As Great Britain’s Men’s side gear up to get the second phase of qualifying for the FIBA 2023 Basketball World Cup underway this Thursday away in Belgium (19:30 tip-off), Head Coach Nate Reinking is looking forward to returning to his former home court after a 12-year hiatus.
The GB play-caller enjoyed five years playing in Belgium for both Bree and Belfius Mons-Hainaut – whose homecourt will play host to Great Britain on Thursday night – from 2005 to 2010, so who better to speak to about Belgian basketball than the man who will be leading his nation into battle later this week on familiar turf?
“I went over to Belgium in 2005 to Bree to play for Chris Finch and then moved over to Mons in 2007, spending three great years in that city.” Reinking said.
“It is going to be very special to go back to that arena and see everybody at the club, reconnect with people that I played with and against over the years, and I’m really looking forward to it.
“It is funny where basketball takes you sometimes. Apart from England, Belgium was probably my other European home. Bree were in the EuroCup at the time and I’ve always wanted to raise my levels and keep pushing myself, so to go there from the BBL was an obvious step.
“It was a comfortable move for me as I knew who I was going to play for in Coach Finch, so I’m excited to return. It has been special to see so many messages on social media from people looking forward to welcoming me back as well – I loved my time there in a great city with great people.”
“I’ve always had that side of the game instilled in me.”
Following his then-GB-Coach Chris Finch to Belgium, Reinking elaborated on how significant a mentor the current Minnesota Timberwolves was then and has been since on the 48-year-old’s own coaching journey, whilst also paying tribute to his father and crediting former GB Head Coach Joe Prunty for his influence too.
“Coach Finch was certainly a big inspiration for me, but the game has always been a part of me and my dad was a coach as well so I’ve always had that side of the game instilled in me.
“I played for Chris in England for a few years before moving to Belgium and I always enjoyed his philosophy and how he built his teams, so he certainly had an impact on me.
“There were so many others though, too, from Coach Finch to my father to Joe Prunty and more … they’ve all instilled different aspects of the game into me and I’ve tried to mould it into my own style.”
“These are two teams that are going to enjoy a good battle.”
Belgium will be GB’s first test of this second phase of qualifying for the 2023 World Cup, and they’re on course to compete at their fifth consecutive EuroBasket later this summer, establishing themselves as one of the familiar faces in Europe’s flagship international competition.
Like GB, Belgium have retained a core group of players over an extended period of time, using their togetherness and grit to grind out big results on a regular basis, and Reinking confessed he certainly sees the parallels between his side and their Belgian opponents as he previewed Thursday’s outing.
“They’re a very experienced, disciplined, well-coached roster of players. They’ve got an older group with a mix of really athletic younger guys, so there’s a nice well-rounded group there that always play hard, don’t make mistakes and they play well together.
“I do see parallels between us and them in terms of the make-up of our roster and the chemistry the team has. Whether you look at our older guys or the younger players coming through, they’ve all come through age groups together and have bonds that go back many years.
“These are two teams that are going to enjoy a good battle, that’s for sure. We’re working to prepare as fast as we possibly can in the time we have, whilst making sure the guys are consistently focussed – the latter is something we learnt from the last camp, as we did have lapses, and we need to learn from that.”
Following GB’s visit to Belgium, they’ll return home to Newcastle’s Vertu Motors Arena for their second game of the window against Latvia.
This will be the Men’s team’s final game before they head to Milan to represent their country in EuroBasket, and tickets are selling fast for the game in the north-east as fans are eager to give their team a perfect send-off before heading to Italy. Get your tickets now whilst you still can via the Newcastle Eagles Box Office!