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Copper Box qualifiers are crucial to future of our sport, says Kieron Achara

STIRLING'S Kieron Achara insists Great Britain's men must reach the 2015 EuroBasket if they are to have any chance of receiving a funding boost ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Kieron Achara was 'heartbroken' by the removal of UK Sport funding from basketball
Kieron Achara was 'heartbroken' by the removal of UK Sport funding from basketball

The 31-year-old is co-captain of the national side and is one of the most experienced players in the squad, setting his sights on qualifying for his third EuroBasket.

But the forward fears that without any financial support, the next generation will not be able to realise their potential and has called on his team-mates to qualify for next summer's tournament and prove that they are a team worth investing in.

"It was a shock for me and for most of the basketball community when our funding was cut to zero. I thought that we were going to get a cut of sorts, but to actually drop to zero was heartbreaking," said Achara, who was part of the Team GB squad that competed at London 2012.

"I see so many kids in the gym, working on their game, sending me messages to ask what they can do to improve, I've got parents contacting me on a daily basis asking for help, so it's great for me to see so many young people interested in the sport.

"But now I'm thinking, 'I've played for GB and these kids want to play for GB, but if there's no GB programme what do they have to aim for?'

"We need to have a national team to inspire the kids to reach their potential so these qualifiers are vital for us because we need to prove that we're a squad full of young talent that is worth investing in."

Achara and co begin their qualification campaign with a trip to Reykjavik to take on Iceland on Sunday before welcoming Bosnia to the Copper Box Arena at the Olympic Park in London on August 13. They then host Iceland there a week later before rounding off the four-match series with a trip to Sarajevo in Bosnia on August 24.

To prepare for the qualifiers GB played international friendlies against Latvia and Belgium and despite suffering losses to both sides, 6ft 10in Achara insists that there were positives to be taken.

"Playing against experienced teams like Latvia and Belgium, I didn't really know what to expect from a young group of guys but they responded really well," he added.

"It's very promising to see the youth coming through and stepping up at this level so I'm happy with the progress we're making. Now we just have to learn to win games as a squad but the belief in camp is that we are going to do a really good job this year.

"We have to take care of business at home and steal those wins on the road and I really believe that if we can stick to our game plan then we can definitely qualify for EuroBasket - it's critical that we do. And to the fans, please come down and support us at the Copper Box - we need you."

Tickets are available for Great Britain's games at the Copper Box via www.theticketfactory.com or 0844 338 8000.

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