He is one of six players in Nate Reinking’s roster for EuroBasket that is yet to sample a major international tournament for his nation, but Ovie Soko is raring to go ahead of today’s (Friday) tournament opener for GB against Ukraine in Milan.
The 31-year-old has sampled elite level basketball across the world at club level, namely in France, Greece, Japan and Spain, and carried himself with distinction in his 14 outings for the national team to date, so we caught up with him to discuss his emotions ahead of his EuroBasket bow.
“I’m looking forward to it a lot. EuroBasket will be fun and a great experience competing against a lot of really great talent. It is a great opportunity for myself, Great Britain and the British Basketball community.
“Across the board there are talented guys on every single team, whether they’re EuroLeague level or NBA level, and not just in our group but in all of them, which is why it is such an entertaining tournament for everybody involved. We’re playing against some of the best in the world, and that in itself for anybody who likes to compete is a great experience.
“I still feel nerves, of course. Any time you go out to any big event or take part in anything that matters to you then you’re going to feel nerves, but I feel like as you progress through your career it is just about how you channel those nerves, and I’m confident I can do that in the right way to positively affect the game.”
“We play to each other’s strengths.”
Soko certainly made an impression in the qualification campaign for EuroBasket as his 18.8 points and seven rebounds per game in four outings for GB led the team as they secured a spot in what is the team’s fifth EuroBasket of the previous six iterations.
He discussed how he sees his role developing for the competition itself in Milan, as the team looks to secure a place in the second phase for the first time, which would take them to Berlin for the knockout stages.
“Success on a personal level would be me bringing what the team requires of me as best as I can every single day. With the roster we have, we play to each other’s strengths and that is the benefit of keeping a consistent core together for as long as we have.
“We’re going to find different leading scorers, rebounders, assisters and hustle guys in every game, but we know our jobs are to make the right plays we need to make on the day to help the team be successful.”
“We know what we’re capable of doing.”
In a challenging group alongside Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Italy and Ukraine, Soko and GB are certain to be tested by some of the best basketball talents on the planet as they’re set to line up against a number of NBA and EuroLeague stars over the course of the next week in group action.
Should GB make it to the second phase, it would a historic moment for the team that has never progressed beyond the opening stages of the competition, and Soko reiterated the team’s belief that they have what it takes to succeed in the tournament.
“100%, I definitely believe that we can compete with all of these teams. There are some very, very talented teams we’re going to come up against where there is small margin for error for us, but that’s what it is at these tournaments and we know that coming in.
“We respect our opponents but we don’t do that to a point where we disrespect ourselves, we know what we’re capable of doing and that we’re capable of causing problems for every single team in this group.”