First Caledonia Pride home game is a sell-out
Caledonia Pride take on Cardiff Met Archers at Oriam tomorrow at 1pm in a basketball game with a difference.
First of all it is a women’s game and it is professional, though as yet no-one will be making much money from it.
It is the first official women’s pro game to happen in Scotland and it has been long awaited.
A men’s pro team, the Edinburgh, then Scottish, now Glasgow Rocks, have played in the BBL before the Millennium and they are now having their best season for many a year at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.
The Pride game takes place under the auspices of the Women’s BBL, a league of 10 franchises founded in 2014, of which eight are in England, one in Wales and one new one in Scotland based at the new national high performance centre at Heriot-Watt University.
The facilities are splendid, the court surface first class and the surroundings impressive, and tomorrow will be a 300 ticket sell-out, which is a record for any WBBL regular season game.
If this were to happen regularly there might even be a case for installing more seats, though I am puzzled why such a small allocation was planned originally.
Much will depend on how competitive Pride can be and the signs are that Archers, who lie eighth in the table with just one win, are a team Pride can beat to achieve their first victory.
If Pride do win that will further inspire the new side who, despite injuries, have shown admirable commitment to the cause in the weeks that have already passed since the team’s first fixture, an away defeat by Nottingham Wildcats in October. Five more defeats have followed, though Oaklands Wolves are below them in the table after suffering six losses.
Dutchman Bart Sengers, who swept all before him with Edinburgh University women before being appointed Scottish High Performance Coach with a view to the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in 2018, has assembled a team of Scots leavened with some key American imports such as centre Tricia Oakes and swing guard Natalie Bastion.
Kirsten Simpson, a tall, leggy forward, is one of those who is already a success story, regardless of tomorrow’s upshot.
Born and bred in the Capital and a former Portobello HS pupil, Simpson is a Scottish and British junior cap, whose uncle Bill Dudgeon, a former international referee, founded POPYC a forerunner of the City of Edinburgh BC.
She bravely opted to move to the new club and has been earning consistent minutes since the start of the season.
“It’s been a big step up but I’m really enjoying playing for Pride,” said Simpson.
“We’ve been working extremely hard and have bonded as a team. Each time we’ve played we’ve seen improvement in our team game so it’s been a positive experience.
“Let’s hope it all comes together tomorrow and we get the win. We really appreciate the support of the Scottish basketball community.”
Another former Edinburgh Kool Kat Hannah Peacock may have a key rebounding role tomorrow while Beth Mackie has been one of the team’s best scorers so far.
But continuing injury problems may prevent Hilary Wood from joining her ex-Polonia clubmate Cathy Mitchell on the floor.