As Great Britain center Eric Boateng prepares for his landmark 100th appearance on Friday against Belgium, in their opening Eurobasket encounter, the Londoner was in a reflective mood as he reminisced about his first call-up leading up to hitting the century mark in Istanbul.
Boateng was called up to the Great Britain squad during the inception of the programme in 2006, which admittedly came at an awkward time for him as he was in the middle of transferring schools from Duke to Arizona State. But the honour that came with being part of the national team was too great.
Now, eleven years on, Boateng enters his third Eurobasket on Friday preparing to win his 100th cap and when asked about the historic achievement during a conference call, the 31-year-old chuckled, saying that he felt old.
“I got the call from Radmilla Turner in 2006 saying that I was one of the players who would be invited to train with the GB men’s team and I was in such shock and awe and excitement,” Boateng remembers.
“I will never forget that day and that feeling has stayed with me every summer and every game since then but it’s pure euphoria that the national team wanted me and wanted me to part of the programme and I’ve kept that desire for representing my country throughout this journey and it’s just been incredible honour for me, every step of the way.”
The journey for Boateng has certainly seen some radical changes, especially following the London 2012 Olympics when many feared that the British Basketball programme would fade away after UK Sport cut the team’s funding due to their poor showing at the Games. In a total overhaul of the programme, Great Britain hired Joe Prunty as their new coach, replacing long-time playcaller Chris Finch and the NBA stars at the time such as Luol Deng, Joel Freeland and Pops Mensah-Bonsu decided not to play, and most likely never will.
The British supporters though have been treated to an emerging crop of youthful talent, including Luke Nelson, Ben Mockford and Kofi Josephs, all of whom make their Eurobasket debuts on Friday. Boateng, who has been impressed with the overall professionalism of the enthusiastic youngsters understands his own role within the side.
But he still doesn’t want to come across as the veteran of the group. More that friendly face that always has a smile on his face.
“I don’t try to come across as a veteran,” he says. “Sure I am, but I don’t wave that badge. I just try to have a relationship and make it work better in a practice environment. I try to bring that area of comfort.
“Sure I can give them advice, but they’re learning at their own pace so for me it’s just to be a friendly, upbeat person and that’s very important for the growing process when you go through wins and losses. It’s important to have that stable character amongst the group.”