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WEABL 2016-17 Season Preview

After a successful inaugural Women’s Elite Academy Basketball League (WEABL) season, the competition returns for its second year in 2016-17, having expanded to 10 teams.

Find out how each team is looking, with a focus on their key returners and recruits, along with comments from Head Coaches from around the league.

North Conference

Charnwood College

Last year’s runners up, Charnwood College return their main core, including 2015-16 WEABL MVP, Ruchae Walton.

Mix in Walton with returning junior England internationals Jessica Eadsforth Yates, Harriet Swindells, Anna Popovic and Nicole Hofmann, plus newcomers Megan Jones, Ebony Horton and Imogen Cook, and Charnwood have high hopes for the season.

Charnwood will look to play up tempo basketball, with the ability to share the ball but it requires all players buying into the system and trusting each other.

“We aim to be competitive in every game, we want to better ourselves from last year,” commented Head Coach Krumesh Patel.

“We had a good first season in the WEABL and hope that we can repeat our good performances and be consistent throughout the year with our own performance to hopefully make the final again.”

Loreto 6th Form College

A tough first season in the WEABL saw Loreto finish 2-8 and they look to build upon their first season in the league.

They return Sharise Smith for her final year, whilst have recruited Fiona Connolly and Imogen Hill, as they look for an open expressive offensive style, powered by active man to man defence.

Loreto have new guidance this season as Aurimas Verbukas takes over Head Coach duties.

“The important thing for us is to begin to build a solid culture that will see our girls receive the best opportunities to grow as people and players,” he said.

“We need to be able to tune out the noise and trust in our processes. If we do that, we believe we could have a special situation here.”

Myerscough College

Having been one of the strongest male academy programmes in recent years, Myerscough College have now entered the WEABL as one of the new teams this season.

The team includes a trio of England junior internationals with Shauna Harrison and Milly Knowles competing at the summer European Championships with the Under-16’s and Under-18’s respectively, while Caitlyn Tarbatt has been selected in England Under-17’s latest squad.

Freya Kelshaw is a new addition and brings previous WEABL experience having played for Loreto in the inaugural campaign, and Myerscough certainly have experience in Head Coach Julie Page – who competed for GB at the 2012 Olympics.

“Our committed basketball girls at Myerscough are working endlessly to build an inspirational culture for the new girl’s programme,” she said.

“They have grown strong together since arriving on campus, giving a real family feel from the start. The girls are supporting one another and have found their way through seemingly impossible challenges that have been presented to them.

“I am excited to see all our player’s develop both on and off the court, and I am confident each will give the team their best. Performing together in such a way should result in an exciting season for us all.

Nottingham Academy

Another new team in the league, Nottingham Academy have all their players back from last year as they enter the WEABL with continuity.

Nottingham include the likes of Denise Lawal, Freya Bennison and Ines Guerreiro as their key players as they aim to be competitive in their first season with a young squad that will rely on good ball movement on offence and a lot of fight on defence.

“We will be young so our aim is to continually improve and compete,” said Head Coach, Phil Waghorn – who also leads the club’s ABL side.

“We are look forward to playing Charnwood because we want to play against the best competition we can.”

South Conference

Barking Abbey

The reigning WEABL champions have last season’s Final MVP Chloe Gaynor back amongst their ranks as they look to defend their title.

Sarah Round also returns having been hampered by injury last season with Naomi McKenzie and Wura Ijelu looking to bring more consistency into the WEABL.

There are new faces too with the additions of Charlotte Ellmore and Katy Armanu, who bring National Team experience with Nikita Maldonado arriving from Newham Youngbloods.

Barking Abbey will look to set the tone defensively from which they’ll be able to utilise their array of offensive threats.

“The WEABL is a great opportunity for our players to gain valuable experience and court time in a good competition environment,” declared Head Coach, Karen Burton.

“Individual development is always our main focus and these games enable me to really key in on individuals and aspects of our team performance.

“We look forward to any match that gives us another opportunity to step on the floor and develop, with the WEABL continuing to progress, this becomes week in and week out, which can only be a positive step forward.”

City of London Academy

CoLA finished third in the 2015-16 season with a 7-3 record, but missed out on a place in the Final after losing to Charnwood in the semi-finals.

A number of key players return including All-WEABL First Team member Ire Ozzy-Momodu with Ibilola Oyedeji, Toyosi Abiola, Emerald Ekpiteta and Ladun Akako all making important contributions.

WEABL Coach of the Year, Jackson Gibbons, remains at the helm as his side aim to play with athleticism and intensity as part of their all-round team play.

“Our aim for this season is to work as hard as we possibly can to just get better every day, we will ensure we finish where we deserve to if we attack the season with that mindset,” he said.

“We are looking forward to our first game away to Copleston, it seems like an eternity since we played our last WEABL game and so we are all really excited to get back out on the floor

Copleston Sixth Form

Copleston improved as the inaugural season went on, finishing 5-5 before losing to Barking Abbey in the semi-finals.

Ashleigh Pink is back after filling up the stat-sheets last season with Frances Musson and Grace Sinnot also returning to mount another fierce challenge.

England Under-18 international Freya Cooney joins having played for Oaklands College last season with Maya Price and Jasmine Tebbit the other new faces on the squad.

Copleston have plenty of size on their roster and this is something that poses a challenge for Head Coach Nick Drane to work out.

“It’s going to take some time to figure out how we can use four girls that are used to being the biggest player on the court, together. But it is a challenge we are looking forward to.

“After an outstanding first season in which we lost in the Final Four to eventual champions Barking Abbey, I believe we are in a position to again challenge for championships this season.

“We have some excellent players returning and with a great recruitment class we are deeper than last year.”

Greig City

Another new addition in the South Conference, Greig City have maintained all of their players from last year’s under-16 side.

The team has had success at National school level with Championships won at three consecutive age groups and will look to be resilient on defence whilst relying on their heart and desire.

Beatrice Nwabuoeki will be a key player that provides physicality and a strong rebounding presence on an under-sized team, while Precious Adedrian will take up the scoring reigns for the team with D’Andri St Marthe controlling the point after returning from a stint with Barking Abbey.

“We are a very young team this year, we want to expose ourselves to the higher standard of competition and build a solid platform for our second year,” said Head Coach, Dan Bowmaker.

“If we can narrow the gap against the better teams in the second half of the season that will be great.

“Our first game of 2017 will be away to Copleston – at the halfway point of the season this will offer us an opportunity to see how far we have progressed as a team and our ability to play against teams in the WEABL.”

Rydens Enterprise School

The final new addition to the WEABL as the league expands to 10 teams sees Rydens Enterprise School join up.

Gerda Morkunaite is an important returnee, while there are new arrivals in the form of England junior international Sarah Bello as well as Lauren France and Temi Obademi.

Expect Rydens to play an up-tempo offence focusing on good ball and player movement with the aim of maintaining an intense defensive presence for the full 40 minutes.

“We hope to grow and improve from start to finish,” said Head Coach, Cristina Stanciuca.

“We are looking forward to the first game of the season and can’t wait to get started.”

Oaklands College

It was a difficult first season in the WEABL for Oaklands College, but they aim to put that right this season with the Senior team now competing in the WBBL.

Kyla Nelson is one of those playing in the UK’s top-flight this season and also returns for another year in the WEABL.

There are new faces in the form of Tia Freeman, Kata Fulop, Maja Gobi, Annamaria Nagy and Krisztina Nagy as Oaklands form a strong core to their roster that will look to use their defence to generate easy scores in transition.

“We are looking for a strong showing in WEABL this season, the competition is a key part of our pathway to WBBL and I am looking forward to working in this level and helping the players become better every day,” said Head Coach, Lee Ryan.

The 2016-17 WEABL season begins on Wednesday October 5, with a three game slate. Keep up to date with the WEABL throughout the season by following on Twitter, Facebook,YouTube and Instagram.