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
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