Basketball: Ambitious Campbell backs new Scots deal

SCOTLAND basketball coach Tom Campbell, less than a year into his unpaid post, has promised a new deal for the national senior men's team regardless of how they perform in today's tough opening game against favourites Denmark in the Euro C Championship in Malta.

"This is just the beginning," promised Marr College teacher Campbell, who, despite having no funds, embarked on an ambitious programme of pre-tournament warm-up games which he believes will now remain in place. "In the previous year Scotland only played two games but we've had very positive feedback from all the people we've played including England and Norway."

Campbell's immediate concern is the fitness of his starting point guard Laurie Costello (Edinburgh Kings) who, in recent games, has renewed a promising partnership begun in the 2006 Commonwealth Games with Tom Pearson (Manchester Magic) and Ross Campbell (Troon Tornadoes) but still has a swollen knee after being injured against England nine days ago.

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"Laurie's still not moving freely – he's going to play with a brace and my worry is that he could break down," said Campbell, who would dearly love to get past the Danes. But, for very amateur Scotland with or without Costello, that may be a task too far. Only two years ago Denmark were playing in Euro A, the top division then came back down to Euro B.

Like Scotland, who have only been able to come to Malta because the players made substantial individual contributions, the Danes have no money though it does not appear to have weakened them seriously.

By contrast Scottish Rocks forward Gareth Murray has gone off to Malaysia for a second year to play in their professional league for the summer.

"That's what he does, he's a professional player," explained one Scottish coach ruefully.

But, on the plus side, Scotland welcome into the fold for the first time another full-time pro Steve Leven, the Australian-born shooting guard who qualifies through his Edinburgh father and who has played for several European clubs and also for Newcastle Eagles and currently Teesside where he has formed a useful alliance with another Scottish cap Ike Attah.

If Attah and Simon Flockhart can form some big screens for Leven's shooting and he can hit a hot streak then the Scots hope they can catch the Danes cold, though they still face relative minnows San Marino and Malta in their group before moving on to the cross-overs next Friday.

• HELPED by a strong "double double" from Gillian Baird (Falkirk Fury), Scotland's women salvaged the bronze medal with a 88-67 win over Moldova in the third-place play-off at the Euro C Championship in Yerevan, Armenia.

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