BASKETBALL: England excess

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The Independent Online
Players from three of the Budweiser League's leading clubs face their fourth game in five days, when the 18th annual World Invitation Club Basketball tournament begins at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre this afternoon.

And for the five players who have been on international duty in Iceland, two defeats out of three against one of the few European nations ranked below England may not have been ideal preparation.

England's trip to the Arctic Circle ended in a 104-101 defeat on Thursday night. Three of the players, Thames Valley Tigers' Peter Scantlebury, Neville Austin and Steve Nelson play in the opening WICB senior men's game against Trencin, from Slovakia.

Ian Whyte, London Towers' seven-foot tall international is then on duty against Glasgow Brightsiders before Karl Brown, of London Leopards, lines up against Honved of Hungary. Den Helder of the Netherlands play the winners of the Towers game in tomorrow's semi-finals.

This year's WICB has been restricted to just seven senior men's teams and a three-day event, two days shorter than in recent years, although there are also similarly scaled-down tournaments for women and junior men.

According to David Last, the tournament organiser, the England trip led him to cut back the tournament. "I wanted Thames Valley here, as former champions, and both the London teams because they are very well supported," he said. "But there would clearly have been problems for them with a five-day tournament as we would have started the event on Thursday."

But Last also acknowledges that in recent years the quality of opposition has not warranted a five-day tournament. Funds are even tighter this year as the event does not have a name sponsor.

WORLD INVITATION CLUB TOURNAMENT (Crystal Palace National Sports Centre) Senior men: Thames Valley v Trencin (4.30pm); London Towers v Glasgow Brightsiders (6.15pm); London Leopards v Honved (8pm). Junior men's games start at 9.30am.

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