GB captain, Phil Pratt has recently signed a sponsorship deal with RGK Wheelchairs. Rollt.’s Dylan Cummings spoke with him to find out what made him decide to sign a deal with the well-established British company. He also discussed how the season is going as well as his preparations for Tokyo.
How did the sponsorship with RGK come about?
“Even though I’ve not been with RGK for a few years now, I’ve always had good relationships with a bunch of the guys over at RGK. I had a conversation with ex-GB player, Lee Fawcett and that conversation kind of got the ball rolling which ended up with me being back in the RGK family.”
Why did you choose to end your sponsorship with Per4Max?
“Firstly, the guys over at Per4Max and MAX Wheelchairs are some of the friendliest and kindest people I’ve met through basketball. They gave me a huge opportunity and supplied me with some unbelievable equipment, but logistically, with them being based in the US, it was always tough for me. I needed something more personal and I really felt that the time was right to move on and start the next chapter in my career with RGK.”
Are there any hard feelings between yourself and Per4Max or was it a mutual parting?
“For me, there are no hard feelings whatsoever towards Per4Max. Like I said, they’re top people and I mean it when I say it, I wish nothing but the best for them!”
What’s the best aspect about being a part of the RGK family?
“It’s a huge honour to be part of the RGK family. You’re alongside some of the most talented athletes in the world, not only within basketball, but other sports too for example, Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewitt in tennis. If you look at the likes of Terry Bywater and Abdi Jama, they’ve been with RGK what feels like forever, and that is obviously for a reason.”
How does Mike Sheen and the rest of the RGK team make you feel like a part of the RGK family?
“Mike Sheen is one of the reasons I wanted to make the switch to the RGK family. The guy is obsessed with improving and doesn’t settle for mediocrity. I feel like our beliefs are very similar in the sense and I’m excited to see his ideas and see how he can help me take my game to the next level. Everyone in the RGK team have been so welcoming and awesome right from the get-go, which I’m really grateful for.”
Mideba have had a bit of an up and down season so far, what’s your opinion on the team’s performances?
“It’s been a really difficult season for us. We’ve been plagued with injuries or illnesses from the word go, but to be completely honest, even when we’ve all been fit, we’ve just not been good enough. Me personally, I’ve not had a great season and for sure I feel that I could’ve turned a few losses into wins. It’s been a good learning curve for us though, we aren’t used to losing and it’s been a good test of how we can stay together as a group against adversity.”
What’s it like playing alongside your best mates?
“It’s surreal. We all used to talk about playing abroad professionally one day and we’re now living that ´dream.’ It can be tough, there are days where we want to rip each other’s heads off in training or after a game, but after that, we’re all back chilling together playing Xbox or out for a coffee.”
How has the support you’ve received from your parents helped you in life and your career?
“My parents are my everything and have been unbelievably supportive in my career. They’re both complete polar opposites. My dad has always been amazingly passionate and pushed for me to be the best I can be in life and sports. He would take me to every single training session as a kid and drive me stupid amounts of hours, to allow me to do something I loved. He’s my best friend and has always been the biggest role model to me. Then you have my mum who is extremely laid back and the best shoulder to cry on when life gets really tough. I could make the world’s worst decision, but she’d stand by me and support it fully. I’m so lucky to have two amazing parents who both have done everything possible to help me in my life and career. Shout out to my mum and dad!”
How have GB been preparing for Tokyo?
“We’ve been preparing as normal, although the mindset has changed. In the past, we’ve not really known if we’re really good enough to beat the best teams in the world, but now we have the confidence and know we have what it takes. Our team is full of absolute workaholics. We just want to outwork every other team in the world, to put us in the best possible position to win everything.”
What goals do you want to achieve in Tokyo?
“We want a gold medal and nothing less. We’ve all sacrificed a huge amount to get to this stage, anything other than a gold would be at least for me, disappointing.”
What needs to be done for these goals to be achieved?
“We need to be fit and healthy. Obviously with the coronavirus issues right now, it’s important for us to stay healthy. We’re lucky that we have a deep squad and can rotate a lot without a dip in form on the floor, which results in us being fit and ready to go into the latter stages of the tournament.”
Can you beat the US again in Tokyo? If so, why?
“A lot of people said that Worlds was going to be a year or two too soon for us to beat the US, we proved them wrong. However, the US have without a doubt, not only some of the best players in the world, but players who I honestly think will go down as some of the GOAT’s of our sport. They play small ball with the likes of Steve Serio (my role model growing up), Jake Williams (the best shooter in the world right now), Matt Scott (arguably the best player in the world right now) and then they obviously have Josh Turek coming back for Tokyo, who is an unbelievable scorer and all-round player. We´re only getting better and the team that we were at the Worlds, is miles off where we´re at now. If it got to a stage that we have to play the US in Tokyo, I think we have the right tools to beat them for sure.”
How would you describe your style of play?
“I’d describe my style of play as an all-round player. I couldn’t care if I finish a game with zero stats, as long as the team wins, I’m all good. I think people would say I’m more of a point guard and someone who controls the game and looks to create for others. Also, I’d say I’m a decent defender.”
Has anyone specifically influenced you to play the way you do?
“Joey Johnson; one of the best players to ever play our game to this day. I’d watch him and try to see what he’s seeing and how he reacts from it. I was lucky to have a year or two with him as GB’s assistant coach and I learnt so much from him in such a small period of time. Steve Serio; how he fully controlled a game from such a young age is something I always wanted to try and replicate. He just made the right play all of the time and knocked his shots down when he needed too. Matt Scott; the best athlete to ever play this sport. I still watch his games over in Germany and I can’t believe what I’m seeing time after time. Patrick Anderson; the Michael Jordan of wheelchair basketball … I still imitate some of his moves now. Just so slick in everything he does, and the guy can still drop 40 points a game even though he’s towards the end of his career.”
What piece of advice has stuck with you throughout your career?
“I can’t think of one piece of advice that I’ve been given from someone, but I’ve got a few quotes from people that have always stayed with me. Hard work beats talent, when talent fails to work hard. In other words, it doesn’t matter how talented you are, if someone’s constantly outworking you, they’ll always come out on top in the end.”
In my personal opinion, I think you’re the best player in the world today, do you agree with this? If yes, why? If no, who is the best player in the world today and why?
“That’s unbelievably kind of you to say such words, but I don’t know if I’d say the same about myself. There are so many talented players in the world right now. Without a doubt, Terry Bywater is the greatest scorer of all time and he’s still playing right now. You’ve got the likes of Jannik Blair who is incredible and crazy intelligent. Obviously, the reigning world MVP Gregg Warburton who has to be in that conversation too. But for me, my favourite all-round player in the world to watch right now has to be Matt Scott. The guy had a near death experience and is somehow playing his best basketball after it … I watched the second half of the German cup final and couldn’t get my head around some of the things he was doing. I also had a year of playing alongside him and can say from my experience, he’s one of the toughest defenders to play against, so for me at least, he’s got to have that ‘title’ of the best player in the world right now.”
If you could do a training session with three other players who you’ve never trained with before from anywhere in the world male or female to improve your skills, which players would you choose and why?
“I love this question and I’m always intrigued by who other players pick, but these would be mine! Shaun Norris; The GOAT 3.0 player, I forgot to mention him in my part about influential players in my career, but this guy changed the game of how 3.0’s play. He’s going off ball and killing everyone, draining three-pointers, sitting big. He was someone I moulded my game on and to top it off, he’s a top bloke too! Becca Murray; one of the GOAT’s in the female game. I’d love to find out what she’s doing to allow her to shoot like she does. Absolute knock down shooter from anywhere! Tom O’Neil-Thorne; mad respect for this guy. Improving every season and he’s playing at such a high-level right now. One of the best all-round players in the world! Would love to share the floor with him at some stage rather than him being the opposition!”
Thanks for your time mate!
Rollt. would like to thank Phil Pratt for the interview!
Phil Pratt Profile:
Date of Birth: 02/02/1994 (aged 26)
Hometown: Newport, South Wales
Started playing: 2010
GB senior debut: 2014 World Championships – Incheon, South Korea
Disability: Transverse Myelitis
Current Club: Mideba Extremadura, ESP (2018-Present)
_Cardiff Celts, GBR (2010-12, 2014-15)
_RGK Sporting Club Wolverhampton Rhinos, GBR (2012-14)
_Leicester Cobras, GBR (2013-14)
_Sheffield Steelers, GBR (2015-16, 2017-18)
_GSD Porto Torres, ITA (2016-17)
_2015 European Championships – Worcester, GB – Gold (GB)
_2018 World Championships – Hamburg, Germany – Gold (GB)
_2019 European Championships – Walbrzych, Poland – Gold (GB)
Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Steffie Wunderl