QUEENS CONSORT PHILLIP GAME FOR GB

You might not have heard of Tarik Phillip before last weekend. You will soon.

Or so the unexpected and largely unknown recruit to Tony Garbelotto’s Great Britain revolution hopes as he lands for training camp in Leicester ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Greece.

Coming off a strong early rookie campaign with Hungarian League pacesetters Szolnok, the guard sounds wholly as any New York native should be but the UK lineage comes down both sides of the family tree.

“My Mum is British,” he explains. “And my father is a citizen as well. She was from Lewisham.

“My Mum moved to the States when she was 21 and they came over together. All my Mum’s siblings are still in London. As is my grandmother.”

Which meant the occasional trip over the Pond from his native Brooklyn during his childhood. Infrequent though, meaning this will be – by his count – only the fifth time he has landed on our shores.

The result of an ancestral hunt in which Newcastle Eagles scoutmeister Dave Forrester had a role in flagging up both his nationality and encouraging Phillip’s agent to extol the benefits of a little FIBA ball.

One more test, the 24-year-old concedes, in a line that began during his very first steps onto a court in the Big Apple, a late joiner who came good.

“I had a cousin who played basketball,” he recounts. “I went to one of his games. I liked the feeling, the atmosphere. He took me to the park one day in Brooklyn when he was working out and I fell in love with it completely right there.”

His Dad, Patrick, was the designated driver for the local team, charged with piloting the family van to various games and tournaments in the city – rain, snow or shine.

It was on the playgrounds as much as the hardwood, his son concedes, where his playbook was written.

“It is kind of tough,” he confirms. “The parks are usually crowded so you have to win to stay on the court. It’s a tough style. No foul calls, especially when you’re a younger guy. You have to stand up for yourself and bring your best.”

His collegiate stint ended in the limelight of West Virginia University. The journey there was anything but straight-lined.

He attended Christ the King High School in Queen’s, a production line that has given us the likes of Sue Bird and Lamar Odom. Academics hindered his eligibility.

Phillip passed through three different Community Colleges before seizing one last opportunity to land the scholarship he craved to a contender. New York prepped him, he says. “It was a high level at college. But New York is a tough style of basketball.”

Now, the UK beckons. He has called an old friend for some advance reporting. His running mate at WVU was Eagles star and early BBL MVP fave Jayson Paige. “He said it was very nice over there,” Phillip confirms.

“He’s got one big on his team (Darius Defoe) who has played for GB. He’s enjoyed the style over there.”

So lean and mean is Garbelotto’s initial squad that there is every chance he will get his debut against the Greeks. Justin Robinson, who has recently become a father, is understood to have put family first. Ryan Richards’ return has been aborted in favour of shoulder surgery. Ashley Hamilton has remained in Spain. Ben Mockford was simply unselected.

Three cuts at most to get the 12 for Friday. Phillips considers himself a tough defender with versatility and those are traits, he trusts, which can be of service.

“I’m really excited about it. Hopefully we’d get a chance to qualify. It would give me a chance to face different guys and play with different guys and experience better competition.”

Annie, his mother, will doubtless be watching how he fares. An expat, sending back a little gift to the old country.

Photo: Twitter

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