Thursday night in Newcastle could look very different in a parallel universe.

Great Britain versus Greece, in the opening qualifier for the 2023 FIBA Men’s World Cup … but where basketball had the same seamless player-release-for-international-duty rules that football enjoys.

Rick Pitino patrolling the sidelines for the visitors.

Giannis Antetokounmpo taking alley-oop feeds from Nick Calathes with Georgios Printezis an extravagant option off the bench.

Quite the show.

A formidable obstacle for a GB line-up currently without any inhabitants of the NBA or EuroLeague.

Reality to bite next summer, when the two nations are slated to square off in the initial group stage of the EuroBasket finals in Milan.

However back to the present, a different competition, and a more level playing field as a consequence of the Greek absentee list at the Vertu Motors Arena.

The politics that can enforce platoon subbing, on this occasion as it did against France earlier in 2021, curiously working in Britain’s favour.

“It definitely does,” Dan Clark asserts. “Being able to maintain that solid core group of guys, I think we really benefit from that – in the fact that we don’t have to get used to each other inside two or three days.

“We’ve already played with each other over a number of windows and in these type of games, so I think it does come in handy.

“I think it just shows you though that these marquee NBA players are the difference. That’s the main difference between us and some of these bigger nations.”

Whose company the new Manchester Giants totem has long aspired for GB to join.

Making an impact in a group that also includes Sunday’s road opponents, Turkey, and Belarus would tick a few useful boxes.

The home team on Tyneside, with Marc Steutel at the coaching helm, expecting to pose as many challenges as they face despite the significant absences of Ovie Soko and Myles Hesson.

“So far, it’s good and positive,” Clark declares of the build-up. Even with the new faces, continuity helps.

“That just makes the adaptations you have to make come into the window that much easier. It’s just plugging in the new pieces, and getting them on board as quickly as possible, really.

“So that’s what we’ve been trying to do over the last two days. And hopefully, we do it the right way. And we get the results on Thursday and Sunday.”

Listen to the latest edition of the MVP Cast with GB guard Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye

The 33-year-old is no longer an exile, of course, repatriated home, to the British Basketball League, following a decade-and-a-half spent mostly in Spain.

New terrain, a big reputation preceding him, the BBL often painted as a stage that is not well-suited to those schooled in the European way.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult,” the Londoner acknowledges. “I wouldn’t say more the style of the game. It’s just been that the overall experience has been very different to what I’ve been used to.

“All the way from the infrastructure to the way the games are called by the refs, the style of game in the BBL, the type of player you get to play against, and things like that, it’s all been new.

“New is always a challenge but a challenge is always a positive thing. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and challenged myself in this way, maybe in different aspects in life as well. I think is really good for me, and I’m enjoying so far.”

Yet, it is a drop in level from what he has been accustomed to as one of the UK’s hoops ambassadors. Others who have returned from overseas have talked of how playing internationally meant a little more when they were plugged back on domestic soil.

“I think it does,” Clark agrees. “I think there is like that little area of my mind saying ‘like, you know, I want to prove I can still play at this level. I can still play in a good European league.’

“The decision to play back in the BBL is mine and I’m completely at peace with it. But I can still do this kind of thing.

“I think that’s just a personal pride that every professional sportsman will have. But I’m playing in the BBL, I’m playing in Manchester and I’m loving it so far.

“And now, it’s just time to prove that I can still play at GB and contribute in a positive way.”

Notably, Teddy Okereafor is set to establish a record of taking part in 50 consecutive men’s internationals for GB in Newcastle (BBC iPlayer, 6.30pm) with Jordan Williams earning his debut.

Clark will move within seven caps of matching London 2012 Olympic team-mate Eric Boateng’s benchmark of 116 appearances for the team.

Something to look forward to. Perhaps history that will be written during EuroBasket 2022.

“There’s no secret it’d be a very proud moment and a huge accomplishment,” he underlines. “But, I’ve always said that I’m only going to play for the national team while I and the coaching staff think I can help.

“It’s not going to be one of those things where I’m going to drag it out to make sure I get the record. I’m only going to play if I think and the coaches believe that I can contribute in a positive way to the team.

“Obviously, it’ll be a big achievement and one that I will be very proud of.

“But at the same time, as it has been throughout all the caps I’ve got at the moment, it always should be about GB team first and making sure that they’re in the best possible position.”




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