Despite heading into February’s World Cup qualifiers without a win, Great Britain coach Tony Garbelotto believes that his side can still win their remaining games.
GB face perhaps their toughest international window in Group H as they travel to Israel and then Greece with two defeats, not an option as it could leave them with a mountain to climb when they return home for the third window, which starts at the end of June.
The Brits lost their opening two games of World Cup qualifying in November. A heartbreaking overtime loss to Greece in Leicester was followed by a defeat to Estonia on the road.
But this time Garbelotto has his original first choice squad and arguably the stronger of the two rosters he has picked ready for the two road games. Gabe Olaseni returns to the fold after a neck injury prevented him from playing in November and London Lions guard Justin Robinson comes back to the international scene for the first time in five years.
Garbelotto admitted that he had to make minor adjustments to the team for the first window and that the major talking point during the coaches debrief in Estonia was to improve the squad further ahead of February’s encounters.
“I felt disappointed with how I did things during window one and it was a tough one, I was trying to get a feel for the players even though I knew most of them, for my new staff even though I knew them,” said Garbelotto.
“The whole experience was different but I look at it in a super positive way. I’ll be honest, if the World Cup qualification was held in the summer and teams were able to play their NBA guys and all of their EuroLeague guys, we would probably not have much of a chance whereas here, I genuinely think we can beat all the teams in our group, I really do. Despite being 0-2, I genuinely think this group has a lot going for them.”
And ahead of their game against Israel on Friday, February 23, there were a some potentially worrying factors for GB, most notably with the time of the game, which tips off at 2 pm, local time in Tel Aviv (12 pm UK time).
Normally, teams would hold training camp at home before jetting off for the game, but with a five-hour flight, two-hour time difference and a game that tips off early to take on board, Garbelotto had to think on his feet in order to get the best out of the preparation time that he has when the domestic fixtures end over the weekend.
“We knew that Israel would play our game early on Friday and playing at 2 pm means that normally you would have to be there on Wednesday but if you took a morning flight out of London, you would essentially lose nearly a whole day anyway, leaving little time to prepare,” the GB coach explained.
“So I said let’s run camp there instead of at home because most of the players play around Europe anyway so let’s hold camp in Israel.
“So nine out of our 12 guys will be there Sunday and three will come in on Monday morning and we are basically running the same camp that we did in November, changing a few things, such as watching more video because it’s well into the season, I feel the players don’t have to train as hard but the focus remains the same.
“I feel that running a camp from Sunday all the way through to Friday’s game is such an advantage and being able to acclimatise to the country and to the situation is great and I’m really excited.”
On the other side, Israel has named a 24-man roster for their World Cup qualifying campaign, which includes four EuroLeague players: Karam Mashour, Jake Cohen, Itay Segev and Yovel Zoosman, all playing for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv.
They will host GB then head out to Tallinn with the aim of doing the double over Estonia. Currently, Israel are 1-1 in Group H.