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West Suffolk Wolves set to launch new women's basketball team in Bury St Edmunds




A new women’s basketball team is being launched out of County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds to play in the country’s second tier English Women’s Basketball League (WNBL).

An application has been lodged for The West Suffolk Wolves’ newest team to begin life in Division Two of the WNBL with confirmation expected to come by the end of next month.

It is the next evolution of female basketball growing in the town after County Upper launched a girls academy to run alongside its boys version ahead of last September.

County Upper's U19 Girls Basketball Academy team have been named co-national champions after their Basketball England U19 Schools Championship final was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic - coach Darren Johnson pictured with the team (37145017)
County Upper's U19 Girls Basketball Academy team have been named co-national champions after their Basketball England U19 Schools Championship final was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic - coach Darren Johnson pictured with the team (37145017)

As the Free Press reported last week, their coronavirus-curtailed first season recently saw the side crowned co-national champions after their Basketball England U19 Schools Championship final was cancelled.

County Upper basketball programme and West Suffolk Wolves head coach, Darren Johnson, explained the new women’s team will replace their under-18s side, who were unable to get the standard of league matches they required last season.

Although those players will step up, they are encouraging people interested in joining to contact them.

“Like we set up our men’s team to allow current and future academy players to become challenged and play in a tougher environment, we now want to do the same for our girls,” coach Johnson said.

“With our girls gaining NCAA D1 (top level collegiate league) and NCAA D2 interest in America, as a club we have to look to offer a tougher playing environment so they can continue to develop as players, which is why adding a women’s team seemed necessary.

“I am sure D2 will be tough to start out but with the calibre of players we have within the programme and the high level of coaching, county will hopefully find their feet and start to compete in the season.”

If accepted, the women’s team is likely to be placed in Division Two South, which could include trips to Cardiff, Brighton, Southampton and London.

West Suffolk Wolves – who were formerly known as County Upper Wolves until a recent name change to better reflect their catchment area – will again run five female sides next season, at U12, U14, U16, U19 (academy) and women’s levels.

Their girls programme started back in 2012/13 when they were known as the County Upper Bulldogs.

After some adjustment to entering the National League, their first big success came in 2016/17 when they won the U14 East Conference. It saw them gain a place in the National Tournament and go on to reach the Elite 8 stages for the first time, putting County Upper on the map.

The club also celebrated winning the U16 South East Conference in 2017/18.

Players from the club have gone on to represent Suffolk, the eastern region and, in the case of Lizzy Sanders (17/18) and Grace Spooner (18/19), national with England Under-15s.

Of the current crop, Violet Jones, Polly Cailes, Flo Kent, Esther Cushing and Anna Cartwright are all members of the club who have been individually selected to play with the regional Aspire programme once a month. Meanwhile, Anna Cartwright has represented the East of England at the regional tournament in 2019.

Last season saw the first official Girls America Tour take place, to experience playing overseas and to aide with potential scholarships in the US.

The girls team competed against Iowa Central, Des Moines Area Community College and Marshalltown, all NJCAA Division 2 teams.

* Anyone interested in playing for the new West Suffolk Wolves women’s team, or their other age group side, is asked to contact Darren Johnson by emailing wswolvesheadcoach@gmail.com


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