She’s been one of the cornerstones of London Lions’ unparalleled success in the WBBL and FIBA EuroCup in recent years, setting and breaking numerous records at a domestic level, and now Kennedy Leonard is back in camp with Great Britain ahead of EuroBasket 2023 qualifying action.
Chema Buceta’s side have two exciting challenges against Portugal (24/11, 8:30pm) and Greece (27/11, 6pm) to look forward to this week as they compete to qualify for EuroBasket 2023 in Israel and Slovenia, and we sat down with Kennedy to discuss her time with GB and life on camp.
“I was fairly young when I realised that I might be able to play for GB in the future, but I didn’t have a British passport at the time because I didn’t need one to travel and didn’t end up getting one until after I was 16, which has made things tricky, but I was born British and my mum is British as well.
“I played for the National Team at Under-20s, where Chema was actually our Coach then as well, but I don’t remember honestly if anybody from that team is here now. After that there was a bit of a break and during the summer of one of my college years (2019) I got a call asking me to come and play for the senior team.
“We had a few days in Manchester and then flew out to Slovenia where we played Sweden and that was my first real experience at senior level, and this is the first opportunity for me since then to compete to represent GB, so I’m really excited.”
“We have to take responsibility for creating and fostering that environment.”
As Team Captain Chantelle Handy discussed earlier this week, there is real excitement about the next generation of British talent coming through to the National Team and a real opportunity for those young stars to really take the team culture forward and evolve it in the coming years.
Leonard has played with some all-time greats of British Basketball for Mark Clark’s London Lions – including Azania Stewart and the recently retired Jo Leedham-Warner – and she discussed how important it is for her and all of the young players on the roster that they recognise the responsibility they have to take GB forward.
“It is exciting for us as younger players to have the opportunity to take this programme forward and continue the work of those that have come before us.
“I love Joey (Leedham-Warner), I got to play a year with her and tell her all the time how much I miss her, but the legacy that she and others have left behind shows who they are as people and what they wanted this place to become.
“I hope that the people coming through after them – me included – take that to heart and realise that things don’t just happen overnight and that we have to take responsibility for creating and fostering that environment that we want here.”
“For my family the whole journey has just come full circle.”
The 26-year-old University of Colorado alum has had plenty of success in her young professional career so far, but she highlights this past summer representing Scotland – her mother’s home nation – in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as a standout moment.
Leonard also spoke poignantly about her grandmother, who sadly passed away during the pandemic but did see her granddaughter represent GB for the first time against Sweden in 2019, and how the point guard feels the events of the summer and this recent return to the National Team set-up have brought her family’s journey full circle.
“I think the Commonwealth Games this summer was a real high for the whole family to be honest. Especially as we lost my grandma two years ago to Covid and she would have been so happy seeing me playing for Scotland on that level.
“She was still with us when I played for GB in Slovenia and was so proud of that so she would have been the same with this past summer for sure, and I think for my family the whole journey has just come full circle with everything that’s happened these past few months.
“Now that I live in London for most of the year, my roots are firmly here in this country so to be able to play for Scotland and GB and represent my mum’s side of the family is really special for us all, but particularly my mum because I can only play for those teams because of her, so I feel like she particularly relates to and connects with that and I’m excited to do this for her.”
You can watch the Great Britain’s Women’s National Team take on Portugal on Thursday (8:30pm) and Greece on Sunday (4pm) live and for free on FIBA’s YouTube channel.