The secret, advises Eilidh Simpson, of parlaying the totality of Great Britain’s basketball team into more than the sum of its parts is a common cause: us against the world. “Our unity is strong,” she declares. “The passion we have for playing for each other is really hard to describe to someone outside. We call it The GB Way. We will do anything for the group. We’ll do whatever it takes to get that win.”

Last summer, it was a method that brought the unprecedented madness of reaching the semi-finals of EuroBasket. Over the next four days, GB will aim to go one better, to earn a berth at Tokyo 2020 at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade.

Four teams, three places; the potential is thrilling from a round-robin group that also includes Spain, South Korea and this afternoon’s opening opponents, China. After the sport’s incessant stream of funding battles and boardroom upheavals within British Basketball, snaring a spot at the top table would represent mammoth odds overcome.

“We made an agreement inside the team to focus on what depends on us and to isolate ourselves from the politics around,” GB’s head coach Chema Buceta reveals.

“Of course, we have had difficult moments. Many people changing the direction of the federation. I signed here in 2015 and I’ve seen four chairmen and different boards. A lot came with good ideas but it’s not so easy. And we were able to be isolated from that, let them do their job and we focus on our job.”

Glasgow Times:

The Spaniard’s alternate life as a psychology professor has proven beneficial. On the books at Real Madrid during much of the galactico era, he has sculpted a grouping that is fiercely bonded. From the WNBA champion Temi Fagbenle to Euro star Jo Leedham to a supportive core, Buceta cultivates ownership of the cause.

Simpson, a Czech-based Anglo-Scot developed in both the American and Australian systems, is one of many to have blossomed under his mentorship. He has vocally fought for greater recognition for his players’ accomplishments. And while he knows the potential that reaching Tokyo might unlock, it cannot fuel the journey, he insists.

“The future of basketball in the UK is not on our shoulders. But of course, results are important for the institutions to understand that if they support basketball financially, this is a good investment. Same for private sponsors, which we don’t have. It would help.”

A late injury will relegate Simpson to the sidelines today while her partner Rachael Vanderwal inherits much of her playmaking role. The Chinese have been hit by the tournament’s relocation from Foshan due to the coronavirus outbreak. Spain, silver medallists at Rio 2016, will be formidable. Progress might ultimately depend on beating the Koreans on Saturday.

“Rachael talks a lot about how going to London 2012 changed her life,” Simpson proclaims. “So you want that. Qualifying would mean everything.”