SOUTHEND basketball player Joe Hart is hoping that selection for the GB under-20 team will take him a step closer to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

It is the first time that the 19-year-old shooting guard has been selected for the national team, although he has represented and captained England plenty of times in the past.

Hart heads off to Belgium tomorrow for three matches against the Belgian under-20 team in Namur before travelling to Bulgaria for the 2012 European U20 Championships.

“I’m delighted to have made the under-20 team and now I’m hoping I can play in the majority of the games in the championships,” said Hart.

“I have a year left in the under-20s and then I’m hoping to progress to the GB Futures team and then the Senior Men’s team.

“My aim is to make the men’s team for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

“I was confident that I could make the team, but I felt that I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from making the team and playing for GB because it was what I have dreamed about since I was a little kid.”

Hart was called into the GB training squad at the beginning of June and had two camps with them before finding out last week that he would be competing for his country this month.

Matches against the Belgians on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be a warm-up for the European championships, which start on July 12 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Britain are in Group C alongside Belarus, Croatia, Denmark and Portugal in the Division B competition.

The top two teams from each of the four groups progress to the second round, with the bottom three teams dropping into the classification round.

The top four teams will win promotion to Division A, which features the top teams from Europe.

“It is going to be difficult because it is a tough group and the first match is crucial to ensure we stay in the top half of the group,” Hart added.

“We will be playing eight games in 10 days and I’m hoping to play in the majority of them.”

Britain start their campaign against Portugal on Thursday, July 12.

The former Southend Swifts player has just finished a three-year stint at Blair Academy in New Jersey, America, where he combined basketball with his high school studies.

He will continue his studies at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.