Basketball

Maher confident of GB basketball success

Tom Maher coached his native Australia to Olympic women's basketball silver and bronze but believes he's never had a better prepared team than Great Britain.

 
Maher confident  - BasketballAP
 

Maher is coaching at his fifth Games and it's the third time he has coached a home nation -

taking Australia to the Sydney Games, where they won silver, and guiding China to a best-ever fourth-place finish in Beijing.

He has since helped build up a British women's team from scratch and while the oddsmakers make them long shots in their first-ever Games appearance, Maher believes they can spring a surprise.

Great Britain open their campaign against world number two side Australia on Saturday, with the game tipping off after 10pm.

They lost heavily 87-63 in a recent friendly but Maher is backing his side to step up - especially after they marked his 50th game in charge with a shock win over world number eight side France.

"We'll be surprisingly good if people aren't ready for us," he said.

"Obviously I know the Australians pretty well, but I think I know all the others teams pretty well, I'd like to consider myself an expert on all the teams we might face.

"They are honestly just another team for me. It's a really good first game for us, we are at huge long odds so there is no pressure, we can just get our feet wet in Olympic competition and see where that take us.

"Overall our preparation has been spot on, it's the most professional off-court set-up that I've ever experienced and this is my fifth Games.

"Our players might not have the strength in depth but we've had three months together and the girls are conditioned wonderfully well and we can't wait to get started now."

Star player Jo Leedham also has no excuses not to know the Australian team inside out, playing her club basketball under Maher with the Bulleen Boomers.

"We know what we can achieve and I'm not bothered about what other people think of us as a team," she said.

"We know how good we can play and if our teams aren't ready for us we can shake things up.

"Playing in Australia could be useful as you get a feel on players and what they do and it's not such a shock or surprise when you are out there. I've got three of them on my team, so I know them pretty well.

"But they've got a lot of big names player who we know already. They are just another person, just another opponent, and you don't want to look too much into it."

Maher's previous experience of home Games has proved invaluable for his 12-strong roster of rookies - with the veteran coach trying to persuade them it's just another tournament, just with more supporters.

"We've not changed our preparations, everything we've done has got us to this point and doing something different now doesn't make much sense," said Azania Stewart, who like all but one of the team moved into the US college system to further her basketball career.

"We trust our regular daily routine, we are not going to try something new."

Stewart graduated from Florida last year but postponed a professional contract with the Spanish team Zamora to concentrate on preparing for the Games.

"We're not making up the numbers, we're 49th in the world rankings but we are rapidly improving," she said.

"We've beaten the world number four, eight and 11, so we're coming in with confidence."

 

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