Basketball: Cash injection boosts Commonwealth hopes

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The Independent Online

The resurrection of the England senior men's and women's international programmes gathered pace this week with the award of £312,000 from Sport England to aid the build-up for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

This support recognises an impressive turnaround for the finances of the sport's governing body, England Basketball, which was forced to scrap the senior national team programmes at the start of 2003 as they could not afford to enter teams for the two-year European Championship qualification leading to the 2005 finals.

The decision was taken shortly before the arrival of New Zealander Keith Mair, as chief executive, when EB's cash flow had all but dried up. But EB ended the last financial year with a £150,000 surplus - an important factor in Sport England agreeing to support the Commonwealth Games build-up.

Mair said: "This [£312,000] will enable us to follow our plan to have monthly training camps for each squad this season and a comprehensive programme of camps and international matches during the summer of 2005.

"This will be followed by monthly training camps during the 2005-2006 season prior to a fortnight's preparation before the Commonwealth Games."

The women's team are likely to play two internationals against Iceland in December and Mair added: "The main issue to be addressed is to find suitable international opposition for both teams to play against. A tournament or two would be even better."

* The BBL side Chester Jets have signed 6ft 7in forward DJ Harrison. The American spent most of last season with Mardyke UCC Demons Cork in the Irish Super League where he averaged more than 21 points and 15 rebounds per game.