He’s been one of the hottest players in the British Basketball League this season, period, and now Jelani Watson-Gayle is bringing his talents to the National Team as he has been called up for training camp with Marc Steutel’s Men’s side ahead of this week’s FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
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 definitely was an aim of mine to get here this season.” Watson-Gayle said.
“I just felt like if I played to my capabilities at a high level and consistently enough then good things would follow, so to be here now is great and extra motivation for me to keep going and keep striving for more.
“I’ve had good experiences before with the Under-16s and Under-20s, in Division B with the 16s and Division A with the 20s. I didn’t play too much with the 16s, I was more of a bench player, but I had a big role with the 20s and it was a great learning experience playing Turkey, Greece and Lithuania.
“Coach Steutel was the U20s Head Coach then alongside Lloyd Gardner and Josh Merrington. Coach hasn’t changed, he has the same philosophy and is very intense and passionate – which is great, and the type of coach I like to play for.”
Watson-Gayle has been a walking highlight reel for a Bristol Flyers side – led by Great Britain Assistant Coach Andreas Kapoulas – that has taken the BBL by storm this year, with JWG shooting an impressive 44% from the perimeter and his high-tempo style of play setting the tone on both ends of the floor for the Flyers.
The 24-year-old discussed what his focus has been coming into camp for the first time, and how the culture and ethos at Bristol has helped him thrive this year on and off the court.
“My main focus is just to come in here and soak up as much as I can, learn as much as I can, understand my role and what the team needs from me. I have a great opportunity here and I’m doing everything I can to take advantage of it.
“At Bristol, our style of play has really helped me perform at a high level, and we all get along really well on and off the court so I’ve enjoyed the experience I’ve had there and it’s definitely made me feel in a good spot coming into here.
“Coach Andreas (Kapoulas) has been really supportive of me, watching film with me and giving me as much as advice as possible to improve my game and go to another level, so everybody there has been a huge help for me and I’m very thankful for them.”
Captain of the team for this window, Carl Wheatle spoke with us earlier this week about how much he takes pride in making the newcomers on camp feel welcome and part of the group.
For Watson-Gayle, he and Wheatle go way back to their days playing in the U16s together, and he spoke of how he has adjusted to his new environment and how supportive the ‘GB family’ has been in bringing him into the fold.
“Knowing people before you come into camp helps you settle in much quicker. I know Carl (Wheatle) really well, but also Amin (Adamu) and Jordan (Williams), so they’ve been really helpful, and I’ve enjoyed being here massively.
“Practice has been really good, really intense. We’re trying to learn a lot in a short amount of time, so you’ve got to stay locked in and be together to help each other through the camp, but we’re coming together well, I feel, and it has been very enjoyable.
“It’s funny because just a few days ago I was playing against Luke (Nelson) and Josh (Sharma) in a really important game for Bristol and now we’re here on the same team and working towards the same aims, so it’s been pretty fun to get to know them and other players as well.”
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!