WITH time ticking down to February’s Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, the stage will soon be set for Great Britain to once again show the world that they’re a team who shouldn’t be underestimated.
More than a few countries discovered that at their peril during EuroBasket 2019, and veteran guard Rachael Vanderwal feels that GB’s settled nature has allowed them to flourish.
“It’s what makes this team so special. The core of us have been together for a long, long time, a whole decade,” said Vanderwal, who represented GB during the 2012 London Olympics.
“We know what it takes to succeed at this level, and we know what we are capable of. We have great team chemistry, and we just enjoy playing for each other out there.
“All of us love putting on that jersey and competing. The passion, fight, teamwork, and genuine happiness when we step on that court with GB is something special that not every team has. That’s why we keep playing.”
EuroBasket proved to be more than just a good news story for this GB team. It provided a blueprint for head coach Jose Maria Buceta on how to not only compete with but also beat some of the best sides around.
“For our team to be successful in China, we need to continue to play like we did at EuroBasket. We played great team defence, and that really fuels our offence,” said the GB centurion, who earned her 100th GB cap in 2019.
“I’m sure our game plans will differ with China, Korea and Spain, but we really need to prepare and focus on our job and what we do well.
“We have a very balanced team with weapons at every position.”
In year’s past, Vanderwal’s words might have been greeted by scepticism, but after GB achieved a fourth place finish amongst Europe’s elite. This team isn’t an also ran but a programme that commands respect, regardless of the adversity they’ve faced.
“To be successful without much funding is a testament to the coaches, managers, and players of the GB women’s team over the last few years,” added Vanderwal..
“To finally get some funding from UK sport heading into China and hopefully Tokyo is a plus, and we do deserve it.
“Hopefully with continued success, our federation can secure future sponsorship, so that GB basketball can continue competing at the highest level.”
Despite everything that has already been achieved in the last 12 months, Vanderwal isn’t going to rest on her laurels and neither are her teammates.
“Clinching that ticket to the Olympic Qualifiers is so exciting, but we aren’t satisfied with that. We want to book our place at Tokyo, and make 2020 the best year yet for this team.”