His no-nonsense attitude and relentless grit on the court are symbolic of the success the Great Britain Men’s National Team have had in recent years, and Ben Mockford’s message to his teammates ahead of GB’s clash with Latvia is to take confidence from the journey they’ve been on as they look to bounce back with a top-tier performance in Newcastle on Sunday evening.
We caught up with the 46-cap veteran ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Kristaps Porzingis’ Latvia to reflect on Thursday’s outing against Belgium and look ahead to the challenge posed by the visiting Latvians on Sunday.
“It was a tough game against Belgium, for sure.” Mockford said.
“We were faced with some challenges coming into camp but we don’t want to use that as an excuse. Any international game is tough and we know tomorrow is going to be about as tough as they come against an elite team with players of extremely high quality.
“We have to just take confidence from what we’ve built over the last two or three years and use that experience to go into this game giving it everything we’ve got and fighting like the underdogs that we are.
“We know we’ve been together for a short amount of time and that there is such a quick turnaround for everything, but we just want to remain focused and locked in on getting the best out of ourselves, using our experience to help us progress faster. This isn’t our first rodeo, we’ve been here and done it before, so we need to take confidence from that and leave everything out there.”
“We just have to worry about ourselves at this stage.”
Although Latvia haven’t qualified for EuroBasket in September, there can be no disputing their status as one of the elite forces of European basketball, with an incredibly versatile and exciting roster spearheaded in this window by elite NBA talents.
Mockford is no stranger to the challenge posed by the Latvians, having faced the side at EuroBasket 2017, and he discussed the challenge they – and particularly their star man, Porzingis – pose as one of the form teams in Europe right now, and how much he is looking forward to EuroBasket 2022.
“We faced (Kristaps) Porzingis in the last EuroBasket and he is definitely a problem for opponents, a big problem, but we can’t focus on him or them. We just have to worry about ourselves at this stage and if we do that and stick to the scout and our preparations then the rest takes care of itself.
“I played at EuroBasket in 2017 and it is an incredible stage with super talent on show. Every team there is very skilled and capable, but we’re looking forward to the challenge and we’ve got a core group of players involved who are very familiar with each other, so if there is a year for us to make noise as a team then why not this one?”
“I can’t wait to take to the court there again tomorrow.”
As the last window was GB Assistant Coach Marc Steutel’s first game at the Vertu Motors Arena since he was confirmed as the Newcastle Eagles’ new Head Coach for the coming season, the same is true of Mockford this weekend as it will be his first outing in the north-east since signing for the Eagles.
He gave a glowing appraisal of his new club, and spoke gleefully about the prospect of taking to the court in front of his new home fans tomorrow evening.
“I can’t wait to play at the Vertu Motors Arena tomorrow, it is a great place to be play and one of the best – if not the best – arenas to be playing basketball in in the UK right now. The fanbase is great, the court is really good, and we’re looking forward to a big game tomorrow.
“It was an easy choice for me to join Newcastle, re-joining Marc (Steutel) there who is somebody I know very well, but the club has a great history and one of winning as well, so it was an easy decision for me and I can’t wait to take to the court there again tomorrow.”
You can catch GB in action against Latvia at 6pm BST on Sunday 28 August, live on FIBA’s streaming service, Courtside 1891.