AFTER Team GB women’s basketball suffered heartbreak against Spain in the Olympic qualifiers, Team GB star, Nicolette Fong-Lyew-Quee has spoken out about what UK basketball needs to do to improve.

Fong-Lyew-Quee, 27, told the Olive Press: “The most important thing is funding.

“In Spain, at under-20 level, players get paid to attend training camps.

“In the UK players themselves have to pay for the court hire and for hotels, it’s so demoralising.”

The lack of funding in the UK is what prevents the national teams from reaching their full potential, starting from a young age.

“Young players see that there isn’t any money in the sport, so choose a different career.

“In Spain however they are encouraged and helped to play basketball.

“That’s how Spain keeps all its best players,” according to the guard.

Team GB went into the Olympic qualification tournament ranked number 18 in the world, whereas their Spanish counterparts were going in as European champions and number three in the world.

Just getting to that stage was an accomplishment in and of itself, for a team that receives zero funding from UK Sport.

“Professional players in the UK are only part-timers, they have to juggle full-time jobs.

“That’s why we can only train four times a week and late at night,” said the Durham Palatinates player.

Fong-Lyew-Quee, originally from Manchester spent last season playing in Spain, for Baxi Ferrol, in Spain’s top division.

She therefore has the experience of playing in the top level of both the UK and Spain.

The reason for leaving her family and loved ones behind and moving to Spain was in order to play at a higher level and improve as a player.

She said: “In Spain we would train twice a day, even on Christmas.

“We were paid professionals whose only job was basketball.”

In the UK however, not many teams can afford to pay their players a good wage and most choose to pay the foreign ones instead.

“In the UK the best paid players are the Americans, whereas in Spain there weren’t that many foreign players, all the best Spanish players played in Spain, therefore improving the quality of the league.

“That one season I spent in Spain helped me realise how far back UK basketball actually is.”

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