Fresh from being named the game’s most valuable player in the Women’s British Basketball League Trophy final, City of Sheffield Hatters forward Steph Gandy insists the signs are positive that Great Britain’s women can make stride’s at this summer’s EuroBasket.
Gandy picked up the MVP award after shooting 25 points for the Hatters as they beat Nottingham Wildcats 76-62 at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena on Sunday.
The Sheffield outfit will also be looking to make the play-offs of the WBBL Championship while this summer Gandy will then hope to feature for Great Britain at June’s EuroBasket.
Hatters featured no fewer than four GB internationals in Birmingham, with Naomi Campbell, Helen Naylor and Lauren Thomas Johnson also featuring.
And with the EuroBasket draw already having been made – GB will play Serbia, Croatia, Latvia and Russia – London 2012 Olympian Gandy admits international commitments are never far from her mind.
“It feels good to be MVP. I try to lead by example on the floor. I don’t say much off the floor but on it it’s different,” she said.
“There is basketball Steph and regular world Steph. They just like to see me leading by example.
“I am trying to get ready for this summer with GB. It is in the back of my mind always.
“We are positive. We did not have a full team last summer and look what we did. We had a young team last summer, when we get more game time and experience we will improve.
“I am really looking forward to it because the young girls are pushing each other and us. They do not think they are just young players who are not going to play, they beat the crap out of us in training. That’s something to look forward to.”
Hatters’ victory over the Wildcats meant they entered the history books as the first ever winners of the WBBL Trophy.
But despite eventually finishing with a 14-point advantage, Gandy admitted she didn’t dare believe they had won until she got her hands on the trophy.
“It was a great showcase game and really showed fans that girls can play,” she added.
“I never felt comfortable, I never felt we were up by that much. You have to keep playing until the buzzer sounds against Nottingham and I think we did that.
“Everyone gave 100% from the first to the twelfth player on our team. We worked hard for four quarters.”
Meanwhile, proud Hatters coach Vanessa Ellis watched her side make history last Sunday - and then roared: “Our season is only just getting started”.
After beating the Wildcats in the final, the Hatters’ attentions now turn to catching the leaders in the league, and Ellis said: “We’ve put a lot of time and effort in as a team and individuals and it’s nice to get rewarded.
“But as a coach we’ve still got areas to improve. We’ve had injuries and last weekend was the first time we had all 12 players playing, so for us, it’s like the start of a season.
“Credit to the players, it was much better and we are showing improvement each week.
“Beating the Wildcats obviously gives us a mental edge for the rest of the season, but we won’t take anything for granted.
“We expect them to bring players in so they will be tougher next time we meet them.
“But so will we. We never ever rest, we keep working and training hard.”
n The WBBL Trophy Final was the first showpiece event for the recently launched WBBL. The next will be the WBBL Play-Off Final at the University of Worcester Arena on Sunday April 26 with tickets available via www.wbbl.org.uk/tickets/playofffinal.