Meadowbank Sports Centre creates another bit of sporting history this weekend when it hosts two Great Britain senior women’s basketball internationals, the first such women’s games ever to be staged north of the Border.
The ties, both against Canada, are tomorrow at 3pm and Sunday at 1pm and are a vital part of the Standard Life Team GB’s preparations for the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics, as they are indeed for the Canadians who, unlike the hosts, have still to secure their place in the final line-up and are en route for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Turkey.
But for one GB player in particular, the Edinburgh games, part of a weekend’s festival of hoops at the centre, will be that bit extra special.
Rose Anderson, the sole Scot in the GB side, could scarcely be more local and she can look forward to huge support from family, friends, former school and clubmates.
“I’m so excited to have my family there this weekend – I grew up playing at Meadowbank when I was younger and half the staff are still there so they’ll recognise me. It’s great to come home and hopefully I can do well.”
Brought up in Regent Street, Portobello, Anderson was persuaded to take up the sport at Portobello High School by her guidance teacher Brian Findlay, who in time became her coach both in school and for the Edinburgh Kool Kats junior team, as well as assistant coach to Graham Gunn for the Kool Kats senior team.
The other major influence on her basketball career was Donna Finnie, the former Edinburgh development officer, who is now coaching in Houston, Texas after a stint as coach to Scottish women’s age-group teams.
One of Anderson’s proudest moments playing for Finnie came when she scored the winning basket in the dying seconds for Scotland’s junior women against Luxembourg in a European tournament in Aberdeen with a trademark drive to the hoop. “I even had shin splints at the time,” said Anderson.
The 24-year-old left-handed guard’s career took off after that and she secured a basketball scholarship to Oklahoma.
Her final year there was spent on a rowing scholarship as her basketball eligibility had expired yet, though far from match fit, she managed to win selection for the Great Britain team who contested the Eurobasket Finals in Poland last June.
With the international governing body FIBA granting GB host-nation status, the pressure to qualify was removed and coach Tom Maher was able to concentrate on strengthening and preparing his squad for the Olympic finals.
Anderson was left in no doubt that she had to improve her fitness and play in a more competitive league if she wanted to clinch her place. Though she had offers to play professionally in Spain, Anderson decided to play for UWIC (University of Wales in Cardiff) and helped them take the English League First Division title for the first time under the guidance of Maher’s GB assistant Damian Jennings.
“Damian’s a very good coach and I’ve learned a lot as well as improving my fitness – I recently smashed my best on the yo-yo test.”
But, since re-joining the GB squad at the beginning of May, Anderson, who has still one last cut to survive – two will drop out of the current squad – , has discovered another level of fitness.
“It’s been tough – we’ve been training twice a day and it’s a big jump up from training for the English League,” she said. “Because it’s Olympic year everyone’s made a step up.
“I’m disappointed how I’ve played so far – I’m not doing what I know I can do,” continued Anderson, who suffered an ankle injury playing for UWIC last Christmas which is still giving her some trouble. “I’ve got to tape it before every session.”
Not that taping bothers her too much. Brought up in a boxing family where her eldest brother Kenny was a 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Anderson admits she thrived on competition. “My mum raised us with a ‘you can do it’ attitude,” she says.
Being back in Edinburgh will allow her to enjoy family time, but Anderson knows she’s also home to secure her place in the GB team for London.