Wheatle hails World Cup Campaign as ‘step in the right direction’
With a historic FIBA World Cup Qualifying campaign for Great Britain just over a week away from its conclusion, 27-cap forward Carl Wheatle was in reflective mood as we caught up with him ahead of the final two games of the group against Belgium and Serbia.
The National Team will take to the court at Newcastle’s Vertu Motors Arena on February 24th against Belgium before travelling to Belgrade to face the Serbians on February 27th as Steutel and his staff conclude what has been a historic FIBA World Cup Qualifying campaign, with GB reaching the second qualifying phase for the first time in their history.
“It has definitely been a step in the right direction overall for us.” Wheatle said.
“To do something we haven’t done in the past is always a good feeling, and there are a lot of positives for us to take from this campaign for sure. We definitely feel like we could have done even better and there were some wins that we left on the table in the second phase, but that just shows how far we’ve come as a group.
“We have to look ahead to what lays in front of us now with two games to finish the campaign on the right note. We know what we’re capable of and our goal is to do even better than this in the next campaign.
“We don’t just want to qualify or come close to qualifying for competitions anymore – we know we can compete with the best teams and that we can compete at the highest level – so our focus for this window and beyond that is to prove that.”
Still a young player in his own right at 24 years old, although vastly experienced on the international stage by this point, Wheatle discussed the focus for the time ahead of this concluding duo of qualifiers in Newcastle and Belgrade – and why the team particularly needs to relish the challenge of the latter.
“We want to finish this campaign how we started it, playing Great Britain Basketball, showing what this team is about and playing the right way from start to finish. It goes without saying that we want to win, especially at home, and we’re capable of having two positive results this week.
“Having the new guys coming in is really exciting for everybody. We know what Belgium and Serbia are about and we’re expecting two big challenges, but we’re looking forward to it and we’re excited to show what we can do.
“Serbia in Belgrade is going to be a huge event in a hostile environment, but we’ve got to relish the opportunity we have to compete at that level against one of the best teams in international basketball. Those games are the most fun to play because we know it is us against the world and we’ve got to relish that challenge and be focussed and ready to compete the way we know we can.”
With five uncapped players named in the 24-man roster for this window, there is potential for even more new talent to come through and make their National Team debuts in the coming games – something Steutel and his staff have taken great pride in throughout the campaign, with a number of new players taking to the floor.
Wheatle discussed how he takes pride in helping the new players settle in to a busy training camp with the team and how he, at such a young age but with significant experience of international basketball, feels like he is in a unique position to help certain players feel at home very quickly.
“I am still young myself and have got a few caps under my belt now, so I do feel like I have a lot of experience to offer and I also find it helpful that I’m not too far removed from where these new players are age-wise to be able to give them advice and help them feel comfortable.
“With Jelani coming in now for example, we played together at U16s and U20s for GB, so I feel like I’m in a great position to help him integrate and feel comfortable straight away because we’re the same age and I’ve settled here so can bring him straight into the swing of things.
“When you’re young coming into this environment and you’ve got vets that have been here for years and in a different stage of their careers, it can help to have someone younger who is closer to what they’re experiencing to make settling in easier, and I feel I can do that which is why I always try and make a particular effort to help the new players. We want everybody here to feel like family.”
GET YOUR TICKETS
Get your tickets to support Great Britain in their final home game of FIBA 2023 World Cup Qualifying in Newcastle against Belgium on February 24th by clicking here. The team needs your support and we can’t wait to see you in the stands cheering on the team this week!