Janice Monakana discusses Suns return and taking…
By Jamie Thomas
Going into the WBBL Playoffs as something other than the top
seed for the first time since the 2016/17 season, the Sevenoaks Suns are in
somewhat unfamiliar territory as the post-season approaches, but their forward
Janice Monakana is excited for that challenge.
We caught up with her ahead of the post-season, where the
Suns will be the second seeds and facing the Essex Rebels in the quarter-finals,
to discuss her return to the club after a brief spell away and the team’s
excitement for the playoffs.
“Even though I only re-joined the team in November, you
could see a big difference in teams from before Christmas compared to after
Christmas, for whatever reason that might have been such as roster changes or
teams gelling better or things like that.
“Once teams have been able to build chemistry we’ve seen a
lot of different clubs performing really well at different times of the year.
We’ve always known that teams are going to give us their best game, but this
year we’ve really had to focus on approaching each game with that focus and
knowing that teams are going to come out with energy to want to beat us.
“When you’re used to winning, it can be hard to fight in the
way we’ve had to in every single game this year. This year more than ever it
seems you can’t afford to make mistakes, so it has been more challenging, but
good teams lose as well, and we’ve benefitted from the challenge of knowing
where we have to improve as well.”
“It is one-and-done so you have to turn up.”
Her favourite time of the season, Monakana discussed the
one-and-done nature of the WBBL Playoffs and the room that the Suns have to
grow, after learning lessons from failing to retain the Championship title for
the first time in a number of years.
“Moments like the playoffs are what we play for. Each game
means more to everybody because it could be your last, so I enjoy this part of
the year the most. It is so close in the WBBL and everybody is fighting for
their spot, so it is tense.
“It is one-and-done so you have to turn up and perform or
you’re out. I would like to see more games in the playoffs in future,
personally, because I think it makes it more exciting for everybody, but
there’s so much to look forward to about this year’s playoffs and we can’t wait
to get started.
“We know we’ve got to start games better than we have been
doing and be more disciplined on the defensive end, playing more as a unit as
well. We want to be a team that fights more, as well. We’re a family and you’re
going to see us going out and leaving it all on the floor in the playoffs.”
“For British Basketball it is great to have them being
The London Lions have been all-conquering this season,
including in their outings against the Suns, with Monakana and her teammates
coming up just short in the Cup, Trophy and Championship competitions as London
have completed a clean sweep of three titles from three so far this season.
The GB Basketball star discussed why she has enjoyed the
challenge the Lions have posed this season, and what it has meant for the Suns
as they look to return to dominance in the future.
“London are a very good team, and them performing the way
they are has forced us to try and raise our game. We’ve never faced a side that
has had the opportunity to go and compete overseas and benefit from that
experience, so the Trophy Final was eye-opening for us.
“Their aggression on the defensive end and a lot of the
different things they did were things we haven’t been used to facing in the
past, so we were obviously disappointed, but playing them a few days later we
were right there with them despite not having a great shooting night, so we’re
“On a personal level I enjoy playing against London because
I have a lot of friends on the team who I’ve grown up playing with and against,
but for British Basketball I think it is great to have them being so
competitive and we’re enjoying the challenge ourselves.”
“I’ve never really been one to worry about pressure.”
Given their pedigree in the competition, the Suns will be
expected by many to progress through the playoffs and book a place at London’s 02
Arena for the showpiece Playoff Finals on May 15th, but Monakana is
not one to concern herself too much with expectations.
A highlight and focus for the season for her has been
finding joy in the opportunity she has to compete at such a high level, as she
discusses that and how the Suns will approach the post-season.
“Just coming back to this team has been such a highlight, to
be honest. The welcome I had when I returned was so nice, it felt like I’d
never left, and my biggest focus this year has been enjoying that I have the
opportunity to play the sport to such a high level.
“I’m enjoying being out there and doing the things I do well
consistently. The Playoffs are going to be so exciting because every team looks
strong – we’ll approach every game as we always have done and do everything to
be the best Sevenoaks team that we can.
“I’ve never been one to really worry about pressure, and especially at this point we have nothing to lose so we’ve just got to focus on leaving it all out there. We just need to do what has worked for us for so long and play every game like it is your last, because it can be.”
Get your tickets for the WBBL Playoff Finals and join us for the showpiece finale to an epic season at London’s 02 Arena on May 15th here!