The end of any season always sparks emotions – but when players call time a career, it brings everything into focus.
Ahead of tomorrow’s conclusion of the British domestic season, GB Women’s star Janice Monakana has announced that the WBBL Play-off Final will be the final game of her career.
Winning numerous accolades for her domestic output, as well as showing her talents on the international stage with Chema Buceta’s Women’s side, Monakana has had quite an adventure in the game.
“If you’d told me back when I started playing that I’d achieve what I have done, I would have been shocked, because I really didn’t enjoy my first practice as an 11-year-old! she said. “I wasn’t the most co-ordinated, I used to get a lot of charges, so it was tough for me to start with, but I fell in love with it.
“My dad passed when I was 14 and it is crazy looking back that a week before he left us, he had told me that he wanted me to go to the States to play, to make a career out of basketball and to pursue it, and since he died that has been my mission.
“I’ve played in America, I’ve played for my country, and taken myself to a lot of different places. It is hard and sad to end the chapter, because I started this with my dad, but I think he’d be proud – and perhaps surprised – of all the things I’ve accomplished, and I’m so blessed to have had this journey.”
Still only 26 years old and having had a great season for the Sevenoaks Suns – particularly last weekend in the WBBL Play-off semi-finals where a whopping 24 points, eight rebounds and seven steals sent the Suns to tomorrow’s Play-off Final – there may have been some surprise to hear Monakana announce she’s calling time.
The Londoner will pursue another passion – to qualify as a midwife – but has had plenty of basketball highlights, through the junior ranks with her nation, right through to the professional senior level.
“Even going back to when I was 14 and playing for England, being promoted to Division A as a team that were underdogs,” she added. “I really enjoyed that year and the teammates I had then, who I still keep in touch with, and we all still talk about that experience now.
“Being a part of that EuroBasket team in 2019 was amazing, too, and impossible to put into words what it meant to me to be honest. The chemistry and camaraderie we had was incredible, with the likes of Jo Leedham-Warner, Chantelle Handy, Temi Fagbenle and so on just taking us younger players under their wings and wanting us to succeed.
“I didn’t care how many minutes I played, I just wanted to be a part of that experience, and I loved it, as well as being in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament – these are all moments I’ll never forget nor will I ever be able to replace or top those moments.”
With an epic showdown against the London Lions to look forward to tomorrow with her Suns teammates, Monakana’s journey comes full circle in many ways in the WBBL Play-off Final, and she discusses why it is the perfect way for her to bring a successful career to a close.
“I couldn’t ask for a better way to bring it all to an end, at the 02 Arena in London, playing with and against friends, in a huge game. Chantel (Charles) and Shequila (Joseph) started playing around the same time as I did, so there are people I started my journey with and I get to play my last game against them, as well as with Jamila Thompson, who I played with at Haringey.
“I wouldn’t want to end my career any other way than this, and to enjoy it. The 02 is a nerve-wracking environment, for sure, but to have that atmosphere, the fans, and an opportunity to win a title and finish the season on a high. It’ll be emotional, but I’m so excited to enjoy it all.”