Sam Ashby: GB debut has given me lots of confidence with Riders -

Sam Ashby: GB debut has given me lots of confidence with Riders

Sam Ashby has enjoyed quite the start to life in the WBBL as a key piece of a much-changed Leicester Riders side this season.

The 22-year-old rookie has a Player of the Month award and an All-Star starting spot sitting alongside an international debut with Great Britain on an impressive list of achievements.

Ashby has proved to be a reliable performer for the Riders with the all-round numbers of 13.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game backing it up – boosted by an 18-point, eight-rebound display in Manchester last weekend to help make it five straight league wins.

“I’ve been super pleased with my own development throughout this season,” Ashby told Hoopsfix. “It has been a huge learning experience as it is a lot of our first years playing professionally as well as the first time our coach has been a part of the WBBL.

“Personally, I’ve tried to focus really hard on the areas my coaches were telling me needed improvement to create less holes in my game, but also had a large focus on my strengths to make sure I continue to do what I am best at and is best for the team.”

Ashby’s arrival was part of another summer of much change for the Riders – off the back of making it to all three Finals last season. As well as a number of player departures, there was also the significant move of head coach Krumesh Patel making the switch to rivals London Lions.

In came Ben Stanley after enjoying success at WNBL D1 side Solent Kestrels, and Ashby credits the incoming playcaller as being a major factor behind her move to the East Midlands. The new challenge of becoming a pro – after four years at the University of the Pacific in the US – has brought new opportunities, but even greater demands – especially from within.

“[Ben] made a huge effort to show how keen he was to have me here and also spoke about the potential and goals he had for me individually as a player.

“The pressure I put on myself to perform to my best ability every game has probably been the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far in becoming a pro.

“It’s a huge mental game being in the pro league; knowing that no-one can ever perform their absolute best every game, yet still putting the pressure on myself to do so.”

Ashby – who was born in London, and holds dual-nationality with Australia – managed to catch the eye of Sheffield Hatters head coach, and GB assistant, Vanessa Ellis during pre-season which would help lead to a surprise call-up to the GB Senior team.

A debut at home to Sweden came during the opening window of the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers in November with Ashby then contributing seven points and eight rebounds in a win over Estonia on the road.

“Representing GB was a huge honour,” she enthused. “I’ve never been so nervous to play a game of basketball in my life. Since I was a little girl I dreamed of representing basketball at the highest level possible. And, although it was always a dream, I never really thought it was an actual possibility before singing with the Riders. 

“Being selected to represent GB has given me a lot of confidence to believe in myself and helps me to refocus on low confidence days that I bring a lot to the Riders.”

Ashby has been a major part of the Riders’ strong start to their regular season campaign with an 11-2 record as they sit in second place with both defeats coming at the hands of unbeaten leaders London Lions.

Fellow newcomers Taylor O’Brien and Rayven Peeples have also made their mark with a string of impressive performances, and despite largely being a new group, the team has quickly come together to the benefit of their success.

“We have all bonded so well off the court that I think it has helped a lot with our chemistry with each other on the court,” said Ashby. “It doesn’t feel like a group of people that have never played together before.

“Going into the final stretch of the season, we know that every game matters. The higher we finish on the leaderboard the better our chances are of getting into the grand final. Obviously, London is a very strong team this year that hasn’t lost a game yet, but finals is a time where anything can happen.

“We are going into the back end of this season as strong as possible with the ultimate goal of getting into the grand final.”

And, while London are very much the team everyone wants to beat, Ashby is also relishing the chance to play alongside some of the Lions stars having been voted as an All-Star starter for the South team.

The inaugural matchup will take place at the Copper Box on 17th March with Ashby the sole representative of the Riders in the starting lineup, though will be joined by at least one teammate when the reserves are announced.

“I’m super excited to be selected for the All-Star game,” concluded Ashby. “Being able to play under the London head coach will be such an amazing experience as well as play with and against all the best players in the league.”

Ashby is in the first of a two-year contract with the Riders and will also head back to Australia in the summer for another season with Perry Lakes Hawks in NBL 1 having first joined the club as a 17-year-old.

But with full focus on the current season, the Riders’ latest international standout is hoping the campaign will be finishing with a trip to The O2.

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