Jack Majewski speaks to GB player Dan Clark after the London 2012 International Basketball Invitational Test Event in preparation for their performance in the European Championships in Lithuania.
JM: You had a very promising Test Tournament, incredibly close games against Serbia, Croatia, Australia and a victory against China. Where exactly are you in your preparations for the European Championship in Lithuania and long term for the 2012 Olympic Tournament ?
DC: The Olympic Games is our ultimate goal, but firstly we have to concentrate on the European Championship. We had quite a decent performance here but I really believe that only after the Europeans we will be able to asses where we really are. Certainly we are very excited about competing at the European Championship and we see it as a very important part of preparation for London 2012. I think we are making giant strides towards our goals and we will be ready for summer next year.
JM: So what is your target at the European Championship? You are in a very tough group and the tournament will be fiercely contested since it is a qualification route for the Olympic Games.
DC: Last time in Poland we were also in a very tough group and we had a couple of close games. We almost beat Spain which later on went to destroy the rest of the field and won the entire tournament. In 2009 we didn’t pass the group stage, this time round we would like to progress from our group.
JM: Future Stars is an organisation which deals with young athletes from all over the world so let’s switch to the new exciting generation of guards which is handling backcourt for the GB team. Quite unexpectedly you found yourself almost as one of the veterans in this team. How confident you are that these guys will be ready to handle the pressure at Olympics next year?
DC: They are the best guards in the UK, and that is what we have to rely on right now. They proved that they can handle people like Tony Parker, Milos Teodosic and Marko Popovic in this tournament. They have a plenty of talent and they need opportunities to get more experience on the highest level. I’m sure that they will be ready for the next year.
JM: It is a really commendable and brave decision on Chris Finches part to set a policy of bringing a young generation of players to the National team. It looks like for the first time Great Britain has got a chance of establishing themselves as a permanent feature on the highest level of international basketball.
DC: Of course it is a right policy, is that how you build culture of basketball in the country. We can’t think just in categories of Olympic Games. Basketball in England must exist after 2012, and not only just exist but also grow. For that to happen we need more and more young players who would be talented enough to capture the public’s imagination. Basketball in this country desperately needs young talents emerging on the international scene.
JM: You have built your career on a very early move to Estudiantes in the Spanish ACB and there you have developed into true international star. However it is a very ardours task to build interest in basketball in the country without a strong professional league. When do you think young English players will be able to pursue their basketball dreams in their own country?
DC: Building a strong professional league on a European level must be a priority for all people involved in basketball in this country. Trust me, all professional players playing abroad would love to return to this country to play professionally providing that the league was strong enough. We need to build our entire system starting from a grassroots level up to the very top very quickly. Now, partly because of the Olympic is the best time to start doing that.
JM: Do you think that with a strong professional league GB can quite quickly join the of group of true European powerhouses?
DC: I’m not sure about being a European powerhouse .Spain, Greece and some others been there for ages and certainly have a lot of experience of operating on this level. We can make great improvements but we will still be a very young basketball country.
JM: The changes which you mentioned can happen quicker than expected. The economic situation in Europe is changing rapidly and countries which so far had very strong leagues have far greater problems than paying massive salaries to basketball stars. In that sense that could be a perfect time for England to make a decisive move towards building a really strong league.
DC: You are absolutely right, the situation everywhere is very uncertain and that creates a very good chance for English basketball. But you can’t stay still, someone needs to take this chance by the scruff of the neck and go with an idea of creating a very strong league. We need however quick, imaginative and creative action, things will not happen just because we are hosting the Olympic Games.
JM. To finish, please tell me what your personal goals are for the next season. The picture was pretty inconsistent last year, you had some games when you played very solid minutes, then others your productivity was quite seriously limited. You also had a far from satisfying European campaign where Estudiantes was beaten rather convincingly by Cedevita.
DC: I definitely need to establish myself as a player who gets between 20-25 minutes per game. We have a new coach Jose Vicente Hernandez. I have spoken to him before coming to London and he definitely sees me as a one of the main players so I’m quite optimistic. I’m happy to go back to Estudiantes and try my best; we will see what will happen.
Photographs courtesy of Mansoor Ahmed Photography