Our favourite annual series continues as we ask WBBL Coaches to identify five players they believe deserve some recognition for their efforts this season.
They may not always be those challenging for awards, but they will have certainly impressed our play-callers. Adding a nice twist by looking predominantly at the league’s rising stars is Oaklands Wolves’ head coach Kenrick Liburd.
Holly Winterburn (Leicester Riders)
The first of my emerging players I want to highlight is the impact of Holly Winterburn at Leicester! She was 3rd in minutes per game, 3rd in steals, in the top 5 in her team in assists and field goal %. Her immediate impact this season to lead her team in scoring during the early part of the year, may have been overlooked by many, as a number of seniors who stepped up. This still does not stop the fact that she has been an ever-present factor in her team’s success, starting nine games for the 2nd place regular season team and Trophy finalists. Meanwhile she is yet to sit her GCSE exams. I am excited to see her build on the success next season when she moves on to immerse herself in a basketball environment and her coach will have even more influence on her development.
Charlotte Elmore (Barking Abbey Crusaders)
After being thrown into the fire as a back-up point guard in the WBBL, the new addition to Barking Abbey’s back court looked more comfortable at this level every week. The combo guard spent a great deal of time supporting their most experienced playmaker, growing in consistency reflected by her court time. You also got to see her showcase her talents in the WBBL Trophy shooting 64% from the three-point line when posting 18 and 13, against Cardiff and Sevenoaks respectively. I can’t wait to see what she brings to the table next year with her first season at one of the country’s premier academies and a chance to build on her experiences.
Teresa Da Silva (Barking Abbey Crusaders)
When she was available for the London outfit (and not helping lead her U16 team to glory in the national Play-Off Final), Da Silva played in 14 contests averaging 10 minutes a game. At a time when we are crying for elite point guard play, it looks like even though she is yet to finish secondary school, Teresa looks poised to step up to the plate. Da Silva possesses a skill set to rival all guards, the ability to break you down one on one, hit the open jump shot and effectively pull up in traffic. The next step for our young prospect is to show that she can run and lead a team following her GCSE exams at the top table in our country. If you have not had a chance to watch her play, you must, as she shows moments of being a real crowd-pleaser while still playing with purpose.
Tia Freeman (Oaklands Wolves)
The next emerging player, Tia Freeman is one of our own Oaklands Academy. The newcomer averaged 20 minutes a game in our clubs maiden season. She showed capability of scoring and creating for others, highlighted by her 14 point performance in the teams Cup win on the road against Cardiff. One of the toughest qualities to develop is leadership, and Tia a natural leader who became more vocal and influential as the season progressed. She helped to force overtime at Northumbria and in other competitive contests as the season came to a close. I am excited to see her development, as she will begin the season feeling comfortable and should have an impact on the groups success next year.
Loren Cristie (Oaklands Wolves)
The last one my list when thinking about emerging British talent, must be our very own Loren Christie. A true pleasure to coach that showed a level of focus and tenacity towards the end of the season that saw her average 9 points and 6 rebounds per game over the last 6 games of the WBBL Championship. Many people will look at her stand out performance against Northumbria, where she scored 20 and added 10 rebounds while pushing the northern powerhouse to overtime, but the versatile forward has also developed as a defender over the season in what could be the most difficult position to guard in the league. She is another one that has begun to impact in our league before the completion of her GCSE exams. Again think about the possibility of her future if she continues to develop her mentality and skill set while being immersed in a basketball environment.
People down play British kids all the time. When they have success we have too many people talking about the level not being good enough. It is exciting to see many of our young players being mentioned and seeing the constant impact of the youth on this league and others throughout the country. I took this direction in terms of emerging players as I feel that there is again another new crop of women’s basketball players that we should continue to highlight, empower and put in environment’s where they can excel.
You can follow Coach Liburd on Twitter