North Herts Knights veterans enjoy GB trip to European Championships

North Herts Knights Neil Baker, Rafe Abrook and Ewan Kassir on GB duty in Malaga

North Herts Knights Neil Baker, Rafe Abrook and Ewan Kassir on GB duty in Malaga - Credit: Rafe Abrook Photography

Three local veteran basketball players recently returned from Malaga having represented Great Britain at the Maxibasketball European Championships.

Hitchin's Rafe Abrook and Stevenage's Ewan Kassir, both 47, and 45-year-old Neil Baker of Wixams all play for local club North Herts Knights and were selected for the final squad of 12 to represent GB in the over-45s age group.

Maxibasketball - or Masters Basketball - is for various veteran age groups, ranging from over-35s to over-75s, and is played across the world, growing in popularity each year. 

Neil Baker attacks the basket for GB in Malaga

Neil Baker attacks the basket for GB in Malaga - Credit: Rafe Abrook Photography

Great Britain sent the most teams ever to the tournament, for both male and female competitions, after squad tryouts began in April 2021 once Covid restrictions were lifted to allow elite sport to take place indoors.

Not known as a European powerhouse in the sport, GB are often seen as underdogs and a tough draw for the over-45s saw them face talented Spain and Serbia teams with many former professionals in the group phase.

Rafe Abrook aims for the basket on GB duty in Malaga

Rafe Abrook aims for the basket on GB duty in Malaga - Credit: Rafe Abrook Photography

After a close 74-72 win over guest nation UAE in their opening game, GB battled hard in a 59-49 loss to Serbia and 66-53 defeat to Spain, both of whom went on to reach the semi-finals of the competition.

That left GB playing for ninth to 14th place, but injuries to two key players and some second-half mistakes saw them lose 61-58 against Switzerland, in a game they had expected to win.

Ewan Kassir battles for the ball as GB take on Spain in Malaga

Ewan Kassir battles for the ball as GB take on Spain in Malaga - Credit: Rafe Abrook Photography

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Their last game was against a huge Germany team, which they lost by a 55-44 margin.

Abrook said: "Playing five games in 10 days in 30 degree-plus heat in the middle of a Spanish summer was a real test for all competitors.

"But the three of us were pleased to make it through all the games without injury and trials for the World Championships in Brazil in 2023 begin in August!"