Marc Stuetel has doubled down on his determination to prepare Great Britain basketball for the challenges ahead following another dispiriting defeat on the international stage.
The beaten but unbowed Newcastle Eagles play-caller helms tomorrow night’s World Cup clash against European heavyweights Serbia uncertain of what the future holds.
But GB’s acting head coach is continuing to plan for the next generation regardless of whether he retains his own place in the senior men’s coaching set-up.
“My remit has been to lead this team during the final World Cup window and I’ve tried to do that with an approach of being competitive here and now and of trying to do the right things for the programme in the future,” said Steutel, following an 88-59 defeat to Belgium at the Vertu Motors Arena.
“I hope that there is a really balanced staffing and squad structure moving forward with a clear vision that everyone can work towards.
“I think that’s probably the most important thing that can come out of this qualifying campaign.”
GB head to Belgrade with nothing more than pride to play for following a series of tough losses in the latter stages of World Cup qualification.
But pride and passion have been the hallmarks of Steutel’s colourful spell deputising for US-based head coach Nate Reinking.
And the former GB Under 20 play-caller is all about instilling those traits in the nation’s emerging talent with the Eurobasket 2025 qualifying campaign looming large.
Steutel handed four exciting new stars their senior international debuts in Newcastle on Friday and he added: “People are already asking what the GB squad will look like for the Eurobasket qualifying campaign.
“Hopefully that’s a question that these World Cup fixtures will help us answer.
“I’d like to think that the programme is able to build something in the summer, identify a lot of the younger talent and get the balance right between utilising the core group and putting a competitive cycle together.
“As we all know, qualifying for Eurobasket is extremely tough and extremely demanding and it comes down to fine margins. We want to get the balance right.”
Amin Adamu, Michael Belle, Noah Horchler and Jelani Watson-Gayle all made their senior international bows against Belgium on Friday in front of another bouncing Vertu Motors Arena crowd.
Yet another Newcastle sell-out was not enough to inspire homecourt trio Steutel, Kyle Johnson and Ben Mockford to victory.
But the latest in a series of dramatic international clashes on Tyneside yet again showcased a venue tailor-made for hosting elite sport in the region.
And while there are suggestions GB’s senior men may move elsewhere in the future there is a growing clamour from players, staff and fans to make Newcastle a permanent home for top-class British hoops.
Steutel, of course, has made the most of his opportunity to base an evolving roster in familiar surroundings and the Belgium dead rubber afforded him the perfect opportunity to blood new talent.
Austria-based Adamu netted 14 points and added three steals, three rebounds and two assists in 24 action-packed minutes.
Bristol-based Watson-Gayle and Aris star Horchler both got 20-plus minutes under their belt against a well-drilled Belgian roster.
And 19-year-old Belle, plying his trade with Strasbourg this season, showed glimpses of why GB bosses are predicting big things for the 6ft 6in forward.
But it was Adamu who set tongues wagging with his all-round game and Steutel added: “I think Amin showed that he has a specific skill set that can be really impactful at this level.
“I thought he pressed the ball really well and gave us some really disruptive hand pressure.
“He caused Belgium difficulties getting into the paint and I thought his performance overall was positive.
“We spoke to him after the game and talked about areas that he can improve upon — I think he will in terms of how he approaches the game and how he works every day.”
Belgium took the opening period 19-16, were up 42-26 at the half and led 62-39 going into the final period.
Eagles guard Johnson, who won the 86th cap of a storied international career stretching back to 2011, added three rebounds to six points on a night when the dual national Canadian found space hard to come by.
But there was no return to action for Mockford — a surprise pick in Steutel’s final 12 after he missed Newcastle’s BBL doubleheader last weekend.