British basketball coach Buceta says team's Olympic future rests on better support after failing to qualify for Tokyo

Chantelle Handy's team narrowly missed out on a trip to Tokyo (Twitter: GB Basketball and FIBA)
Chantelle Handy's team narrowly missed out on a trip to Tokyo (Twitter: GB Basketball and FIBA)
15:48pm, Mon 10 Feb 2020
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Great Britain's women's basketball head coach Chema Buceta has insisted the sport could have a bright future in the UK, but stressed they need more backing to qualify for an Olympics.

The GB coach admitted his team were devastated after failing to qualify for the Olympics following Sunday’s 79-69 loss to Spain in FIBA’s qualifying tournament in Belgrade.

And though the charismatic Spaniard effusively praised the British squad, he revealed significant change is needed for him to return.

Buceta said: “I think we have to look to the future and what this team has proven is that it’s possible to do big things.

“But I think women’s basketball in Great Britain needs support and organisation to move forward.

“Maybe not in my time because I don’t know when it will finish but I think at some point I think Great Britain could be at the Olympic games again.”

UK Sport cut funding to the team after London 2012 when they finished bottom of their Olympic group despite qualifying as the host nation.

It was announced in December the women's team would be granted £325,000 to support their Olympic chase. 

Last year, they pulled of an unexpected fourth-place finish at the European Championships - the best-ever result for a British team - to earn their place in last week’s Olympic qualifying tournament.  

And Team GB nearly managed to reach Tokyo in the final seconds of Saturday’s 82-79 loss to Korea, but Rachael Vanderwal’s potentially game-tying three-pointer skimmed the rim before bouncing out.

Following their disappointing Olympic qualification campaign, Buceta admitted he would be exploring his options and his return could depend on the support his underdog squad receives moving forward.

“I’m not saying I won’t stay, but for me to stay just to stay is not an option," he added.

“I think we have to be ambitious like we have and we need to have a product which can give us the possibility to be high.

“Otherwise we’d just be in our comfort zone. The comfort zone of just being there to be there.

“And maybe next time we’ll be here at this table just waiting to go to the Olympic Games.”

His sentiments echoed those of small forward Johannah Leedham who four days ago described basketball in the UK as a 'shambles'. 

And she followed that up by tweeting: “I am absolutely devastated. If you know me you know I’m straight and direct.

“I’m not happy with what we achieved or just getting this far. I expected this. I expect great things of myself every time I step on the court especially in a GB vest.  

“This will hurt for a while.”

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