Hang­ing in there

BAS­KET­BALL Re­stored to the form that made her a fix­ture in the GB team, the Scot brings her ca­reer full cir­cle to­day. By Mark Woods

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 SPORT -

IT was a move­ment that Erin McGar­rachan had pro­cessed un­con­sciously so fre­quently be­fore. Part of the ki­netic DNA of any bas­ket­baller, foot push­ing off floor: ver­ti­cal leap ac­com­plished. Ex­cept this time, in front of thou­sands of Chi­nese spec­ta­tors, came the in­audi­ble ac­com­pa­ni­ment of a pop.

“Then I stood up and re­alised this might be a bit se­ri­ous,” she re­calls. “It was hard be­cause we didn’t have a physio there so we were re­ly­ing on the first aid peo­ple.”

The di­ag­no­sis was a dis­lo­cated foot. Not an ail­ment for the squea­mish, nor those as used to dart­ing about a court as in­hal­ing the oxy­gen re­quired as fuel. The Cum­ber­nauld-born for­ward had only re­cently re­turned from four years in the United States to com­bine a post-grad­u­ate de­gree in cor­po­rate fi­nance with a semipro­fes­sional con­tract at Le­ices­ter Rid­ers of the still-nascent Women’s Bri­tish Bas­ket­ball League.

“It was the tough­est time of my life,” McGar­rachan, now 23, said. Months of re­hab in­ter­wo­ven with mo­ments of de­spair fol­lowed un­til it was time to re­move the plate and screws the sur­geons had in­serted. “I threw my­self into aca­demics, mak­ing sure I was up to date.”

Re­ha­bil­i­tated and re­stored to the kind of form that made her a fix­ture in the Great Bri­tain team, the Scot will bring her ca­reer full cir­cle this af­ter­noon with the rarest of ap­pear­ances close to home. The Rid­ers have trav­elled in num­bers to Glas­gow’s Emi­rates Arena, McGar­rachan and her fe­male col­leagues fac­ing Sevenoaks Suns in the WBBL Tro­phy fi­nal be­fore their male coun­ter­parts meet Ply­mouth Raiders with the BBL Tro­phy up for grabs.

“Some of my fam­ily and friends haven’t seen me play in per­son since I went to Amer­ica so it’s go­ing to be a spe­cial day for me,” the lo­cal at­trac­tion re­veals. “My mum got 60 tick­ets and has filled most of the seats. They’ll be pack­ing part of the arena.”

Tak­ing the high road is an oc­ca­sional treat with stud­ies to com­plete and prac­tices to un­der­take. Yet the route will soon fork again. Scot­land’s women are mak­ing their case for in­clu­sion in next year’s Com­mon­wealth Games with a sum­mer pro­gramme drafted to prove their wor­thi­ness to the pow­ers that be.

It was the prime rea­son be­hind en­ter­ing a team into the WBBL this term with the in­cor­po­ra­tion of Ed­in­burgh-based Cale­do­nia Pride. It is no se­cret they would like McGar­rachan to join the fold. “I’ve not ruled it in or out,” she con­fesses. “It was a lit­tle weird when I came up to Ed­in­burgh to play them. It was kind of like play­ing against my home team be­cause I’ve played with or against so many of those girls in my youth.”

At least now, there are op­tions. When she was at school, play­ing for Glas­gow Rocks’ youth spin-off, it was Amer­ica or bust for those with am­bi­tion. “It was al­ways the road I wanted to take for bas­ket­ball but it was also for the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says.

Now, the do­mes­tic league is of­fer­ing an op­por­tu­nity to per­form at a de­cent stan­dard but the rev­enues do not yet of­fer more than the most mod­est of in­comes.

How­ever, McGar­rachan said: “They are bring­ing in Euro­pean play­ers or play­ers from Amer­ica and that’s push­ing up the stan­dard. It’s great for youth play­ers, to be in there with peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­ence and it brings it closer to the States. My eyes got opened over there. But the WBBL is chang­ing peo­ple’s per­cep­tions here.”

Erin McGar­rachan is in fi­nal ac­tion at the Emi­rates Pho­to­graph: Man­soor Ahmed

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