With 132 caps to her name, Chantelle Handy is the second-most capped female in GB history.
With Stef Collins, the only woman to record more appearances, taking up the role of assistant coach for Saturday’s game against Poland, Handy is an experienced head amongst a number of new faces in the GB squad.
With a number of familiar faces missing the window, Handy feels those new faces – namely Hannah Robb, Sam Roscoe and Evelyn Adebayo – have a chance to make an impression on Chema Buceta and his staff.
She said: “The squad is very different this window and I think we will definitely miss the experience, but it’s a great opportunity for the young players to come in and show what they’ve got. Come in, play hard and just keep the GB way.”
The GB way referenced by Handy has been one of the key factors in the squad’s recent success. Every player buys into it, and it’s something the new players are already adapting to.
“Day by day we are working together and figuring out each other and how we want to play,” added Handy. “We still have a few days to get in some quality practice before we play. Like every window, we just have to come ready and focus on the game in front of us.”
Whilst the team travelled to Istanbul to take part in Saturday’s game from within a bubble, the mindset of the players hasn’t changed. For Handy, the support network provided by GB Women’s off-court staff allows the team to focus purely on the task at hand.
“The mindset is the same as always – focus on the job in hand and keep the GB mentality,” she said. “We can’t get distracted by everything going on. We have great staff and people that will handle all the outside stuff for us and make sure that they are doing everything to keep us safe.”
Handy has been experiencing life in the new normal with club Casademont Zaragoza throughout the last few months, making life in the bubble that little bit more comfortable.
The 33-year-old believes the biggest difference in comparison to previous seasons has been the lack of support from the stands.
“It’s crazy to think we are actually playing, but the league is definitely taking care of us here in Spain. When we are playing the only difference, for me, is we don’t have fans so the atmosphere isn’t great but we have the bench and staff that are trying to be as loud as they can.”
The lack of supporters has been unusual for Handy but, despite the silence, there’s no noticeable advantages for teams, adding: “It’s weird because you don’t feel the atmosphere and the support from the fans. There’s no sense of hype outside the lines and that’s a little strange but, like I said, when I’m in the game I don’t think about it. I’m just happy to be playing at this time.”
Looking ahead to the game on Saturday, Handy admits she’s excited to play again but is expecting a tough encounter against Poland. GB claimed the crucial points last time out, taking home a 75-63 win on the same day last year.
“It will be a tough game as we are a different team and they will come out ready because they need a win as much as we do,” she said. “I’m excited to see what some players will bring to the table. I hope everyone is excited to pull on that GB Jersey again just as much as I am.”
Back in February Handy’s sneakers were a talking point in Belgrade, featuring a tribute to Kobe Bryant and a British flag. A love for customising has led to a new business, something which has helped Handy take her mind off basketball – and everything else – over the last 12 months.
“I started doing it last year, mainly just for fun,” Handy explained. “I asked some teammates to do their sneakers and it’s kind of taken off from there. I’ve always loved art and being creative but I just didn’t really find the time previously. It’s a great way for me to get my mind off the game and just relax in my down time.”