Long considered one of the most exciting prospects at Ipswich Basketball Club, Esther Little continued her development last year playing a key role for Amy Linton’s under-16 Girls. She followed up an England under-15 call-up last summer by making the under-16 team this time around.
IpswichBasketball.net: Esther, congratulations on making the England squad for the second summer in a row! How did this summer compare to last year?
Esther Little: Thank you! Competing at the European Championships was a huge step up from my experience with the under-15s last year, for so many reasons. I think the hardest thing I had to deal with was the number of sets and plays we had to learn.
IB: Tell us about the year-round process you have to undergo in order to even make the squad this summer…
EL: In the lead up throughout the year, the amount of hard work and dedication we all had to put in to even have a chance to reach the final 12 was more than it had been last year. There was an S&C program set for us, I got help from Adam Robinson with some 1:1 sessions at Ipswich that helped me to develop and become physically stronger, and that helped me majorly as the program progressed.
“I am very grateful for my international experiences this summer, it may never happen again and I definitely won’t forget it.” – Esther Little
IB: You had a long summer, tell us about your pre-tournament trip to Hungary?
EL: The squad selected to go to the Euros travelled to Hungary after playing warm-up games at home against the under-18 Scotland team. I felt Hungary was a once in a lifetime opportunity; to play a Division A team was incredible. I didn’t realise it was possible to learn so much over three days of international experience.
At the Euros, England were drawn in a pool alongside both Scotland and Ireland, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, and Finland.
IB: England were so unlucky not to make it out of the group stage! Tell us what happened?
EL: We started against Bulgaria with a high amount of adrenaline, excitement and a few nerves. After a slow start things couldn’t have ended better for us and we secured a big win, scoring 14 threes between the team! This gave us the confidence we needed and we followed up with hard fought wins both against Bosnia and Scotland. After a day off, we faced a very talented Finland team and suffered our first defeat setting up a winner takes all match against Ireland in our final group game. Unfortunately, we lost by six in a low scoring game and ended up third in our group.
We went into the classification games and beat Macedonia in an end to end game and then beat Estonia. The Estonia game was the stand out game for me as we came back from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter to get the win. Our fourth quarter performance was the highlight as we played our best basketball as a team. The final game was against Belgium for 9/10 place but unfortunately we had picked up injuries in the team and I was unwell too, so we couldn’t get the win and finished 10th overall.
IB: How intense was the experience of playing in the Euros?
EL: The seriousness of it all not just on the court but off the court, it was big shock to all of us. I couldn’t quite believe it. There was a schedule and routine we followed at the tournament that involved training, briefing for games, resting and then preparing for the game and then cool down and debrief. Obviously, it was not a holiday, but I have to say it was more intense than I had anticipated.
IB: Looking ahead to this year back at Copleston, then, have you learned anything you can carry forward to help your development?
EL: As a team we all agreed we played better when we were having fun and enjoying the game. I feel this is important and it brought us together as one unit. I wouldn’t have got through the two weeks without the team and I hope to encourage team spirit in the sides I play for at Ipswich.
IB: Does playing at international level give you any more of a desire to use that experience as a leader at Ipswich?
EL: Definitely, yes – I learnt so much from tactics and skills I developed whilst on the U16 program, and I will certainly be trying to help team mates to improve their own game by passing on things I learnt whenever I can.
I have learnt if you spend time working on your own game and time in the gym getting physically stronger that it is possible to achieve whatever goals you set yourself.
IB: Esther, good luck for the year ahead and we look forward to catching up with you during the season!
EL: Thank you!