THE CREAM of English basketball showed glimpses of what the Budweiser League is missing by eventually whipping Denmark at the National Indoor Arena here last night in this season's opening fixture in Group B of the European Championship semi-final round.
Nine of England's 10 players were drawn from Continental clubs and after just three days' practice their teamwork inevitably spluttered in fits and starts.
An early 12-point lead disappeared as Denmark led just once, at 42-41, but the Danes were eventually overwhelmed after being outscored 20-9 in the closing minutes. The key to victory was in England's midcourt defence, as the outstanding Ray Carter, plus Steven Hansell, Silus Cheung and Yorick Williams, forced 23 turnovers.
Carter, playing in Austria, missed last season's opening fixtures when three defeats out of five effectively wrecked England's chances of a top- two qualifying place for next summer's finals in France.
Despite trips to Spain, Ukraine and Israel to come, England can realistically expect to finish above Denmark and Belarus to avoid having to qualify for the next championships' semi-final round.
Carter ensnared Tore Jensen to force a spate of turnovers as Roger Huggins and John Amaechi opened a 7-0 lead.
Joachim Jerichow, one of six Danes playing outside Denmark, steadied their offence, but with Amaechi scoring 10 of England's first 12 points the home side led 24-12. Denmark's lead at 42-41 was immediately countered as Steve Bucknall launched an electrifying second-half performance, scoring 17 points and bringing the best out of his team-mates.
England: Carter 12, Williams 7, Cheung 7, Herriman 2, Hansell 3, Huggins 15, Bucknall 20, Amaechi 21. Denmark leading scorers: Andersen 17, Jerichow 13, Larsen 10