By Jamie Thomas
If you were to have pictured the best British talent GB Women’s 3×3 Head Coach Stef Collins could have called upon to fill her four-player squad for this summer’s FIBA 3×3 Europe Cup Qualifiers, Shanice Beckford-Norton will have been one of the top names on many people’s minds.
A 5ft 8ins bundle of relentless energy, who is explosive on offence and defence, Beckford-Norton is an ideal player for 3×3.
And so she proved in those qualifiers, as she helped a brand-new GB team to history, as they went undefeated to book a place at this weekend’s FIBA 3×3 Europe Cup in Paris, where 3×3 heavyweights Ukraine and Russia await them.
The London Lions star has had an amazing 12 months as a key part of Mark Clark’s rising stars in the WBBL.
Beckford-Norton won the WBBL Trophy, WBBL Playoffs and Playoff Finals MVP – and her transition to the short-sided version of the game has been a success too.
‘I definitely went into it with no expectations’
In collaboration with Basketball England, GB entered men’s and women’s teams in FIBA’s Europe Cup and U23 Nations League, as part of preparations for England’s participation in the 2022 Commonwealth Games 3×3, and with the aim of boosting GB’s ranking ahead of the 2024 Olympics.
The 24-year-old was on board from the word go, attending a Team England camp in Manchester which informed Collins’ GB selection and making an instant impression despite not quite knowing what to expect.
“I definitely went into it with no expectations but, since 3×3 is such a new sport for not just us but the world, it is great to be part of something that is new for this country, that is inspiring people and that we’ve got this far,” she said. “We can really make history this week and we’re excited for the challenge.
“I’m sure everybody saw the picture of us winning the qualifiers to book our place at the Europe Cup, but if you haven’t then I was smiling ear-to-ear and so happy to have achieved that.
“To qualify was a huge achievement for us, but we’re building towards the Commonwealth Games (where Team England qualify as hosts and could be joined by Scotland or Wales) and if we can achieve our goals then we’re making history it is honestly just so exciting for us all.”
‘I was excited to have the opportunity to show what I could do’
Always in the thick of the action for club and country, Beckford-Norton held nothing back in the qualifier in Romania, providing vital energy to the team and tough defence both on the perimeter and interior, alongside Temi Fagbenle, Chantelle Handy and Shequila Joseph.
The Londoner reserved specific praise for her Head Coach, GB legend and Cardiff Met Archers play-caller Stef Collins, who heads up both the GB and Team England 3×3 squads.
“Stef Collins has done an amazing job,” she said. “In our first camp, she made it clear that it is as new to her as it is new to us, so we were still trying to learn the rules in that first camp – although we obviously know them much better now! – and what style of play, play actions and tempo we could maintain throughout the game.
“We’ve had excellent preparation, she’s kept us so informed with everything and sent us all film on all the teams and updates to make sure we have everything we need to be prepared to represent GB in this tournament.
“Once I was called up for camp I was just excited to have the opportunity to show what I could do. I like the way the game is played, because it is relentless in terms of take the ball out and go and score – there’s not much more to it! – but it is so fun.”
‘I don’t think of us as underdogs’
Coming up against some of the world top 3×3 nations in pool action in Paris, as they take on world No.2 Russia and Ukraine – the former having been crowned silver medalists at Tokyo 2020 as the Russian Olympic Committee – GB are in for a stern test.
But the lively Beckford-Norton feels the team can have success this weekend in France.
“We had no expectations for the qualifiers, I don’t think,” she said. “We had the selection camp and then a couple of days before the qualifiers where we got to play with each other a little bit more, our plays and strengths and weaknesses, but we had no more preparation than that.
“I don’t think of us as underdogs. Other teams do have more experience, but we’ve beaten teams that have been in the Olympic Qualifers, so who is to say we can’t go into this tournament and be successful? As long as we perform when we need to, keep our heads and play as a team, we’ll do well.
“We left everything out there in the qualifiers and that should always be our goal. As long as we give our all then that’d be a successful tournament for us, whatever happens.”