One of five potential debutants selected in Marc Steutel’s 24-man long list for Great Britain’s double-header of FIBA World Cup qualifiers against Serbia and Latvia, Aaron Menzies is dreaming of his first cap and loving life on camp with the National Team.
The 26-year-old 7’3” centre is in the third year of a blossoming professional career that has seen him compete in Spain and Germany, and he’s been knocking on the door of the Men’s National Team for some time.
Just over a day away from potentially making his debut against Serbia, if selected in the final 12-player roster by Coach Steutel, we caught up with Menzies to discuss how much he has enjoyed competing with the rest of the roster this week in Newcastle ahead of two big games for the team.
“It has been a great experience to come to camp and compete with and get to know the guys,” he said. “There have been some familiar faces here from the junior years playing for GB, and it has been great to share this experience with them, but also some new faces that I’ve enjoyed getting to know as well.
“I played from the Under-18s onwards and had opportunities with the Under-20s as well, so since then it has absolutely been a huge goal to get my first senior cap, so to be here in camp and have the opportunity to compete for that is really exciting and it’d be a huge honour to achieve that here.
“The hard work doesn’t stop there, though. You’ve got to earn everything in this game and perform, so I’m excited to compete for this first cap and hopefully I get the chance to go out there and show what I can do as part of this team.”
“You can see why this team has been so successful”
Positivity and progress are two themes that have been very evident for the National Team in this window and Menzies, in his first time on camp with the team, admits that it is obvious from what he’s seen this week why the team had been on a historic run of good form prior to this summer, as he discussed his experience in camp and the challenges that lay ahead on game night.
“You can see why the team has been so successful in recent years because the guys get after it when its time to go to work and really push each other to be the best they can be,” he added. “The coaches push us and give us the right ideas to succeed, then we apply that in practice and games.
“Everybody has a clear idea of what their role is and what they’re supposed to do, and we all do our best to implement it, which is why this team has been so successful.
“Serbia being ranked sixth in the world are clearly going to have some really good talent and be a really physical, skilful team, and Latvia as well are going to be really exciting to play against if selected as I know a lot of the guys on that team, so that’ll be really fun, and we’re ready for the challenges.”
“I’m forever grateful to the club for helping me get to where I am”
Menzies and his teammates Patrick Whelan are just two of many professional players who have come through the much-heralded Manchester Magic programme, and the former confesses it is particularly special to potentially be making his National Team debut on the same team as one of his best friends.
While he is certainly a giant now, Menzies has been a colossus since his youth, measuring at 7ft 1 from as young as 10 years old. His height would have seemed like an obvious gift for a basketball player at that age, but the 26-year-old details how being so tall back then actively prevented him from playing the game for so long, before eventually taking to the hardwood for the first time aged 16, just 10 years ago, and falling in love with the game.
“Initially I just started playing for fun, but after my first season I realised I could get a lot out of the game and have some great opportunities, so I really started putting in the work and, like many Magic players before and after me, I’ve reaped the rewards of that work and I’m forever grateful to the club for helping get to where I am right now.
“Pat (Whelan) had started playing for the Magic before me and we’ve become really good friends since then. I didn’t start playing until I was 16 to be honest, but once I got started and enjoyed it, I quickly learnt and became a part of the group and haven’t looked back.
“Probably the reason I didn’t start playing sooner is because I was so tall from such a young age and I just got sick of being asked about why I didn’t play basketball. I was always sporty growing up and played a lot of different things to different levels, but now I’m obviously glad that I just got stuck in to this game and gave it a go.”
You can get your tickets for Great Britain’s showdown with Serbia at the Vertu Motors Arena on 11 November via the Newcastle Eagles Box Office now. Come and show your support for the team as they look to secure victory in FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifying action.