In the midst of a frantic summer of action for British basketball’s brightest and best talents, a host of Great Britain stars will be chasing medals this week as the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games get underway.
Representing England and Scotland will be some of the very best GB Men’s and Women’s talents, as the teams do battle over a five-day 3×3 competition in the West Midlands.
GB men’s co-captain Myles Hesson leads the Men’s roster for Team England, alongside Jamell Anderson, Kayne Henry and Orlan Jackman. GB veteran Chantelle Handy headlines the England Women’s squad, supported by Shanice Beckford-Norton, Hannah Jump and Cheridene Green.
Team Scotland call on a full contingent of Glasgow Rocks players in the Men’s competition, with GB veteran Gareth Murray acting as a Player-Coach, alongside Fraser Malcolm, Jonny Bunyan and Kyle Jimenez. The Women’s team is made up of a collection of elite WBBL talent, in the form of Hannah Robb, Kennedy Leonard, Claire Paxton and Sian Phillips.
“I’ve competed in big tournaments before, but never in a multi-sport competition on this scale so it is going to rank very highly for me,” Hesson said ahead of the competition.
“Our goal is to win the gold medal and that’s what we will be playing towards. To win a medal at the Commonwealth Games on home soil would be one of the biggest achievements of my life. Playing in front of a home crowd will be a great boost for us. I will have friends and family in attendance and I can’t wait to see them everyone there cheering us on, I’m sure it will be a great experience.”
A veteran of the Commonwealth Games having represented Scotland at the Games in each of the last three decades, Glasgow Rocks play-caller Murray discussed his hopes and expectations for the competition, as well as what he hopes can set his Scottish side apart from the competition.
“I’m very excited to compete in my third Commonwealth Games, and particularly to be able to compete so close to home in front of a lot of friends and family, in a new, exciting format. There are so many upsets and shocks in 3×3, so we really don’t know how far we can take this, but we’ll focus on our performances game-to-game and go from there.
“Our chemistry is going to be out biggest asset, for sure. We’ve played together for many years now and know each other’s games so well, so we’re excited to see how that transpires onto the floor. How we play, how we share the ball, how we understand each other, that’ll be a big plus for us and we’re excited to tackle this challenge together.”
After an historic season at club level with the London Lions, Shanice Beckford-Norton has barely had time to catch her breath since with a relentless schedule of 3×3 action over the summer including representing both GB and England at a very high level.
With just days to go until the Games begin in Birmingham, she discussed her emotions and expectations for the competition, as she reflected on the quality of the preparation that has served the England team up to this stage.
“I’m not too nervous at the moment, because we’ve done a lot of work to prepare and make sure we’re ready for this. I’d say this is my biggest achievement to date. I’ve played in the Youth Olympics in the past in 3×3, represented GB’s senior team in 5v5 and 3×3, gone undefeated with the London Lions this past year, but I’d say that this is top of my list.
“I’ve grown a lot as a player by playing 3×3, and become more of a leader through this game whilst having to pay more attention to technical and tactical details. Whilst I am captain of the Lions, we have a point guard in Kennedy Leonard and a great coaching staff who do a lot of the thinking for me, but in 3×3 I’ve had to shoulder more of that responsibility myself and I’ve enjoyed that a lot.
“We expect to perform well and we’d be disappointed if we let our hard work go out of the window at this point. We’re right where we need to, we’re going for a medal, and we’ll leave everything out there to achieve our goals.”
GB’s Hannah Robb couldn’t hide her excitement after helping Scotland to win the Commonwealth Games Home Nations Qualifying tournament back in the Spring and, having represented Scotland at every level, she discussed her excitement at putting on the jersey for her nation in what will be the first time Scotland have had a women’s basketball team at the Games.
“Qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in April was just incredible, I couldn’t stop smiling! Missing out on going to Gold Coast four years ago was obviously disappointing, so there was that extra drive and hunger to qualify this time round.
“I’ve represented Scotland from Under-13s through to Senior level so to be part of the team going to my first Commonwealth Games means a lot to me, especially since this is the first time Scotland has had a women’s basketball team compete at the Games. It is an honour to wear the Scotland jersey and I can’t wait for the opportunity to compete in front of family and friends in Birmingham.
“We’re going to the Games with the aim of winning a medal and we believe we can. We’re taking nothing for granted and the whole team has been working hard for this moment. We have the chance to do something special and we can’t wait to compete and represent Scotland with pride.”
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games get underway with the Opening Ceremony on 28 July, with 10 days of sporting action following until August 8th. The 3×3 competition takes place at Smithfield, running from 29 July to 2 August, and all of the action will be available to watch via BBC iPlayer.
The pools and schedules for the competition will be published HERE.