Despite a gruelling first season in Poland, Great Britain’s veteran leader Julie Page still had the Olympics on her mind.
Finishing the year with Energa Torun in third place was no doubt a highlight for Page, averaging 13.9 points and seven rebounds a game in the process but although the Manchester-born forward did her utmost to help the team succeed, representing her country this summer was, overall, the main aspiration.
“The Polish league is a great standard to play in and it’s helped my confidence to be able to perform at that level,” she said. “Hopefully I can bring new things to Team GB this summer.
“The [Olympics] has always been a big goal of mine and it has been on my mind for sure the whole season, everything I’ve done I’ve tried to orientate around what I need to bring for this summer to make Team GB better.”
After a few days of rest, Page joined up with the rest of her Great Britain team-mates and travelled to Split to play two exhibition games with London 2012 hopefuls Croatia before making the journey to Belgium last week for a pre-Olympic tournament, featuring Germany, Ukraine and the hosts themselves.
The Brits won the Tournoi in Liege, shaking off a first game loss to Germany by defeating Ukraine and Belgium comfortably, Page contributing in the final game against the hosts with 13 points.
Friendly games back home in Edinburgh and Sheffield follow, with mini tournaments in Turkey and China plus two tests in the Czech Republic lodged in the middle before they complete their arduous warm-up schedule with a visit from the USA at Manchester’s MEN Arena six weeks from now.
While the goal for GB is to go into the Olympics as fully prepared as possible, the anticipated game against the Americans is also up there with competing at this year’s Summer Games, according to Page, who will playing against such stars as Angel McCoughtry, Seimone Augustus, Sue Bird and possibly Diana Taurasi, provided her hip injury heals in time.
“It’s playing the best team in the world, isn’t it and any time you get an opportunity to do that it’s great for both the fans and the players on the court so it’s not going to be much different going to the Olympics, it’s the same standard with playing against the best teams in the world,” Page admitted.
For the current British Basketball Player of the Year though, it is about raising the awareness of basketball in Manchester. Already, there are banners around the city promoting the game on July 18th along with the men’s game a day later at the same venue.
The plus being that they are showing the faces and names of the British players on the majority of those banners, rather than plastering them with pictures of their world famous American counterparts.
“Hopefully [these games] will raise the awareness of basketball in Manchester,” Page commented.
“There are some great things that are going on in Manchester right now and in the past and we just want to raise the awareness and make basketball one of the bigger sports in Manchester.
“On the side of Manchester United and football, hopefully we’ll be up there with the big bucks.”
Great Britain will also warm-up for the Games against the likes of Canada, Korea, Turkey, Angola, Czech Republic and Russia.
The hosts for the Olympics will be housed in Group B where they will play Australia, Russia, Brazil and two qualifiers whose identity will be known between June 25th and July 1st with the Olympic Qualifying Tournament being held in Ankara, Turkey.
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