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Player Spotlight – Saruna Gudza

We’re back once again with another spotlight, taking the half term break as an opportunity to ask an WEABL player what makes them tick, how they got into basketball, their goals for this season and beyond, and much more.

This week, we caught up with Copleston High School’s captain Saruna Gudza

Name: Saruna Gudza

Position: Point guard

Team: Copleston High School

Tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Saruna Gudza. I started playing basketball when I was 12 years old and grew up playing basketball with the boys! In Luton, we didn’t have a lot of girls that were interested in the game, or rather, they hadn’t been exposed to the sport in the way I was.

My mum was a star national player in Zimbabwe and my dad also coached nationally. I guess you could say that basketball is in my blood!

How and where did you first get into basketball?

I actually started playing basketball because my brother did. I always went to watch him practice and so my dad just thought, why not? I fell in love with the game instantly.

With me and my brother being so close in age, we did most things together. My dad thought it would be a good idea to get into a sport that highlights and enhances discipline, grit and resilience

I played competitively as the only girl on the CVL team for a year and it toughened me up. Girls then gained much more interest for basketball after I went to play for the regional team. It was great to have another women’s team onto the scene and to be a part of that.

Luton is where it all started for me and where I couldn’t of had a better time developing in the game.

Can you a remember a moment when you decided basketball was something you wanted to play more seriously? What happened?

That definitely has to be when I went to my first regionals tournament. It was such a competitive environment filled with joy and it was like home to be with people who loved the sport as much as me.

It was the first time I played with a proper girls team – funny enough, the first girls team I played with at regionals are the girls I play with now, some would call it destiny!

But honestly, being in an environment where everyone applauded the success of others whilst also wanting to surpass peers was exhilarating.

Basketball brought out what has always been installed in me, my character.

What have been the biggest challenges of your basketball career so far?

I think the decision of where I wanted to go for my academy years. It was a difficult decision as whilst ball is life, my life still needed to be lived!

I had to consider whether I would be okay living away from home, whether I want to do A Levels or BTECs, whether I wanted to leave an environment I was used to, how comfortable I would feel stepping out of my comfort zone without a safety net. I was a mess deciding as there are so many things that I do outside of basketball that I also love!

But my choice was solidified when I realised that in this life things will not be easy. I took the challenge and it has been undoubtedly the best decision I could have made.

Who is the toughest player you’ve faced?

This is a tricky one!

I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head if I am being completely honest. I’ve played against most of the best players in the country in my age group, and with basketball being a team sport, it makes it especially hard to identify just one.

What are your current goals for the season?

This season I have two main objectives.

Individually, statistics wise, I would like to average 15PPG, 8APG, 5RPG and 2SPG (if I’m being optimistic!).

Team wise, I want to win. I want us to win playing beautiful basketball. But if we’re not winning then I want us to be a ruthless team to play against, no matter the circumstances.

Do you have any plans or goals for next season?

With the COVID year being a massive factor in my development and time in an academy experience (both positive and negatives), I am seriously considering a third year at academy level. And if I was to stay, my goal would be the maintain and improve my current personal goals but to win as well. That would be the ultimate goal.

What are you currently working on to take your game to the next level?

Becoming a master of the game and being the wisest on the court, not necessarily always showing the most skill but having the most skill and knowing when and how to use it.

I’ve been taught that basketball is a game about fulfilling your role on court. I feel that my established role can be to be the smartest on the court and that is exactly what I am working towards.

What advice would you give someone who is just getting started in basketball?

I would say to work hard. Because though players may have talent, hard work beats talent when that talent fails to work hard (to an extent of course).

And to be a student of the game. Don’t just go to practice and play. But watch, learn, understand and become the wisest among peers and teammates.

Take the opportunities given at hand and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Because everyone does. What not everyone does is learn from them and grow from them.

Who is your favourite basketball player and why?

Having played and practiced with her for a year, you may call it bias but I think we can all agree that watching Harriet Welham play will never get old.

She just knows what to do and what it takes to win the game. What it takes to show character and bring the flames when its needed!

She is my current inspiration and someone I greatly look up to, she’s crafty, she’s smart, she’s skilled. But the main reason I love her as a player is because she’s not the most athletic or the best athlete on that court but will sure as gold be the first person that a team scouts when it’s game time.

She’s also the first person to turn to when the team needs something.  With me having very similar attributes to her, it helps me to relate to her and have a goal in person form.

Main image credit – Pavel Kricka