John Stewart - GB U20 & Loughborough Student Rider: Q & A - Hoopsfix.com

John Stewart – GB U20 & Loughborough Student Rider: Q & A

Welcome to the team, James Quinn, who will be bringing his in depth coverage of EBL Division 1 to 4 over to Hoopsfix as a regular contributor. In the first of his offerings, James sat down with GB U20 and Loughborough Student Rider, John Stewart, to talk hoops. Over to James (questions in bold, answers in regular!):

First off John, many people will know your name but might not know alot about you. So tell us, how did it all start and how did we get here?

My name is John Stewart and I’m a 6’5″ small forward from Sheffield. I originally started playing when I was 11 years old. I just went to a local club and messed around, but then I found that I enjoyed the game a lot and I had a bit of talent for it. I then went to trial at the then named Sheffield Junior Sharks (now called Sheffield Saints). I made that u13 team and progressed through the age groups for them, winning a number of national titles along the way.

I decided to attend Loughborough University and have been playing both BUCS and National League for them for the past two seasons. When I was 14 I got called up to the England u16 European Championship team and went with them to the euros in Bosnia. That was a big learning experience for me as I was a lot younger than the other players on the team and I didn’t get much playing time. I used it as a real learning experience, taking everything I could from the Championship.

I progressed up the England National team age groups and then progressed into Great Britain u20s last year with the 1992 born team. That takes us to this year where we came second at the European Championships in Romania.

So here we are… Congratulations on everything you’ve achieved this summer with the GB u20s. How do you feel that experience compares to others and how does it prepare you for the challenges you will face in the future?

Thanks! I think it’s safe to say that this summer has been one of my best National Team experiences. From the coaches and the scouting sessions to all of the travelling and organisation, it was an honour to be there. The team bonded a lot and we had a lot of fun along the way. Even though we ultimately didn’t win the Championship, I know we made a lot of people proud. Definitely one to remember.

In terms of preparing me for the future I think it will stand me in good stead. The experience reminded me of how good other players around Europe really are. More to the point I think it reminded me that if everyone is pulling in the same direction for a goal then it is always achievable no matter how many people doubt you. The coaching staff at the U20s had a saying of “2 feet in” which became our motto. Everyone completely in for the same cause. I’ll definitely take that forward.

You played under GB Captain Drew Sullivan last season and it’s been announced that he won’t be returning. What were things like under his leadership and how do you think the Riders will adapt to life under new coach Mark Jarram?

Intense! Every training session was full speed and competitive, sometimes what has been lacking in some of my past experiences. It was an interesting season with its ups and downs. We started out really well and then kind of tailed off to the end of the season which was disappointing, but it was a big learning experience for the whole team. Have to thank Drew for the whole experience of it. As he is a top class player he was able to add his own insights which were of a great value.

Mark is a great coach – we had him a few times this season when there were fixture clashes with BBL games so Drew was unable to coach us. He is very enthusiastic and puts a lot of time and effort into preparation for games. Hopefully there will be a seamless transition for the team.

Personally you had a fantastic season last campaign and were one of the main candidates for the Division 2 MVP last season. You’ve told me you won’t be suiting up for the riders for the 2013/14 season because of your uni placement, so where do you intend to take your talents?

My uni course means that I have a placement year this coming season, so I won’t be playing for the Riders this coming season. My placement is up in York, so the likelihood at the moment is that I will be suiting up for Hull Wasps. I’ve been in contact with them, and my friend Matt Brutnell played for them last season, so I know what to expect and I’m excited for the new season. Hopefully I can help them in any way they need.

Many people wonder why you’ve not yet pursued a basketball career overseas. Is it something that’s never interested you or are you just very happy in the UK?

From when I started taking basketball seriously it felt like that’s the direction I was going to take. I had a few offers from American Division 1 colleges and I had taken the SAT and all that sort of stuff, but then I feel like I had a bit of a reality check. I wanted to get a quality education as the priority, and then if I could play basketball still to a reasonably high level then that would be a bonus to me.

Going to Loughborough University made me realise that for me personally I made the right decision, as I still get the high quality education, and a proactive basketball environment that comes with it.

What would you like to have achieved by the time you stop lacing up?

The main thing that I wanted to achieve was to gain promotion with a national side – obviously this summer that became a reality with the GB U20 team. That was something that everyone I personally knew, wanted to accomplish. In terms of things still left to do, I haven’t been able to be a part of a team yet that wins a senior league. The Sheffield Junior teams that I was on won a fair amount of National Championships, but I’d really like to do that on the senior stage. And then obviously play to the highest level I can.

Favourite player you’ve ever played with and favourite coach?

I think that would have to be Devon Van Oostrum. We played on the same junior team for years together, went to the same school and have come up the national team age groups together. He’s obviously a huge talent and the game is a lot easier when I play with him. We understand how each other play completely and that makes facilitating a lot easier. It’s definitely fun being on the court together.

In terms of my favourite coach, that’s a harder decision. It’s between Simon Fisher – my England U16 coach, Marc Steutel – Team Northumbria Coach and Doug Leichner – GB U20 coach. Each of them have had a large impact on me and my game. Hard choice between those three.

How do you feel about the new level of coverage for the EBL on Hoopsfix?

Obviously the EBL has never really had any significant level of coverage in any form. It’s a big thing for this new coverage to happen and I hope that it only increases in the future. Hoopsfix will give a good level of exposure and it should be a positive thing for both the league as a whole and the players in the league.

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