Fresh from leading GB Under-20s in matches in Hungary and Greece, and the European Championships in Israel, Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters’ young star Georgia Gayle talks to Grass Roots.
Editor Trevor Cook asked her to reflect on the GB experience - and look forward to the season with Hatters and her own future.
Q: You were captain of GB U20s for warm-up matches in Hungary and Greece, then the Euros in Israel, how did the team fare?
A: Our results included: Hugary L 60-30 (did not play); Greece L 50-32 (did not play); Ireland W69-46; Romania W 74-48 (I top scored with 20 points); Israel L 88-50; Belarus L 58-70; Croatia L 72-38 L (did not play); Czech Republic L 77-71 L (top scored with 20 points); Israel L 49-77. I lead the team in assists with 23.
Q: How did you find the experience of being captain and of playing in the Euros?
A: Being captain was an honour, the coach believed that because I was an older player with more experience than others that it would be a great fit for me. I have played under Chema (coach) a few times now at GB seniors and U20 last year so we have a good relationship and he trusted me to lead the team. Being captain also had its ups and downs. I had to put my feelings aside to pick up the team after a loss which was tough but I saw it as character building for me.
Playing at Euros is the best part of the whole experience. Representing your country and wearing the Great Britain name on your chest is a privilege.
Unfortunately my family couldn’t make it out to Israel but luckily, the games were live streamed so they could watch and support from home.
Q: What were the highlights for you?
A: My highlights were in the Romania game which we won. We were having a close game up to half time so we realised something had to change for us to get the win. As a team we re-grouped and focused on our defence.
You could instantly see people’s determination to win and it was as if a switch flicked in our heads and we came out and won by 26 points. I top scored with 20 points.
Q: How do you rate the prospects of making the senior GB squad, and when, and is it an ambition of yours?
A: I made the squad last November, travelling to Italy and Albania. Unfortunately I got injured whilst out there but the experience of being on the team with olympians such as Jo Leedham and Azania Stewart was amazing in itself.
Q: Now onto the Hatters. By the club’s own high standards last season was not a great one. Betty Codona said last year that many other clubs were surpassing Hatters in terms of financial backing and this made it tougher for Hatters. Do you think the club can bounce back and be challenging for trophies again?
A: Hatters is always a club that can bounce back. We are lucky to have a base of GB players that are very talented such as Helen Naylor and Steph Gandy who are the glue of our team.
Money is becoming an key factor in sport unfortuantely to win trophies; teams with money can get better players as they can pay them more.
We are always looking for sponsors to help us. But we don’t let the external factors effect us, we train hard and play hard and aim to win.
Q: Which clubs will be the main threat next season?
A: I think Sevenoaks will as they have retained a few of their key players and brought back a centre they had in the previous years. Nottingham are always a strong team as they own their own sports centre so they have the money to bring in a full team of top players.
Leicester are a rising team, they may not always have the top players but their work ethic is applaudable and people always say hard work beats talent.
Q: I know Hatters and basketball run through your blood, tell us about the family connections.
A: My gran is Betty Codona, founder of the Hatters; my dad is Garnet Gayle, former Sheffield Sharks and Manchester Giants player and Sheffield Saints player-coach; my mum is Lorraine Gayle, who used to play for England, along with my auntie Vanessa Ellis who is my WBBL coach. Mum is Hatters’ treasurer. She used to coach me at U14 and U18 and was manager of the WMMB team.
Q: What are you doing career/study wise?
A: I did a year of criminology and psychology at Hallam Uni and didn’t enjoy my course so I took a year out this year and worked. I’ve been trying to decide what I want to do next and I am looking to get a scholarship in America and study out there for this coming season. I’m 20, my birthday is on June 2.
Q: How do you see the future, in terms of basketball and career. Are any WBBL players full time pros, so could you be full-time in the sport?
A: In the future I would love to be a pro basketball player here in the UK. I’m hoping that by the time I get back from America that the WBBL will become as big as the Premier League but I think that’s a bit far-fetched.
It may be that I have to play in Europe to become a pro.
I decided not to go straight into Europe and get a degree now because in the future, when I finish playing, I will need to get a normal job if I don’t get into coaching or something sports-related so I need to keep my options open.