Basketball: Britain face six-year slog to win Olympic slot

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The Independent Online

The sport's international governing body, the FIBA, has made it clear that the home nations will not be given a place at the Games unless they hit the mark competitively. England's men and women each won bronze at last month's Melbourne Commonwealth Games, but that will not cut as much ice as the combined British teams progressing through the European 'B' Championships to join the leading nations in the full championships in 2009.

In September the British men have home games against the Netherlands and Belarus and travel to Slovakia and Albania. The women host Luxembourg and Portugal and face daunting trips to Estonia and Bosnia.

England Basketball do not have to confirm venues until 26 June, but the men and women will stage a double-header on 16 September, the only date that both teams are at home.

EB's performance manager, Radmila Turner, returned from Melbourne via America, where she met the England-qualified former junior international Luol Deng, now with the Chicago Bulls, and his agent.

Deng assured Turner that he wants to play in all four Great Britain games in September. She is confident that other overseas-based players - "men and women" - will join the programme, although insurance cover could be an issue for Deng.

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