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Murray aims to help GB prove credentials after funding blow

Actions, acknowledges Gareth Murray, will speak volumes if Great Britain's basketball players can defy the sceptics when they start their EuroBasket qualifying campaign against Iceland in Reykjavik tomorrow.

GB and Rocks team-mates Kieron Achara and Gareth Murray. Picture: SNS
GB and Rocks team-mates Kieron Achara and Gareth Murray. Picture: SNS

With the top two in a three-team group that also includes highly-ranked Bosnia advancing to next year's finals, British Basketball officials are hoping success will heap further pressure on UK Sport to reconsider their decision to strip the sport of its lottery funding in the wake of their failure to qualify for next month's World Cup in Spain.

Murray knows that his side, as well as trying to remain on a pathway to a place at Rio 2016, have a point to make. However, as they attempt to do so, the Glasgow Rocks forward insists the impending cash crisis - and the absence of NBA stars Luol Deng and Joel Freeland - will not be a distraction.

"Our goal is to get through to EuroBasket next year," said the Arbroath-born swingman. "This is what we're here to do. We don't come in with a chip on our shoulder. We're here to prove we belong at this level and hopefully there will be way comes out of it to get funding from another source."

With co-captain Kieron Achara also in the final 12-man line-up, it means that Scottish players have filled eight of the 48 spots in the GB senior and Under-20 squads this summer, a punch above their numerical weight. And the club structure north of the border deserves praise, Murray says, for nurturing prospects despite a lack of finance within basketball.

"There's just been a lot of hard work from a lot of people," he said. "You see that progression every single year. It's paying off now that we're all making British teams and when the younger ones see us doing it, then they think that can too. I came from Arbroath. That's a really small club. But talent will shine through wherever you come from if you put the effort in. You will be seen."

The Rocks completed a move yesterday for American centre Paul Egwuonwu, a rookie fresh out of Montana State University, who will replace Daniel Northern in the line-up this season. Murray remains in contact with Glasgow coach Sterling Davis, but has yet to decide whether to reopen talks on a return or opt for a move overseas.

"I'm just waiting to see what my options are," he said. "The market's pretty slow at the moment. I've not ruled out the Rocks completely. I just want to find the best move for my future. Playing for GB is a huge opportunity for me, not only to represent my country but also to put myself out there as well, where teams can see me, get an idea of what I can do and I can prove I can play at this level."

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