By Will Piper at Sportsbeat
GB head coach Joe Prunty is confident that his team can win all four of their upcoming EuroBasket qualification games against Iceland and Bosnia and reach their fourth consecutive EuroBasket next summer.
But the two-time NBA champion has told Drew Sullivan and co that they will need to perform to their best to ensure that their European rivals don’t cause an unwelcome upset.
The 49-year-old from California took charge of the national side in June last year and led them to their best ever EuroBasket finish as they narrowly missed out on progressing out of the group and into the knockout stages.
But now Prunty, who has recently been appointed as Jason Kidd’s assistant coach at the Milwaukee Bucks, is keen for a second bite of the cherry and is determined to beat Iceland and Bosnia in the qualifiers – although he admits that it won’t be easy.
“I absolutely think that we can qualify, there’s no grey area about that, especially with the support of the fans and the embracement of this team, there’s no doubt that we can get through,” said Prunty, who won two championships as an assistant coach at the San Antonio Spurs in 2003 and 2005.
“But Iceland and Bosnia will try to have something to say about that. They’re both very good sides and we’re expecting extremely tough contests.
“Jon Arnor Stefansson is an extremely talented player for Iceland and they’re a good team, so they’ll be very well prepared when we visit them on August 10.
“Having to get off to a good start on the road is going to be a difficult challenge and obviously after that we can’t rest on our laurels as Bosnia come here on August 13, and we’ll have to be playing at a high level at the Copper Box.
“Their best player, Mirza Teletovic, is very talented, very skilled and is a very good basketball player that I know really well from the time that we shared at the Brooklyn Nets last season. But they’re a very talented team and I know that it’s not just about one player.
“We need to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us. Every year we continue to be one step better and this year’s step is to make sure we qualify for next year’s EuroBasket.”
Prunty has had his squad in camp since July 15 and despite tough losses in friendlies against Latvia and Belgium he believes that the mood in the squad is good and that preparations have been going well.
The first EuroBasket qualifier tips off in Reykjavik, Iceland, on August 10, before they host Bosnia at the Copper Box Arena on the Olympic Park in London on Wednesday, August 13.
They then welcome Iceland to the Copper Box for the return fixture on Wednesday, August 20, before rounding off the four match series with a trip to Sarajevo to face Bosnia four days later.
And Prunty insists that come August 10, his side will be ready.
“We’ve only had a short amount of time to practice together before the matches but some of the younger guys got some vital game time and international playing experience,” he added.
“We’ve learned that we need to be tougher both on defence, protect the ball better, protect the paint better and pass the ball better on offence. But we’re definitely making strides in the right direction. I’m proud of the effort that we put forward and we’ve continued to get better and that’s our goal now, to get ready for the qualifiers.”
Great Britain take on Iceland and Bosnia in the qualifiers for EuroBasket 2015 later this month. You can book tickets for GB’s home games at the Copper Box at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Wednesday 13th August and Wednesday 20th August. Tickets are available via www.theticketfactory.com or 0844 338 8000.
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