Basketball: Scantlebury focuses on class barrier

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The Independent Online
Peter Scantlebury makes his 118th appearance for England against Ukraine at Guildford Spectrum tonight, boosting still further his record haul of caps.

The 6ft 5in 33-year-old elder statesman of the squad took some persuading from the coach, Laszlo Nemeth, to embark on another two-year European Championships semi-final round.

Only a select band of Englishmen - the 1981 team under their coach, Vic Ambler - have reached a European finals. The proliferation of new states after the break-up of the traditionally strong nations of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia has made qualification even harder.

In addition to Ukraine, Belarus are also in England's group along with Denmark, beaten 72-64 by England last week, Spain, who beat England 92- 76 on Saturday, and Israel.

Only the top two are sure of a finals place, with Spain and Israel favourites. England pushed Spain hard, but relied too much on the brilliance of Steve Bucknall, one of six team members now playing on the Continent.

Scantlebury said: "Against opposition with the class of Spain we can push them to a certain level but can't go to the next level. They always can. We don't have the depth to push them all the way and we really suffered on Saturday when Steve tired."