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Women’s basketball is gaining ground in the USA

The NBA is viewed as the pinnacle of basketball, but the sport has also been played by women since its very earliest days.

Women’s basketball in America actually tipped off back in 1892 at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

It was taught by Senda Berenson, who was taking a huge risk in an age when females were deemed to be ill-suited to playing competitive sports.

Even Berenson was reputedly afraid that women would suffer from nervous fatigue if the games became too highly charged.

So in order to keep things civilised, she introduced modified rules; for example, players weren’t allowed to snatch or battle the ball away from each other. The ball had to move from section to section by either passing or dribbling, however, players were only limited to three dribbles and were only allowed to hold the ball for three seconds.

The first-ever women’s basketball college game took place in Berkeley between Stamford University and the University of California in 1896.

However, while the men’s game was added to the roster of Olympic sports in 1936, it took until 1976 for the women’s version to be included in the Games.

This then led to extra funding to promote women’s basketball, and the sport began to grow dramatically.

The biggest development for the women’s game came in 1982 when the (NCAA) National Collegiate Athletic Association came onboard, given an overall structure to college hoops for women.

In professional terms, though, the best players had to wait until 1996, when the NBA founded the Women’s NBA.

Women’s National Basketball Association

Attendance

The WNBA scored its the highest total and average attendances since 2011 last year. The total number of spectators 1,574,078, and the average crowd increased to 7,716.

The biggest rises came at the top teams in the league like the Los Angeles Sparks who had an increase of (+17.8%), Connecticut Sun (+15.3%) and Minnesota Lynx (+12.3%).

Social Media

The WNBA is growing massively on social media as it has nearly reached 14 million likes across all platforms, On Facebook, the WNBA has had now over 1 million likes this season alone. The league is still continuing to break its own records from last year.

Salaries 

The salaries for professional female basketball players are nowhere near what the average male player earns.

On average, the top women make $72,500 a year; a typical contract starts off at $40,00 and can reach up to $75,000. If you compare that to the men’s game, by 2021 the average salary will hit $10m, thanks to TV rights by ESPN.

So there’s still a huge gap that has to filled between the men and women’s game, as the salary cap is nowhere near the same.

Top 5 college basketball stars

A’ja Wilson, South Carolina, F, 6ft 5ins, senior

Wilson was in the running for the Final Four’s most outstanding player last season, and she was also named the SEC’s player of the year for the second campaign in a row.

she will need to step up, though, as three starters from last year’s team have left. So, Wilson, the hometown heroine, will have to inspire her team again after leading them to their first NCAA title.

The next step for Wilson will be moving onto the WNBA, as he has the qualities to make it in the pro league. Last season, she was 17.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG and was able to get 90 blocks.

2. Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State, G, 5-ft 8ins, senior

Kelsey Mitchell is one of the most aggressive players in the country, she is a relentless attacker when the ball is in her left hand.

Mitchell has great shooting from range, but her most dangerous weapon is her explosive first step. Her scoring average has decreased 3.5 PPG from her sophomore to junior season, yet she is still within striking distance. Mitchell has now more help from other players from the team.

Mitchell who is aiming to break the record of 924 points in a single season which was set by Kelsey Plum in 2017.

Even if she isn’t able to set a new mark, no player can take the game in a blink of an eye like Mitchell does. Last year, she averaged 22.6 PPG, 3.9 APG, and also averaged 36.9 3-point field goal percentage, one of the best in the league.

3. Napheesa Collier, UConn, F, 6ft 1in, junior

Collier might be the best in the league at moving the ball around and creating a play, however, only six other players averaged more points per game a season ago.

Collier is a highly efficient shot-maker. For a player to average more than 20 points and miss fewer than four shots per game is remarkable.

Even her own team-mate Katie Lou Samuelson, who hardly misses any of her shots, missed twice the amount Collier did.

Furthermore, she has also added the three-point game to her play, plus averaging two blocks a game means that Collier is far from a one-dimensional player, as she has variety.

Last season, sher was able to average 20.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 67.8 field goal percentage, one of the highest in the league.

4. Gabby Williams, UConn, F, 5ft 11ins, senior

Williams who has an amazing stats sheet was able to get 100 steals and 52 blocked shots last season.

Williams marks the bigger players and is able to outmuscle due to her athleticism.

With new bigger players on the UConn team, it means that Williams will be able to play more freely and operate more around the perimeter.

However, wherever Williams plays she will also make an impact as she is a top talent. In the 2016/17 season, she averaged 14.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, nearly averaging a double double in each game.

5. Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn, G/F, 6ft 3ins, junior

Another player that makes it into the top five is Samuelson who also plays for UConn. At6ft 3in, she is one of the best defensive players in the league.

It’s hard enough to defend against her due to her size, but she also packs a punch at the three-point line, as she makes them look like free throws.

Samuelson has proved herself to be a powerhouse defender but is also a formidable offensive player. If you take away the three-pointers she makes in each game, she still is able to average 17 points per contest.

That’s more than Louisville’s Asia Durr and almost as many as South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson.

Samuelson who averaged 20.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 42.0 three-point field goal percentage in the 2016/17 season is going to be a dominant force in this season league.

March Madness

During the month of March, female college teams compete in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. This year’s runs from March 16th until April 1st, with the final four facing off on March 30th and the finals two days later.

On Saturday, UConn showed their class as they eased to an 88 points victory over St. Francis from Pennsylvania. They then played Quinnipiac, who beat Miami on Saturday to advance, UConn went on to beat Quinnipiac 71-46 who now face off against Duke.

The Defending Champions of the tournament South Carolina beat Virginia 66-56 who are ranked 10th in the division. South Carolina will face Buffalo on Saturday, should be an interesting game as both teams are in good form.

Swaine hopes to live his American dream – with help from dad

For any basketball fan in 2017, the mention of a father-and-son basketball duo instantly conjures up thoughts of the much-discussed Los Angeles Laker Lonzo Ball and his outspoken father Lavar. 

But on our own shores, and away from all the hoopla, there is a father-son combo making headway for themselves – without the controversial antics of Lavar and his sons.

One of British basketball’s top prospects, 18-year-old 6″3 guard Eisley Swaine of NBL D1’s Bradford Dragons recently committed early to link up with Northwestern Oklahoma State University in 2018, a decision that his father, ex-England international Jason, helped play a part in.

Committing

The younger Swaine has been one to watch for several years now, making the Basketball England U17s squad and twice attending the prestigious DENG Camp, an invitation-only training camp put on by British NBA star Luol Deng each summer for the top 50 young talents in UK basketball.

This not only provides an excellent learning experience for those involved, but also an opportunity for NCAA college scouts and coaches to discover prospects such as Swaine.

“It’s a massive deal for me. I always say the best three years of my basketball career, or my basketball life, no question was being able to play on the same team with him at Bradford Dragons”

“From the start of being recruited, the coach [of Northwestern, Shawn Dirden] was very forward and he came across as a really good guy,” Eisley says. “I spoke to my dad a lot about it because he plays a big part in a lot of the things I do and I have a lot of respect for him, and he advised me a lot throughout the process.

“He has a lot of experience in the game, he’s worked with a lot of people and obviously I’m only young. But even though he helped me a lot, he didn’t take control, he still let me make my own decision.

“From the start I was treated well by the coach at Northwestern (an NCAA Division II outfit), I felt wanted, and I just feel like it was the right situation for me.”

Now 41, Jason is in the latter stages of his illustrious career, during which he represented England on the international stage more than 25 times (including at two FIBA European Championships), and won the BBL League Trophy with the Sheffield Sharks in 1999, and he left the Dragons at the end of last season, the club where Eisley has made his name.

This crossing of paths, with Jason in the twilight of his playing days and Eisley at the beginning of his, allowed the pair to become the first NBL father and son duo to take the court together, a special moment for Jason.

Mentor

And like any good father, Jason has tried to pass on to his son some of the knowledge he gained during his 20 year basketball career.

“Physically, we’re slightly different as players, but I feel like mentally the mindset of always wanting to get better, always being focused out there and staying a play ahead, is something that he’s taught me from a really young age” said Eisley.

Jason added: “Eisley is a totally different player than I am, and a much better player than I am now. He has the same sort of feel for the game that I have, but I think with a lot of kids, the mindset of being able to take criticism and the challenges put in front of you and the need to stay confident, I continue to ask that of him.

“A lot of young kids are missing that today, and as a culture we are a bit soft. That’s the main thing I hopefully have passed on to him, and that’s not so much basketball related than it is just life.”

And having experienced so much through his storied career, Jason was also in a position to help advise Eisley on his decision to play overseas.

“The decision to be able to commit this early was a big thing. I knew the coach through a few people, and that meant I could sort of assess Eisley’s situation there and the sort of people he was going to be dealing with, and that was a good thing.

“We were able to assess a lot of different schools and speak to a lot of coaches and think really deeply into it. We thought at the end of the day the situation at Northwestern was a good fit and we didn’t want to turn that down, so I’m more than happy with him going there.”

American dream

Eisley will play out the remainder of the season in the UK, playing for the Dragons, as well as Queen Ethelburga’s College in York, before joining up with the NWOSU Rangers in the summer of 2018, and he is understandably eager to get started.

“I’m just looking forward to the change, I think it’s a big step and its always been a dream of mine”, the 6”3 guard said. “I can’t wait to go out there and meet the competition head on, to play hard and just compete every single day, work on my skills and improve. Hopefully I can come out of it individually as a better player, but I just want to help the team.

“The coach is very positive and I feel like once I’m out there and I can get used to the style of play, my teammates and just get to grips with everything, I can really start to improve and we can compete with the teams around us. The coach is talking about championships and it’s something I really hope we can do.”

Jason, who has now turned his attention to Masters’ basketball, is far too humble to make any brazen, Lavar Ball-like predictions that have got his son Lonzo into so much trouble over in Los Angeles. Instead, his focus for Eisley is much more simple.

“I just hope he lives his dream really, like any parent should want for their kids, just to do what he wants to do and be successful and just keep the same character that he’s always had. It’s tough being placed in such a different situation, it’s easy to change at times because people are easily swayed, but I just want him to get the best out of his life really.”

Eisley Swaine in on Instagram @eisley8