The 2022-23 WBBL season preview -

The 2022-23 WBBL season preview

The ninth season of the WBBL tips off tonight with an indifferent build up to the 2022-23 campaign.

13 teams recently became 12 following the withdrawal of Gloucester City Queens and there has been a lack of updates from multiple clubs in the off-season.

Here’s our look through the teams:

London Lions

Last season: 24-0 (1st); Winners: Cup, Trophy, Playoffs

Key returnee: Kennedy Leonard enters a third season with the Lions and will once again be instrumental in orchestrating the offence. The Commonwealth Games international has led the league in assists for the past two years and really sets the tone for the team. The Lions have also added US guard Taylor Murray to further strengthen the backcourt.

Big addition: The Lions have made some astute moves from overseas, headlined by the arrival of Kiki Herbert-Harrigan – a player with experience of playing in the WNBA. The versatile forward has also previously played in Turkey and will help fill the loss of Cassie Breen’s three-point threat alongside Belarusian Katsiaryna Snytsina as well as help lead the way on the defensive end.

One to watch: Holly Winterburn has been one of the most exciting British prospects for some time and there is still plenty more to come from the 21-year-old. A long-awaited GB Senior debut was made last season and Winterburn will be looking to raise her game this coming season with the chance of making more noise in Europe.

Outlook: A perfect season domestically was coupled with a historic run in Europe and the Lions have big plans to continue to grow on that front. The 2021-22 MVP Jo Leedham-Warner has since retired, but London have maintained their British core whilst managing to go deeper with their overseas additions and should prove too strong for the WBBL once again.

Sevenoaks Suns

Last season: 21-3 (2nd); Runners-up: Trophy, Playoffs

Key returnee: A seventh successive season for Renee Busch and one that will see an enhanced role as a leader on the team. The 3-and-D specialist has been a consistent performer for the Suns and will set the tone for the side this season.

Big addition: The Suns have brought in defensive specialist Ariaon Bradshaw. The rookie out of Dayton was the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year two years ago and a former NCAA champion at South Carolina. Bradshaw forms a new look backcourt alongside Dazha Congleton.

One to watch: GB Under-16 captain Katie Cox is a talented prospect and is keen to make the most of the opportunity of being on a WBBL roster at just 16 years of age. With plenty of experience within the roster, still, it will be a good chance for Cox to learn and continue her development.

Outlook: The post Cat Carr era is one that presents a big challenge for the Suns, but they have kept some key pieces and their new American contingent has the potential to be amongst the best in the league if they can gel.

Sheffield Hatters

Last season: 18-6 (3rd)

Key returnee: The Hatters were quick to retain their British core from last season, led by GB guard Georgia Gayle. The 25-year-old was in the top 10 in scoring in the league after returning from America and is set to play another leading role for an experienced side.

Big addition: Sheffield have a few new faces to add to their returning roster including American guard Bre Hampton-Bey with the rookie having amassed 1000 points during a five-year college career at UMass and then Loyola Chicago.

One to watch: Ebony Horton made a mid-season switch from Newcastle and there was an adjustment period before beginning to really make an impact down the stretch. It was a different role from being the main scoring threat at the Eagles, but Horton was a breakout star in the league last season.

Outlook: More of the same for the Hatters with some overseas additions after being without their Americans for the second half of last season. Sheffield probably have the most experience on their roster when it comes to the WBBL and they should be pushing for a top-two spot again.

Leicester Riders

Last season: 14-10 (4th)

Key returnee: Hannah Robb has grown into an experienced WBBL player with an all-round game that led to breaking into the GB Senior squad. The Scot had a solid season last year with the Riders and will have a big role on this team as they bed in a number of new signings.

Big addition: The long-awaited return to the WBBL for Ashley Arlen (nee Harris). The former Nottingham Wildcats star was one of the most dominant scorers the league has ever seen and gives Leicester a big presence inside following a spell in Sweden with returning head coach Krumesh Patel.

One to watch: Expect McKenzie Johnston to be all over the statsheet in multiple categories for the Riders. The all-round guard averaged 12+ points, 6+ rebounds and 5+ assists in the German second division and has already displayed the versatility during pre-season to bolster the Riders backcourt.

Outlook: The Riders are always there or thereabouts in the WBBL and there is no reason to suggest it won’t be more of the same this season. Coach Patel is back at the helm and should have the Riders going deep in cup competitions and pushing to improve on last season’s fourth placed showing.

Nottingham Wildcats

Last season: 12-12 (5th)

Key returnee: Last season’s league leader in rebounds is back with the Wildcats keeping hold of Kennedy Nicholas for another season. The American collected 13.5 rebounds per game and a dominant start to the season was stalled somewhat due to injuries later in the campaign.

Big addition: American rookie Kayla Shaw is the main newcomer for Nottingham and arrives off the back of a strong senior year at Azusa Pacific. The guard averaged 17.3 points per game as the third leading scorer in the PacWest and will help make up for the departure of leading scorer Brooklyn Pannell.

One to watch: Jahnae Gyles was a mid-season addition earlier this year, but made an instant impact and proved to be a prolific scorer – something that the Wildcats will expect to continue for the upcoming season.

Outlook: The Wildcats were inconsistent last season, but found late season form in order to make the playoffs. That will be the minimum goal again and they could hit the ground running with an already familiar roster with a couple of additions.

Caledonia Gladiators

Last season: 12-12 (6th) – Caledonia Pride

Key returnee: This is Scotland’s new team after taking over from Caledonia Pride, but there remains some familiarity as Erin McGarrachan is back. The former GB forward joined Pride midway through last season’s campaign and the team benefited from the experience – something that will help the Gladiators as well.

Big addition: GB legend Chantelle Handy returns for a second stint in the WBBL after previously spending time at Team Northumbria (Newcastle) including a best of 33 points. The veteran sharpshooter combines a playing role with a new venture into coaching as part of new head coach Miguel Angel Ortega Marco’s bench.

One to watch: Marlee Ball has played big roles across spells with Cardiff and Gloucester in the past two seasons and may thrive with more freedom on a deeper roster that has additional scoring options.

Outlook: The Gladiators have big ambitions and they have put together an intriguing roster going into their first WBBL season. Following a best-ever finish from the Pride last season, Caledonia could venture even higher up the table with the top four far from concrete.

Essex Rebels

Last season: 12-12 (7th)

Key returnee: The Rebels are starting to build some continuity with their roster and have maintained the majority of last season’s roster including captain Andrea Kohlhaas, who is back for a fourth season at the club. The German is an inside-outside threat and a vocal leader for a team that has got younger.

Big addition: There are a few new faces for the Rebels this season including American-South African big Sune Swart, who played in the top flight in Spain last season and will form a new look frontcourt partnership with rookie Alexa Naessens.

One to watch: One of the stars of WNBL Division 1 in recent years, Cameron Taylor-Willis makes the step up to the WBBL to mark the end of a long association with Ipswich. The former Hoopsfix All-Star Classic MVP is one of several young newcomers on the team and should slot in nicely to the core group.

Outlook: The Rebels have been continuing to grow since joining the WBBL and have found a level of consistency in their roster to be able to keep pushing forward. They are becoming regular for the playoffs and that will be the absolute minimum expectation going into this season.

Durham Palatinates

Last season: 11-13 (8th)

Key returnee: N/A

Big addition: N/A

One to watch: N/A

Outlook: No news is good news, except for when a team has made no announcements all summer and had their opening game postponed two days before the start of the season. It is understood Durham are still trying to fill out their roster and hopefully they won’t be going the same way as the Gloucester City Queens.

Manchester Met Mystics

Last season: 11-13 (9th)

Key returnee: N/A

Big addition: Claire Abbott joins from Gloucester – having also previously played for Oaklands – as part of a new Canadian contingent for the Mystics with much needed experience to share with fellow new signings, who are playing overseas for the first time.

One to watch: A return home for Leah McDerment after last season’s venture with the quadruple-winning Lions. Despite the success, it proved to be a frustrating battle with injuries and hopefully the guard will be able to get to see a lot more of the court and enjoy being in front of friends and family.

Outlook: There’s a change on the sidelines for the Mystics and the club will look for a change in fortunes with a much-changed roster for the new campaign after missing out on the post-season last time around.

Newcastle Eagles

Last season: 7-17 (10th); Runners-up: Cup

Key returnee: Newcastle captain Marina Fernandez is back for a third season with the club, though a debut season got wiped away due to injury. The Spaniard took on big responsibility last season especially as the club were hit with injuries and departures in the second half of the campaign to disrupt their rhythm.

Big addition: The Eagles have added Katie Nolan out of Seton Hall with the American forward having averaged a double-double last season. Much needed size and inside presence for Newcastle and will give them a different dynamic at both ends of the floor.

One to watch: Zoe Willis makes a return to the UK basketball scene after graduating from college in the States. The former Barking Abbey junior gives the Eagles a perimeter threat and links back up with former teammate Chloe Gaynor.

Outlook: The Eagles appear a bit short on paper in regards to confirmed signings and are also without returning American Courtney Clasen through another injury. They will need to add depth if they are going to compete with the top sides and they will not want to miss out on the post-season once again.

Cardiff Met Archers

Last season: 6-18 (11th)

Key returnee: The addition of Lauren Saiki last season coincided with the team’s improved form down the stretch of the regular season. Saiki will combine a coaching role within the junior club this season and holds the reins in the backcourt for the Archers – something they have needed since Stef Collins and Robyn Lewis.

Big addition: Abigail Yunker is the new American on the team for the Archers after a solid college career at Wittenburg as they made the NCAA D3 Tournament. The rookie joins Saiki in the backcourt and gives Cardiff another scoring option that they perhaps lacked at times last season.

One to watch: GB Under-18 international and Hoopsfix All-Star Classic MVP Issy Bunyan is back for a third season with the Archers and continues to get better each time upon stepping on the floor. The 17-year-old was one of the top shot blockers in the league last season and will be expected to take on an even bigger role for the upcoming campaign.

Outlook: Cardiff were left to rue a poor stretch when they went months without a league victory. They have the bulk of their squad back which should help them settle into the season quicker and should be targeting breaking back into the top eight.

Oaklands Wolves

Last season: 5-19 (12th)

Key returnee: N/A

Big addition: N/A

One to watch: N/A

Outlook: Well, we know that Lauren Milligan has departed to London, while there have been other departures, but there has not been much else in terms of news coming out of Oaklands for the coming season. They are expected to roll with their academy players again and it is understood they are waiting the arrival of their overseas reinforcements.

For all the ins and outs, check out our WBBL rosters tracker, HERE.

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