Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Inverness teenager plays for Great Britain at Basketball European Championship

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ZOE Sharpe is being hailed as a rising star of British basketball having already played at the highest level in the national game.

Zoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain
Zoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain

The Inverness athlete featured for the Caledonia Gladiators last season, the only Scottish team in the Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) who finished in second place in the 2022/23 campaign.

The 17-year-old also represented Great Britain at the FIBA Under-18 Women’s European Championship Division B which took place in Bulgaria earlier this month.

She was one of only two Scottish players in the squad of 12 to compete at the tournament.

She says representing Great Britain at a higher age level is another positive bounce in her basketball career.

Zoe SharpeZoe Sharpe
Zoe Sharpe

She said: “This was my second time playing for Great Britain.

“I was playing in the under-16 team last year and this was the first time playing in the under-18 team.

“This is another level up in my basketball career for sure, the professionalism and the standard of play was a lot higher compared to under-16 level.

“It was a great experience and developmental opportunity for my basketball career.

“As you get two years in each age group, I will get to play at under-18 level again in the future so it is great preparation for that.”

Zoe Sharpe in action for Caledonia GladiatorsZoe Sharpe in action for Caledonia Gladiators
Zoe Sharpe in action for Caledonia Gladiators

Sharpe’s natural ability for basketball was first noticed by Inverness Lions Basketball Club when she was still at Holm Primary School and was asked to join up by impressed coaches.

She continued playing for Lions while a pupil at Inverness Royal Academy, before being scouted by Caledonia Pride, which went on to be rebranded Caledonia Gladiators.

As she chased her basketball dream, it also meant that Sharpe left home in Inverness after signing for the club when she was 15.

But her talent saw her soar through the ranks to play and train with the first team in the WBBL.

Zoe Sharpe in action for Great BritainZoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain
Zoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain

“I started at Holm Primary School and I was selected to join Inverness Lions which led to me playing for the under-14 Scotland squad. Through those opportunities, I got into a player development programme with SportScotland.

I went for trials two years ago at Caledonia Pride at Edinburgh, right after Covid and I got a spot at the club.

“I joined the Caledonia Pride when I was 15 and then I moved from Inverness to Edinburgh when the club was based there.

“Then I spent the last year in Glasgow when the club moved there and were renamed Caledonia Gladiators.

“I was quite young to be joining that team at 15, and there was little expectation that I would get to play with the first team.

“I was going for the fantastic training opportunities the club could give me.”

Zoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain.Zoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain.
Zoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain.

Playing alongside and training against established senior players at the top level of women’s British basketball may seem daunting to most teenagers.

But Sharpe says she has embraced the opportunity of playing against experienced athletes and says that it has proved invaluable in her development into becoming one of the top British players for her age group.

“A lot of the regular season sees me play with and against athletes who are a lot older than me,” she said.

“As a young player on a professional team I am alongside players who are up to 15 years older than me.

“Playing at the European Under-18 championships was a rare chance to play against players in my own age group.

“Caledonia Gladiators are pushing to be a top team and are looking to get into European competition on a regular basis.

“To get to train with professional players every day and play against experienced players is great for my development.

“They have professional athletes from across the world and offer opportunities for young players to come on a development basis.

“I have been given a lot of opportunities to play for the under-18 team and senior team playing in the Scottish National League and WBBL.

“Caledonia Gladiators are really pushing to be known across Scotland, they have a strong fanbase and represent us as a country in the WBBL. It is great to be part of it.”

Zoe Sharpe in actionZoe Sharpe in action
Zoe Sharpe in action

At a young age, Sharpe was an athlete who excelled at a number of sports, but went on to concentrate on athletics and basketball.

Although she turned her attention to basketball in later years, Sharpe says her involvement in athletics has helped her development on the court.

“I did everything when I was young, I was a lot fitter and faster than most people my age when I was younger.

“Then I moved into athletics and basketball as my two main sports.

“I used to be a member of Inverness Harriers and I represented them in running for a few years which has significantly aided my basketball ability and skills. As a point guard, using my experience from athletics is really useful as in that position you need to be the quickest player on the court.”

Zoe Sharpe in action for Great BritainZoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain
Zoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain

Sharpe has ambitions of continuing to play under-18 basketball with Great Britain.

Having finished her final year at secondary school, she also hopes to earn a scholarship to play college basketball in the United States.

She recently returned back to Inverness and was invited by Highland Bears Basketball Club to take part in summer sessions designed to get more kids involved with the sport.

Highland Bears and Inverness Lions have both seen success through their youth systems.

Girls from both clubs have been called up to play for Scotland at under-14 level and under 16 level this year.

Zoe SharpeZoe Sharpe
Zoe Sharpe

Sharpe has been seen as an example of how players from Inverness can make it to the top level of the sport and go on to compete for Great Britain at international level.

She hopes she can inspire other players in the Highlands to follow in her footsteps.

“I hope that I am showing them there is a pathway for girls from Inverness to go and play basketball at a high level.

“But I have people that I am looking up to as well, as I am looking to go and play at an even higher level than I am at now.

“I am always striving for more.”

Zoe Sharpe in action for Great BritainZoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain
Zoe Sharpe in action for Great Britain

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