European basketball is in the ascendancy, and GB men’s basketball faces an uphill battle to keep pace in an emerging basketball arms race.
Since forming in 2006, the national side has failed to make much noise at international tournaments.
Starting on the 23 February, with the first of three qualifying windows for EuroBasket 2025, it has a chance to begin bucking this trend.
The route to qualifying looks simple: in a group with global powerhouses Greece and Czechia, win a straight-up shootout with the Netherlands and seize the final spot to progress.
He said: “Qualifying is obviously our overarching goal but it’s hard at this point to give a clear outlook because with these national teams you never know who is going to play.
“Sometimes they have players playing at a high level, in Euroleague or EuroCup, but sometimes they won’t be able to make the windows.
“It’s hard to say what the matches will look like but all we can do is make sure we play the right way ourselves.”
Turning the Corner
On the face of it, GB men’s basketball has been weathering a difficult run of form for quite some time now.
The last time the squad got a win in a competitive fixture was back in November 2021, when they defeated future group-mates Greece 78-69.
However, only focusing on the results undersells quite how far this team has come as a unit, putting on competitive showings against highly ranked opponents.
Nelson, who has been involved in the GB setup since he was 14, views getting to be involved in that process as a reward in itself.
He said: “In recent years, GB basketball has been underdogs but now we’ve shown that we can compete at a high level.
“To be a part of that is something that I am very proud of and will always look back on fondly.”
Tooth and Nail
While the pairs of fixtures against 14th-ranked Greece and 19th-ranked Czechia will be chances for an upset, the real meat of the group will be the games between GB and the Netherlands.
Only a single place separates the two in the FIBA world rankings, as GB is 53rd to the Netherlands’ 52nd.
The last time the teams faced was a duo of international test matches all the way back in 2016, which saw the Dutch come away with victories in both.
Now the gap between the two could not be closer and predicting the results is genuinely a coin-toss.
In Nelson’s eyes, they path to victory lies in adhering to the fundamentals of GB basketball and doing the little things that give this team its identity.
He said: “We are all about playing defence. I think the cliché ‘defence wins championships’ is actually almost an understatement really.
“Also we pride ourselves on our chemistry on offence as well, being unselfish, being able to move the ball and score in different ways.”
Pick and Rolling
Nelson is now one of the elder statesmen of this GB men’s basketball side, having competed twice already at EuroBasket competitions, in 2017 and 2022.
His experience has helped him grow into his position within the team.
On the court, this means being the primary offensive facilitator, and the assist-leader responsible for getting all of his teammates involved.
Off the court, it means being a point of contact for the younger members of the squad to come to for advice.
Nelson said: “I’m someone who has been involved in the national team for quite a while now, since I left college, so I’ve seen the various levels.
“I think allows me to be a leader, trying to help the young guys figure out how to operate.
“It’s a very different system playing with your national team to playing at club level.
“You’re with your club day in and day out and all of a sudden, you’ve got a week to figure out how to play on a brand new team every few months.
If GB men’s basketball is to make it out of the EuroBasket group stage for the first time since 2013, Nelson and his teammates have to make the very most of the weeks they have.
Image credit: London Lions and Ivan Grotsev