After a whirlwind week and a half, the dust is now beginning to settle on EuroBasket 2019.
Coach Chema Buceta’s side were listed as 150-1 shots to win the tournament before it began, showing that most had this GB side slated for an early exit and a team just looking to make up the numbers in Latvia and Serbia.
How wrong they were.
Now the side look to February 2020 and the Olympic Qualification Tournament for a place at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, a worthy reward after their heroics run at EuroBasket.
Anyone doubting this team should have paid attention to the pre-tournament warm up win against highly-ranked Canada in Manchester, and a very narrow defeat to eventual EuroBasket 2019 winners Spain in Madrid.
Starting Group A with a bang, GB showed everyone they were a real deal by spoiling the party of the hosts Latvia with a 74-60 win on the tournament’s opening day. A close 67-59 loss to Spain followed before Buceta’s side finished on a high, beating Ukraine 68-54 to seal second place in the group, an achievement few would have predicted before the competition began.
Victories against Montenegro and Hungary followed, propelling GB into the rarefied air of the EuroBasket semi-finals, rubbing shoulders with some of the game’s elite sides. Despite closing the tournament with defeats to France and Serbia, this GB programme has already etched its name into the history of the British game, a tremendous achievement for all involved.
Talisman forward Temi Fagbenle certainly left her mark on the tournament, leading all players with 20.9 points per game to go with 6.7 rebounds per contest. The WNBA standout’s signature performance came during the quarter-final victory over Hungary, dropping 29 points to go with 8 boards.
Her selection as one of the tournament’s All-Star Five was well deserved, a prestigious award that the Polish League MVP had more than earned throughout the competition.
After a historic semi-final berth and confirmation of finishing in the tournament’s top six sides, GB have now secured their place in the qualification tournament for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. A series of positive results next February would stamp GB’s passport to Tokyo and make them the first home nation side ever to outright qualify for an Olympic Games.
Chema Buceta: “I think we have to see the big picture here - and that is that we are talking about qualifying tournaments for the Olympic Games,” said
"I think we have raised the standards - there is no reason that Great Britain cannot have a better level of basketball and these players have shown that when they have a level of trust in what they are doing they can do great things.”
Rachael Vanderwal: “It’s been a long tournament and both emotionally and physically but the big picture shows how far we have come. From not even qualifying in 2017, to fighting for a medal.”
The last few weeks have shown exactly what GB basketball is capable of. The support for the team has been incredible, driving our side on to new heights and unheralded levels of success.
The last few weeks have also brought together fans from far and wide to push the mainstream media to sit up and take notice of what our teams can do. Battling against the Women’s Football World Cup, Wimbledon, the Cricket World Cup and more, basketball stood tall. As a sport it deserves to be heard on so many levels and we’ll keep working with GB Basketball and everyone else involved in the game to make sure that happens, now, and in the future.