Team Northumbria head coach Chris Bunten is the latest to let us know who has caught his eye during the inaugural WBBL season.
We are asking play-callers across the league for their picks on not necessarily the best five, but certainly players they feel deserve highlighting for different reasons.
What I find impressive about Stef is how she leads by example on court as she is a true point-guard often sacrificing her own offensive attributes to get her team involved. You rarely see Stef make a bad decision on the court. If she decides to look for her shot, she is clinical and all season long, she has shot over 40% from the two and three-point line to be her teams’ third leading scorer. Probably the most impressive aspect of Stef’s game is that she leads her team in both offensive and defensive rebounding. All these statistics would put her in contention for WBBL Player of the Year in my mind and I haven’t even mentioned she is also the head coach for her programme. It’s tough for a player to be consistent through a long season, but to be consistent and able to maintain the respect and admiration of her team as a coach is the reason Stef is in my high five.
If you were just to look at her stats, they wouldn’t do justice to what Rheanne brings to her team. We have played Leicester more times than I care to remember this year, but one thing was always constant. When we lost, it was behind a defensive stop or a huge three from Rheanne. She gets her team going and accepts any challenge. One possession she would be marking my point-guard and then then next time, defending one of our ‘bigs’. She is definitely the heart and soul of Leicester and whether her team-mates like it or not, she will hold them all accountable to the high standards set by their coach. She is a player that if you sleep on, will always take full advantage.
My third player is someone I had the pleasure of working with in the national team and was one of the main reasons the England U16’s women gained promotion to Division A. When you look at ‘Sav’s’ maiden season in the WBBL, she was the third leading scorer on her team averaging 9.8 points and lead Crusaders in offensive and defensive rebounds, with an impressive 8.7 boards per game. These stats are impressive for any player, but what makes Sav so special is she is only in year 11 and currently sitting her GCSE’s! Coaches (Mark) Clark and (Karen) Burton have done a great job developing her and the sky really is the limit. She has great athletic potential, a work-rate that is second to none and such a hunger to achieve and develop it’s scary. I am very excited to see how far this young lady goes.
My fourth player is the Leeds forward. They have had a season they will definitely want to forget and not winning a single game is tough for the organisation, coaches and more importantly the players. However, Courtney was definitely a bright spark. She was the second leading scorer and led the team in rebounding. In our first outing against Leeds, Courtney torched us for 23 points showing her great outside shooting touch. In every game I was able to see Courtney, she always gave 100% effort and was a fantastic rebounder of the basketball. For a big she runs the floor very well and is good finishing around the basket with either hand. I look forward to seeing her having a great season next year.
My fifth and final addition is Steph Gandy. It goes without saying she leads her team in nearly every single positive stat and is simply a game changer. In our last game against Sheffield at Northumbria, they were hampered by injuries to Helen Naylor, Estela Torres and Naomi Campbell. However, all it meant was Steph would just carry the load. She played all 40 minutes finishing with 33 points on 15/23 shooting and 14 rebounds. This has been my first year coaching at this level and a lot of players have impressed me, but none more so than Steph. Her skill set is extensive and she can beat you a number of ways. She can guard 1 through to 5. She is a born leader and not necessarily vocal, but definitely leads by example. I am very much looking forward to seeing her play her style of basketball this summer for GB.
You can follow Coach Bunten @varbo_cb