FREEMAN CATALOGUES WBBL PERKS

Call them Generation W.

The first crop of young homegrown heroines who have never known anything but the Women’s British Basketball League.

From a hoops nursery to a semi-pro opportunity on home soil, with a few quid here and there as a return on time invested.

“I think it’s good,” Nottingham Wildcats young tyro Tia Freeman underlines. “I started playing WBBL when I was about 16. So I can’t complain.

“I got into the league super-early, which has massively helped me for sure.”

Capped by Great Britain at Under-20 level, Freeman is one of a crop who eschewed the bright lights of the United States for an education in the UK (in her case, at Nottingham Trent) and a pathway that took her from baby steps at Oaklands Wolves and onto a switch to this season’s Trophy runners-up.

The schooling on offer, she declares, was simply better than across the Pond. The WBBL unlocked a level of competition that allowed her to resist the NCAA.

It could still be improved as an option, she believes.

“Maybe you focus more on British players,” Freeman maintains.

“I mean, the Americans are nearly always the stars on the team, or the Europeans. Maybe we should try get more emphasis on Brits being in the league and focus on that.”

Bigger budgets could retain some who chose ultimately to depart and lure back those who have flown the nest.

Freeman has flourished despite missing out on the conclusion of her Under-20 eligibility on the international thanks to Covid-enforced cancellation of European age-group championships.

It has made me even hungrier to earn a GB call-up at a senior level, she adds. “I feel like my stats are improving each year, bit by bit.”

It helps that former contemporaries have already made that leap. A trail blazed.

“People like Savannah Wilkinson have gone and trained and played in that team. I played U20s, a couple years younger. So it would have been my last year, last summer that got cancelled.

“But for sure the players coming through like Savannah, like Kyla Nelson, they are super, super talented players who I’m trying to be like.”

Showcasing herself within the WBBL can smooth the path towards a senior cap as others have found.

Averaging 8.3 points on 35.8% shooting this term, the guard has been handed additional experience as the Wildcats have dealt with injuries and bumps in the road.

“I don’t think we’ve had our full team once this season,” Freeman affirms. “We’ve always had someone injured.

“But we’ve pulled together. Different players step up in different games. We’ve got Chelsea Shumpert, Simone Costa, Siobhan Prior. I think we’re a good team.

“We have the academy players coming through like Maisie Evison and Shaniya Rose who really help us.”

Not enough in the Trophy final when London Lions were maddeningly dominant. Cut well adrift from the top three in a compelling WBBL title race.

That loss still bites, Freeman says. Motivation and fuel for Nottingham in the playoffs where they will get a re-match with London in Friday evenings’s semis in Worcester.

“Obviously, it was super-difficult on the day, I think everyone just lost their heads in that game.

“But we’ve already tried to make tweaks in practice and just as a team. But I think we definitely have the potential to make it far and make a good run in the playoffs still.”

Sevenoaks Suns face Newcastle Eagles in the other semi.

A version of this story previously appeared in The Post Up –  If you enjoy our work, please consider making a small payment to help us produce more original basketball content – donate here.

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