Reaching EuroCup group stages a big deal for Lions, says Shanice Beckford-Norton

Reaching EuroCup group stages a big deal for Lions, says Shanice Beckford-Norton

London Lions captain Shanice Beckford-Norton hopes her team can continue to champion the success of women’s sport by qualifying for the group stages of the FIBA EuroCup.

The Lions won the Women’s British Basketball League title for the first time last season and will face Spa Gran Canaria over two legs, tipping off at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre on Thursday night.

Along with West Ham Women, fellow basketball club Essex Rebels, London Pulse netball side and Sunrisers cricket team, the Lions helped form the Women’s Elite Sport Partnership earlier this year.

The group, which is also supported by Essex and Middlesex cricket clubs, aims to collectively work together in order to help grow and sustain the development of women’s sport in the UK.

Beckford-Norton feels the Lions making progress through to the regular season of the FIBA-backed competition would help capture new audiences to grow their fan base and inspire the next generation.

“There is definitely something happening within women’s sport, with much younger women being successful and being in the spotlight,” Beckford-Norton told the PA news agency.

“We hope that we can do not just the country proud, but also women’s sport proud by showing what talent we have and what can be achieved when you work hard and show how passionate you are about something.”

Beckford-Norton, awarded the MVP in the WBBL play-off final after the Lions beat Newcastle Eagles, added: “I have seen how many girls have come through, even just on our team.

“I coach a couple of youth teams and a few of the kids will be at the game on Thursday, which will be great.

“But we have all just got to continue to be sportswomen and not thrown off our game, just to keep showing that perseverance is key.”

It is estimated around 1.3million people play basketball on a regular basis in the UK, but the sport has historically not received as much central funding as others.

Beckford-Norton, though, believes the work which is now being put in at grassroots level can help lessen the divide.

“There has been a lot of investment from organisations like Basketball England, with nets being put up around London so kids are able to play in the park and not just at sports centres,” Beckford-Norton said.

“There are more clubs popping up all around the UK. Things are improving, the Government and federations are getting more involved and investing more money so kids can stay active through basketball.”

Lions guard Cassie Brean feels the talent pool is there to impact at international level.

“There is a lot of potential here for women’s basketball in England,” the American said.

“There are a lot of young women who want to represent (clubs), players from the academies who have gone off to the US and are now looking to come back to play professionally.

“With the Lions playing this EuroCup tie, it is only going to help to boost that and is good for the sport’s exposure.

“It is a good challenge. We are up for it and we have a deep roster with a lot of good weapons.

“The new players have been clicking very well together.”

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