Want a national team you can be proud of, why not Back British Basketball?

Sam Neter and Sillky Alroy Slim are two men on a miision. A mission with a simple brief – to get people to Back British Basketball. With London 2012 on the horizon you’d be forgiven for thinking the public needed little encouragement to get behind Team GB, but then most people are unaware that they aren’t yet guaranteed a spot at the Olympics. Whilst athletes from all other sports have been preparing for the games our ballers have been running the gauntlet. Travelling to all corners of the continent battling to earn both a place at the 2011 Eurobasket, and an invite to their own party.

But then maybe it was a blessing in disguise? After all Team GB have now qualified top of their group and national interest is at an all time high. Would Sam and Sillky have even started the Back British Basketball (BBB) campaign if it wasn’t for this blatant injustice? Sam says they would, but at the same time agrees that the Olympics issue has helped to get the campaign into the public consciousness, “The Olympic thing is the hook for it to hopefully break into the mainstream and get outside of just basketball communities. Regardless of the sport, a British team without a place at our own Olympics? Outrageous!”

During the three months since BBB was born, Sam and Sillky have come up with several initiatives aimed at getting people behind British basketball. Perhaps the most successful scheme, and certainly the most popular, has been The Dog Pound, a small section of the arena where fans are encouraged to make extra noise in exchange for free tickets. Some Balldogs, the menacing title for the supporters housed in The Dog Pound, have been guilty of failing to deliver on their pre game promise of noise, but the majority of those who attended the Bosnia game on Thursday did their utmost to inspire the team onto the qualifying clinching 94-85 victory.

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And inspired they have been. Combining for a monstrous 70 points and 34 rebounds against Bosnia, the Chicago Bulls Luo Deng and Caja Laboral’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu (formerly of San Antonio Spurs) will draw most of the plaudits, but Team GB boasts considerable talent throughout the squad. Veteran guard Nate Reinking owns a jumpshot that can trouble any defence in the world, captain Andrew Sullivan has taken his skills all over Europe and beyond, whilst Ogo Adegboye possesses the never say die attitude that makes him a nuisance to play against. If you’re in any doubt of what this side is capable of, head on over to backbritishbasketball.com and watch the GB vs Spain video. They led the World Champions with just a few minutes left on the clock and yet most people would struggle to name a single British basketball player.

Whilst you’re over at BBB HQ you should also take a look at the Ten Commandments. Back in July the boys agreed on a list of goals that they hoped would give the sport more exposure, but also let them have a little bit of fun along the way. Six have been ticked off so far (crowd noise over 122 decibels, TV coverage etc.) whilst they are close to sealing the deal on the other four. You can help out with number nine by spreading the BBB YouTube page. Post it on your Facebook, Twitter, hell get the URL tattooed on your forehead if you’re really serious about supporting the cause.

For all of Sam and Sillky’s hard work you only need to look at the attendances for a reminder of the suffocating presence football has on all other sports in this country. One of the biggest games in British basketball history only drew in around 2,700 people whilst a meaningless England friendly against Hungary attracted more than 70,000. Whilst he admits that rivalling football is unrealistic, Sam does believe that the platform is there for GB basketball to take off. It seems only appropriate that I give him the final word, “The potential for basketball is huge – participation wise at a grass roots level it’s right up there, but until the funding, infrastructure, coaching and access is better placed we will remain behind other countries.”

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