The men’s GB national basketball team were beaten 98-82 by Austria and must now win their away game against Cyprus on Monday, 3 December. Alberto Lorenzo, the head coach, took to shaking his head in apparent disbelief at various stages of the game and when the match was over, he looked visibly crestfallen.
Having been pretty impressed before the game by the earlier performances of the under 18 squad, the head coach had decided to offer youngsters Jacob Round and Kareem Queeley a place in the squad to face Austria. But, when it came down to it, it was experience that the team lacked, and that, plus a brilliant display by Austrian player, Sylven Landesberg, were the undoing of the GB side.
28-year-old Landesberg chalked up 49 points for himself during the game, a contest in which he was undoubtedly man-of-the-match. Unluckily for team GB, Landesberg (who was born on Brooklyn USA) only recently got his Austrian passport and was first selected for the Austrian national on the 8th November.
The 6 feet 6-inch basketballer gave an exhibition performance; one that exposed technical issues with the scoreboard which meant it had difficulties in keeping tabs on the rapidly escalating points. In the first half, Landesberg racked up 40-points including three-point shots from corners and classic step-back shots. He also showed great physical prowess.
His teammates egged him on at halftime to see if he could make 50-points and he narrowly missed out, finishing on a very creditworthy 49.
For the GB side, the top scorers were Myles Hesson with 18 points; Andrew Lawrence with 15 and Ovie Soko just behind him with 15. Hesson was Team GB’s man of the match. As well as finishing top scorer he also managed to keep closer tabs of Landesberg in the second half, helping to limit his points scoring to only nine as opposed to forty in the first period.
GB basketball has not done itself any favours. Back in February both the men’s and women’s national sides were on the edge of disappearing due to lack of funding.
British Basketball (the driving force behind the sport in GB) had run out of money, and with a £90K hole in the budget that needed filling, UK Sport had to step up and provided a £195K investment. They would have hoped for a better return on their investment.
The women’s national basketball team, however, are doing their thing. With an emphatic 83-42-point win over Portugal, they have already qualified for next year’s EuroBasket finals.
The men, however, have had their fate taken out of their own hands. It is imperative that they win their upcoming game against Cyprus if they are to retain any hope of qualification from their three-team group. But the Brits are renowned for their “backs to the wall” attitude, and this could well make them on for a surprise win.