- National Teams
England Under-16 Carl Wheatle has signed a four year deal with Italian side Angelico Biella.
The 6’5″ (and still growing) London Greenhouse Pioneers guard has spent the past year visiting various European clubs to perform trials, but signed with Biella, considered the top developmental club in Italy, last week.
“I’m looking forward to just being able to live more of the basketball lifestyle,” he said when talking to Hoopsfix on the phone on Monday. “Training and playing when I want, not having to struggle to find places to play and knowing I’m gonna get basketball everyday and have competitive games against good competition all the time.”
It marks a meteoric rise for the 1998 born youngster from Brixton, having only started playing basketball properly two years ago after being spotted by a Pioneers coach in a game for his school, Archbishop Tenison.
“I actually saw him play in a school game and then he came to the Pioneers when he was 13,” said Predrag Krneta, who was the Pioneers coach who first noticed his potential. “The first time I had a good look at him; his poise, his demeanour, for such a young man, I thought he could be good.”
He made the England Under-15 development squad, heading to Denmark on their annual trip earlier this year, making the All-Star five in the tournament, before being called up to the England Under-16s a year young – and impressing so much, he not only made the squad that travelled to the European Championships, but was also in the starting five.
“He’s only been playing proper basketball two years, this is his third year,” continued Krneta. “What was remarkable for him, was that he made the starting 5 (of England U16s) – for such a short period of time for him to persuade the coaching staff and everybody around that he can be a leader, that’s a pretty amazing thing.”
Alan Keane, who has been coaching Carl with the Pioneers but also as an assistant with the England Under-16s, thinks his biggest asset is his intelligence.
“As soon as he walked in through the door you could see he had a world of potential,” said Keane. “But his intelligence is his strength, his basketball mind. He’s extremely coachable, you only have to tell him things once, and that in my mind is why he progressed so quickly with the national team.”
Wheatle will continue studying for his GCSE’s whilst in Italy, where he will be playing for Biella’s Under-17 and Under-19 squads, returning next summer to complete his exams.
“I think I’ll be nervous to start off with (when I first arrive in Italy),” he said, talking of the prospect of moving to a foreign country and having to learn a new language.”But soon enough, by playing, I’ll get more comfortable with the surroundings and where I’m living; when I start to learn Italian I think it’ll be a lot easier to settle in, make friends and be a lot more comfortable in the surroundings.”
He will be flying out within the next fortnight, where he will be living in local university accommodation with other players from the club. Before signing with Biella, the South Londoner also had spent time visiting the aforementioned Bologna, as well as Reggio Emilia in Italy and Union Olimpija, who feature a fellow former London Pioneer in Jules Christian Dang Akodo, in Slovenia.
England Basketball have no need to worry about losing a potential cornerstone of future national teams either; Wheatle says Biella are “really supportive” of his international aspirations, and will allow him to return for for training camps and national team duty at the European Championships every summer.
The aggressive slasher, who averaged 6.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game, this summer at the Division B European Championships whilst playing out of his natural position, will be focusing on improving his jump shot with the extra gym time and coaching hours he will receive in Italy, but made a point of noting he will not forget who has helped get him to this point.
“I just want to say a big thanks to all the coaches I’ve had, Coach Pedrag (Krneta), Coach Peter (Berenyi), and Coach Alan Keane,” he said humbly. “Without my coaches pushing me and making me better, there’s no way I would have the opportunity I have now. They’ve massively helped me develop my skills, learn more about the game and become a better player.”
“If he keeps himself healthy, if all the things go his way…” said a wary Krneta, who paused and rightly pointed out that Carl is still so young that anything could happen. “If he progresses as he should progress, I think we could potentially have a very good basketball player for Great Britain on our hands.”
Hoopsfix wants to wish Carl all the best on his journey with his new club!