- National Teams
By Joe Hewison
Carl Wheatle returned from his first year in Italy with Angelico Biella to play a starring role in the inaugural Hoopsfix All-Star Classic – but now he can’t wait to get back to work and continue his progression at a pace.
The 16-year-old is widely considered the top talent of the country’s 1998 generation and showed some of his skills as he helped Team Black rally from a slow start and take the Under-16 All-Star Game 76-68.
He scored the all-important go-ahead basket in the third quarter with a nice one-on-one move, which was possibly a by-product of the hard work he has been putting in this term.
“It was great,” said the former London Greenhouse Pioneer of his productive, maiden campaign on the continent. “I have learned a lot from the coaching staff.
“It’s helped me to have a lot more confidence in my game and altogether has made me a better player and I look forward to going back next year to carry on.”
His work with the team this season has focused on expanding his personal repertoire ahead of integrating him into the club’s wider system in the future – and he has time is on his side too, having signed a four-year deal with the club last year.
“It’s mainly been shooting and ball-handling, just making my individual skills a lot better,” added Wheatle.
“They are trying to make me more of a guard so [we worked on] shooting, ball-handling, decision-making off pick-and-rolls, making better passes and a lot of focus on defence and being able to defend players in different positions and being able to understand the game better.”
As well as coming to terms with a new role, the youngster has had to get used to a whole new culture.
But he feels he has settled in well, with the help of his new teammates.
He said: “It’s a lot different from where I live in London, it’s a lot quieter but the surroundings suit me because I don’t like to be out a lot, I’ m a calm guy so I just like to chill.
“The team were really welcoming, which made it a lot easier because they made it clear they wanted me to be there.”
That, in turn, helped him adapt to the contrasting customs on the court too.
“It’s a different kind of game,” said Wheatle.
“In Italy it is a lot more structured, we have a lot more free-flowing game [in England], but it is a good free-flowing because it allows guys to be themselves and play their game.
“In Italy you fastbreak when you can, but the half-court sets are a lot more structured and detailed. But there is less flair in the game because it is so structured.”
This exposure to contrasting cultures on the court can only have a positive impact on the youngster’s game and such improvements look set to continue with another three years in Italy ahead of him.