November 30 - Some of the country's leading sports stars, led by Sir Steve Redgrave (pictured), have joined a campaign for Britain's basketball team to be given a wildcard entry into next year's World Championships in Turkey.


Britain finished fourth in the group of death at this summer's European Championships - where their three group opponents went on to finish first, second and fourth in the tournament - meaning automatic qualification to next year's World Championships was not possible.


Now Chris Finch's side must wait until December 14 to see whether FIBA has granted them one of four wildcards.


Other European nations also hoping for a pass to Turkey next year are Germany, Lithuania, Italy and Russia.


Sir Steve, Britain's most successful ever Olympian with five gold medals in a career that last between 1984 and 2000, believes the opportunity to play at the World Championships is not only well deserved but also crucial to  preparations for Londo 2012.


He said: "The ability to compete against the leading nations in your sport is imperative to individual and team development.


"The British Basketball team has shown amazing growth in the last three years, which I witnessed myself at The O2 in 2008 and now I think three years out from the Olympics is the right time for them to step up to the world stage.


"A place in the World Championships would provide this platform and I would love to see them compete against the superpowers of USA and Australia."


Britain's Phillips Idowu (pictured), who initially took up the triple jump to improve his jumping ability on the basketball court, was crowned world champion in Berlin earlier this year and he seconded Redgrave's beliefs that World Championship experience is priceless.


Idowu said: "I am a huge basketball fan and I want to see the GB team being as successful as possible.


"A place at the World Championships would provide a great experience ahead of London 2012 where they have a really opportunity to unite a nation behind their campaign."


Sunderland and England footballer Darren Bent, who grew up with the Toronto Raptor Pops Mensah-Bonsu, also added his voice to the campaign.


He said: "The guys have really come on and proved they can play against top sides.


"It would be great if Pops and the rest of the team get a chance to prove themselves on a world stage."


Britain came close to beating reigning World Champions Spain, in their second group game of the European Championships, despite the fact they were without Chicago Bulls captain Luol Deng and had a roster which had been hampered by injury and illness.


Spain, Serbia and Slovenia - all of Britain's group opponents - went on to finish in the top four overall, with Spain beating Serbia in the final.


Chris Spice, the British Basketball performance director, said: "In many ways we, GB, find ourselves in yet another tough group as we bid for a wildcard, only this time the players cannot physically step onto a court to play for victory.


"We hope that our rapid progression over the past few years, coupled with our efforts in Poland and continued desire to prove ourselves for the 2012 Olympics, will put us in a strong position to be considered for Turkey.


"With a fully fit and available roster we believe that we can put forward a valid campaign for the World Championships.


"And of course, the only way GB can prove its credentials against the best teams in the world is to play them."



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