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National bootcamp a ‘complete surprise’ for leaping Lizzy

NEW MEMBER: Lizzy Sanders has been named on the Basketball England U15 development squad Picture: Mecha Morton
NEW MEMBER: Lizzy Sanders has been named on the Basketball England U15 development squad Picture: Mecha Morton

Lizzy Sanders cannot believe she is now an England youth basketball player, after being named on the player pathway as a future prospect for the national side.

The 15-year-old, a County Upper Wolves player, will this weekend join up with others from the Basketball England U15 National Development Programme for the first time on Sunday, as part of the U15 Girls’ squad.

The youngster, who is part of the County Upper U16s squad, said it still feels ‘quite surreal, it was such a shock’.

“I’m quite nervous about it actually,” Lizzy said. “A part of me just wants to get the first session out of the way, so I can then relax for other meetings.

“It still just feels like a complete surprise, they only got in touch a few weeks ago.”

The competitive player from Bury St Edmunds said it had come as a shock as she had only turned her full focus on the game just over a year ago.

She had previously focused on dancing but chose basketball about 12 months ago.

And now she will be introduced to the camaraderie of a national side, becoming one of just 30 players earmarked by the national body for future success in the sport.

She said: “It’s going to be an incredible experience, it goes to show what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.

“I was really into my dancing before and I wasn’t sure about basketball, but I love it now.

“I love the team spirit of it, it’s such a team game and I really enjoy it, the atmosphere during games is amazing. And I love the feeling of winning.”

She recounted the moment she fell in love with the sport, when her last-minute basket proved the winning score.

“It was just the most incredible feeling,” she said.

“It made me realise I really enjoyed it all, the team atmosphere, winning and the game.

“So I have focused on it for the last year or so.”

County Upper coach Darren Johnson said he had first met Sanders in Year 6 as a talented nine-year-old, before she quit to focus on dancing.

He said he had been keen to bring her back in to the fold for some time as he saw real potential in her, but knew she had not fully believed him.

He said: “It’s just great for her. I’m so glad she came back to us, there’s so much potential in her and she’s just built for the game.

“In such a short space of time she’s become one of the top 25 under-15-year-olds players in the country.

“And her progress is happening so fast that I’m almost struggling to keep up with teaching her.”

Sanders, meanwhile, said the place on the development squad had opened her eyes to her own potential and she is now targeting a scholarship in the USA for a college team.

“I can now believe in myself,” she said.

• The U16 County Upper player added it was ‘a shame’ her team were unable to produce a winning performance in last weekend’s 87-45 away defeat to City of Sheffield Hatters in the end of season play-offs.

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