With one window of FIBA 2023 World Cup Qualifiers in the books, it is all square in Group B as Great Britain Men’s and all their group opponents having won and lost one game apiece – the only group of all the European qualifiers with that distinction.
With a double-header against Belarus awaiting GB, playing away in Minsk on 25 February before returning home to Newcastle for the return fixture on 28 February, 42-cap centre Gabe Olaseni feels an exciting opportunity lies ahead for his team.
“It isn’t your usual situation as you normally face two different teams, but I think it does have its benefits as well and we should look at it from a positive perspective,” Olaseni said.
“We know we’re going to get a good scout from the coaches, we have intelligent players who can lock in on the opposition, so I think it is a good opportunity for us.
“We’re all looking forward to it, we’re all focused, I’ve been speaking to the guys in recent weeks and there is a great energy within the group for this window as there always is, so we’re just looking forward to coming together now and getting to work.
“When I started playing for GB we weren’t necessarily playing in small arenas, but we weren’t playing against as high a level of competition, so as each window goes by it just gets bigger and bigger and we live for these moments, for the most part we react well to hostile environments, and we’re excited for what lays ahead.”
“We showed that we can hit the ground running.”
One of GB’s leading scorers in qualifying so far, Olaseni is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per game through two tough fixtures at home to Greece and away to Turkey, wasting no time in finding good form in this latest qualifying campaign.
Starting quickly is something that Olaseni feels the entire roster showed they could do in the previous qualifying window, as he reflects on the November victory against world-number-10-ranked Greece and a tough loss in Turkey.
“From the last window I definitely think there is a lot we can learn about ourselves from those games, and particularly against Greece we showed that we can hit the ground running, come together and deliver big results.
“We were down by double-digits but came back to win, so we showed we can execute when it matters. We didn’t get the win out in Turkey, but we should take confidence in knowing the win was right there for us aside from a few mistakes here and there.
“The window showed how important it is for us to execute down the stretch, because in the first game we did that and we got the win as a result, but in the second game we didn’t and things got away from us, so hopefully we can learn a lot from both situations.”
“Hopefully we can continue those winning ways in front of the fans there.”
After competing for victory in the Belarus’ Minsk Sports Palace in the first of this double-header of fixtures, GB will return to Newcastle’s Vertu Motors Arena on 28 February to round out the window at a venue which has witnessed many famous results for the Men’s side recently.
Olaseni discussed the power of the support the Eagles receive in the north-east and credited the fans for their role in helping the team secure significant results in recent times.
“We’ve had a lot of success in Newcastle over the last few years, the fans there really embrace us and it is a really good basketball community full of people who really understand the game of basketball.
“A lot of times, wherever you play, there are fans who don’t understand the nuances of the game, perhaps, where they might boo or cheer at the wrong time, but this is a sophisticated crowd that really understands the game.
“We know they’re going to be behind us, they get there early way before tip-off and cheer for us so passionately all the way through the game, and they’re a big part of why we have secured some big comebacks there, so hopefully we can continue those winning ways in front of the fans there.”
Get your tickets to support GB Men’s in FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifying action against Belarus on 28 February at the Vertu Motors Arena in Newcastle here!
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