Z BIDS FAREWELL IN THE PERFECT MANNER
It was a fond farewell for Great Britain legend, Azania Stewart, as she waved goodbye to the international scene with a flourish.
Stewart had 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in GB’s 83-42 win over Portugal, which stamped their ticket for next year’s EuroBasket Women finals in Serbia-Latvia, before coming off to a standing ovation with 1:21 left.
Guiding her country to automatic qualification to EuroBasket Women caps off an international career where she will always be regarded as one of British basketball’s greats – making her debut for the national side in 2009 and during that time – she has competed in three EuroBaskets, the London 2012 Olympic Games and most recently, the 29-year-old helped England win the silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Australian Gold Coast.
“I didn’t really think I’d go this long, but I’ve just been chugging along, playing here, playing overseas, and I’m really happy to have made it this far,” Stewart said. “I’m really happy to be at this point in my career and to have this kind of milestone [of 101 caps] to finish with is a great achievement and it’s something to tell the kids about.”
She bows out having amassed totals of 607 points, 449 rebounds, 86 assists, 72 blocks and 70 steals in her 101 Great Britain internationals, where she played against 33 countries, including Olympic gold medallists and world champions, USA and EuroBasket Women holders, Spain.
Stewart admits that there are too many highlights to choose from but the support and guidance from her fellow long-standing GB team-mates, along with capturing silver for England will always stand out.
“The EuroBasket tournaments have been great, it’s a great competition and Europe is so strong,” reflected Stewart. “The Olympic Games were a highlight and to play at home in front of family and friends was special. And of course the Commonwealth Games and winning a silver medal to make history, I don’t know if that will ever happen again.
“So some really great team highs, plus obviously playing with Jo [Leedham], Georgia [Jones], Shan [Handy], Rach [Vanderwal] and Stef [Collins] for quite some time has been a pleasure and helped my career along the way.
“I just want to make sure that the GB programme keeps pushing and to show people that we’re on the world stage. Obviously these last few games have shown that we’re worthy of that and we’re here to stay and tomorrow is also important for showing that as well.”