British Basketball and everyone who is connected with the sports, whether players, fans or officials.”