One new face could be the X-factor for Great Britain tonight.

London Lions guard Shanice Beckford-Norton, primed to earn a first cap in the opening EuroBasket Women’s qualifier against Greece in Manchester.

Deservedly so, based on her performances in the Women’s British Basketball League over the past 12 months and – more recently – in European competition.

Averaging 13.2 points per game and 39% in the field in the domestic league – virtually the same as last term despite more offensive options in the capital – and 12.7 points and shooting 39% in EuroCup, the 24-year-old has progressed to the point where she could no longer be ignored for a first senior cap.

Her best attribute? Unpredictability, head coach Chema Buceta declares.

“I had her with me in the Under-20 team. And she’s been here in Manchester in camp, doing a good job. She has something that that other players don’t have and that is the speed. She’s very explosive and this is something that is difficult to learn. This is a quality that you have or not.

“She has a good mentality to score – this is also important. Some players are reluctant to score. Sometimes they look more to pass first. But Shanice really is a player who has a mentality to score and this is this is important.

“She is young. Sometimes players depend on whether if they succeed, or not. Because she takes some risky shots, she sometimes can miss but I think this is also her strength, to do things that people don’t expect. And that can change the pace of the game.

“It is very important to change the pace of the game and to have a player who wants to.”

GB, having healed up the bruises that came from narrowly missing out on the Tokyo Olympics to missing out on reaching EuroBasket 2021, could do with a strong opener on home turf (BBC iPlayer, 7.20pm) before heading onward to Estonia for Sunday’s second leg of this week’s double-header.

Holly Winterburn is the other first-time selection with Chantel Charles left out of the final 12.

The Greeks went winless at the Euros after missing out completely in 2019 following their semi-final run two years prior.

Petros Prekas, assistant to George Dikaioulakos at Famiglia Schio in Italy, will make his debut as their head coach as the visitors reset.

“We started a new effort with a new coaching team,” centre Mariella Fasoula, a team-mate of GB guard Karlie Samuelson at Avenida Salamanca, said.

“I’m excited about this new beginning. Let’s go step by step with the goal of qualifying for EuroBasket 2023. This big goal can be achieved.”

GB welcome back Azania Stewart, shooting the ball so well in London, and veteran sharpshooter Rachael Vanderwal with one from the 13-strong squad to be left out pre-game.

It has been a long nine months for the hosts to get back on court without a summer tournament as a diversion and losing Eilidh Simpson to injury deprives Buceta of one of the few point guard options at his disposal.

The Spaniard has knitted together a few alternative schemes.

“We were lucky that we could have a camp in August,” he said. “We were together for almost one week here in Manchester. And that was a very important camp to bring in players.

“We didn’t have preparation games because this is the windows now. But we are used to that. I feel positive about these games really, about Greece at home. and Estonia away.

“Estonia has improved a lot. So it’s not an easy game. Greece, in theory, is the best team that we are going to play against. But we have to go game by game.”

GB: Shanice Beckford-Norton, Renee Busch, Temi Fagbenle, Georgia Gayle, Cheridene Green, Chantelle Handy, Shequila Joseph, Hannah Robb, Karlie Samuelson, Azania Stewart, Rachael Vanderwal, Holly Winterburn

Greece: Katerina Sotiriou (Estudiantes), Artemis Spanou (Polkowice), Aggeliki Nikolopoulou, Anna Niki Stamolamprou, Evina Stamati, Dionisia Alexandri, Ioanna Diela (Olympiacos), Mariela Fasoula (Avenida Salamanca), Ria Pateraki (Esperides Kallitheas), Anthi Chatzigiakoumi (Proteas Voulas), Renia Karlafti, Pinelopi Pavlopoulou (PAOK Salonica)

Photo: FIBA

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