As Great Britain’s adventure at EuroBasket 2022 comes to an end later today, it’ll be a special occasion for the Men’s team’s young forward, Carl Wheatle, for two reasons.
Firstly, tonight’s clash with Italy (8pm BST) marks his 25th cap for Nate Reinking’s side, and secondly taking on the Azzurri will see the GB international represent his place of birth against what he now calls his second home, as Wheatle has enjoyed much of his basketball career to date in Italy.
We caught up with the energetic forward on camp to find out more.
“It is a bit of a surreal experience. I’ve played in Italy for so long now it feels like a second home, so to play a game with Great Britain National Team here and have friends and people I know from Italy in the stands is going to be a really cool experience.
“The Italians love the sport and really get behind their team, so I’m expecting a really cool and exciting atmosphere in the gym. It should be a great game, hopefully we can give them a fight for the full 40 minutes because they’re a very proud team that don’t give up and we’re expecting a tough game but we want to come away with a good result.
“It is definitely one of their national sports, it is very well followed by most people and the national team is always well-supported. It is a country that gets behind their team and shows support in an intense and energetic way, so it should be a great experience to play here against them.”
“Its like it brings my career full circle in a way.”
Arriving in the country as a teenager, Wheatle has seldom left Stivale (the boot) as he’s developed massively both on and off the court during almost a decade spent in the country.
He discusses that personal growth experienced during his career in the country, how welcomed he has felt in the country, as well as why facing the Italians will be so special for him.
“Italy has been my career so far, really. I’ve been out here since I was 15 so it has been my home for most of my basketball journey, to be honest. It definitely feels like home to me, I’ve made life-long friendships and met coaches and players and had different experiences all over the country.
“It has been a blessing to have this opportunity and immerse myself in Italian culture, learning the language, the people are really cool, the food is great, and to have all of these experiences in this country has been something I’ve been really grateful for.
“This game is the icing on the cake, really, to be able to play a really game for my national team against Italy in Italy … its like it brings my career so far full circle in a way.”
“We have a chance to put something together over 40 minutes that we can be proud of.”
It has been tough going for GB in Milan as what was dubbed prior to the tournament as the most competitive EuroBasket to date has certainly been proven right, with the Men’s team’s opponents just proving too tricky to tackle in the first four games of the competition.
With one last game to contend with, Wheatle details how big an opportunity the Italian clash presents to GB as they look to end their involvement in the competition on a positive note.
“We want to walk out of the tournament with our heads held high. We’re obviously disappointed with how the results and performances have gone so far, but we have a chance to put that right tomorrow and put something together over 40 minutes that we can be proud of.
“Being able to be a part of this group has been so special to me, and I’ve been so proud to wear this jersey and represent my country. Being able to be a part of arguably the best international tournament around and to have played against some of the best, it has been a great experience and one I’ll cherish, especially as my first major tournament for GB at senior level.
“Missing out in 2017 through injury has definitely made this sweeter. It was a bitter pill to swallow, missing out last time at the last minute, especially as I was only 19 and it would have been such a crazy experience for me, but everything happens for a reason and I’m here and thankful for everything I’ve been able to experience here.”
Great Britain take to the court today (Friday) in their final game of Group C against Italy at 8pm BST. All of Great Britain’s fixtures at EuroBasket 2022 can be watched live on FIBA’s streaming platform, Courtside 1891. Head to courtside1891.basketball and use the promo code ‘EUROGB25’ now to get 25% off an annual pass to the platform.