Whilst consistency and cohesion has been a key part of the success of the Great Britain Men’s National Team’s success over recent years, there have always been new faces added to the 24-man rosters in every window as the staff look to grow the GB family.
Ahead of the team’s crucial FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifiers against Greece and Turkey this week, however, fans were thrown a curveball as a completely new name to the GB scene was announced in the roster – 21-year-old Jaiden Delaire, who recently graduated after four years of standout performances at Stanford before committing to the University of San Diego.
“I am so excited to be here,” he said. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for me and it still hasn’t really hit me yet, but it has been awesome to get out there with the team and have this experience and I’m looking forward to getting adjusted and more comfortable with the team over the next few days.
“I love the game of basketball and to play for the country that my father was born in means the world to me. Being here now and being a part of this team is really heart-warming and I’m so excited to see where this journey takes me.
“I’m a high-energy, athletic guy that loves to compete on both ends of the floor. I’m really enthusiastic, I can’t wait to get going and do whatever the team needs me to do to help us be successful.”
‘My family, friends and I were so excited and I just had to come’
Delaire has been on the radar of the National Team’s coaches for some time, having been on the verge of representing various junior national teams in the past. It is a courtship that has spanned his college career, as the now-21-year-old has been in contention to represent GB since he was 17.
The stars were proving difficult to align for the 6’9” forward to join up with GB, but he described how everything has fallen into place over the last few months and paid particular tribute to the University of San Diego – his new home in the States – for allowing him to join up with the National Team.
“I have been talking to different coaches in the GB set-up for a few years now, including Marc Steutel, about representing the Under-18s and Under-20s in the past, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get involved at those age groups for one reason or another.
“I’ve always kept in touch though and let the coaches know that I’m super interested in playing for the national team in the future. Coach Jamie Smith came out to Stanford this year. He surprised me as I didn’t even know he was coming, and we went for dinner afterwards to discuss my options of playing for the country, then not to long ago he asked me if I was available for this window.
“I recently graduated from Stanford and committed to play my fifth year of college basketball at the University of San Diego next season, but we haven’t really started our workouts yet, so Coach (Steve) Lavin was very supportive of me coming to join the national team and having this experience. My family, friends and I were so excited, and I just had to come.”
‘I’ve never shied away from a challenge’
It is fair to say that Delaire couldn’t have been given a much tougher challenge for his first international window than facing two of the heavyweights of European basketball – Greece and Turkey – in a duo of vital World Cup Qualifiers.
Yet to test himself at international level prior to this week’s camp, the Stanford graduate discussed how he is adapting to the pace and rigour of the game at senior national team level, and why he feels like such a potentially steep learning curve can only be good for him and his development.
“I can’t wait for the challenge, to be honest,” he added. “I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect and what the differences were between College Basketball and National Team Basketball, but I feel ready. These guys on my team are my brothers and I’m going to be competing my hardest to make sure we’re all as ready as we can possibly be for two big games that lay ahead of us.
“I’ve never shied away from a challenge. I enjoy being challenged and it makes me feel like I have something to prove. I’m in a setting where I’m not fully comfortable, understandably, but I can’t wait to see what that does for my game because I know I’ll put in the work to rise to the challenge.
“It has been overwhelming to see how happy everybody is for me, to be honest. My phone hasn’t stopped with messages and notifications with people saying nice things and wishing me well, which has really helped me, so I want to do them proud and I’m excited for what is to come.”
You can catch GB in action against Greece at 6pm BST on Thursday 30 June, live on FIBA’s streaming service, Courtside 1891.