Interview: Rose Anderson, basketball player and Olympic hopeful
IN the last few seconds of a basketball game in Barcelona, Scotland’s junior team have a chance to win. The kid who has the last shot misses and tears and devastation ensue. That same summer, the same kid, on a personal mission, leads the side to a European Championship title, all while battling through shin splints and excruciating pain. Several years on, Team GB’s Rose Anderson still remembers the moment.
“That’s how I’ve got so far,” she said. “It’s one of the main reasons why I’ve made it to the GB team, because I do have passion. I’ve just always had it.”
There will be no weeping when the 24-year-old takes to the floor at the Olympic Basketball Arena next Saturday. The Great Britain guard, the sole Scot in the squad, admits to a past life as an occasional teenage tearaway.
“School wasn’t my thing,” she says. Sport, however, provided the channel to do much more than idle her life away.
Growing up in Edinburgh, there was a role model (of sorts) at close hand.
She once aspired to emulate her elder brother Kenny as a boxer after watching him claim gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. The pair, she acknowledges, share similar traits.
“He’s very feisty, very aggressive and very hearty as well. We’ve got a lot of similarities, athletics-wise. We’ve very competitive. I think it’s because we were raised in a mental family. You had to be competitive.”
A teacher at Portobello High School thought that such spirit might be channelled towards putting a ball through a hoop. That proved prescient but, says Anderson, the drive to make the game more than a hobby was nurtured around the kitchen table during frank talks with her mother, Amanda.
“She told me: ‘You know what, if you put your mind to it, you can do it and you can be the best – if you want to do it’,” recalls Anderson.
“She instilled so much confidence in me without being ridiculous. My parents, when we were youngsters, they didn’t come to every game. I was left to my own devices. But, when we did talk, they told me: ‘You know what you’re capable of.’ And it all comes from that, I never doubted myself.”
Self-discipline was required when Anderson was transplanted to Oklahoma in the USA for university, and the opportunity to play college basketball as well as broaden her mind.
“It gave me a second chance,” she states. “I got a degree. I’m probably the only person in my family who has one. So basketball hasn’t just taken me all over the world but it’s also furthered my education. It’s given me chances I wouldn’t have had.”
Hosting the Olympics has also given British basketball a platform it would not otherwise have enjoyed.
Awarded places as hosts, both the men’s and women’s teams have spent the past six years building steadily towards this moment.
While their male counterparts have acquired a certain profile due to the presence of NBA All Star Luol Deng of the world-famous Chicago Bulls, the women have toiled in relative obscurity. Results in the build-up to the Games suggest however that they might be an unexpected success story in London.
Much of the credit has gone to their Australian coach Tom Maher, who guided his native land to silver in their home Games in Sydney 12 years ago before embarking on stints with the teams of New Zealand and China. He is the perfect fit, Anderson says. As with her parents, his honesty has been a key to success.
“From experience, some coaches like to sugar coat stuff,” says Anderson. “He doesn’t sugar coat anything. He’s just straight to the point. He won’t pat you on the back if you’ve made two stupid fouls. He won’t give you a high five and sit you down on the bench. You’ll get your head chewed off. But everyone has so much respect for him. We want to do well for him and for all the staff.”
The perks for impressing Maher go beyond a place in the squad. A delicate negotiation process took place with London 2012 to ensure that Britain avoided an early start on the opening day, ensuring they will march in the opening ceremony as part of the final delegation to enter the Olympic Stadium.
“I’ve got a big smile on my face thinking about it,” Anderson admits. “I’ve watched it on telly but I’d never even dreamed of being there. So I’ve got no idea what it will be like. I just know it’s going to be so amazing. The Team GB kit we’ve got is so amazing. Just to have all those bags of stuff in our rooms. I’m so excited.”
The serious business begins the next day. Team GB’s preliminary group includes such luminaries as Russia and France, as well as their opening opponents Australia, who have taken two more Olympic silvers since Maher moved on. But such is the confidence that has been garnered in recent months that Anderson has no problem with speculative chatter about a medal tilt for the hosts.
“We always knew we could compete,” she says. “It’s just that now we’re getting those wins and people are seeing that we can compete.
“I don’t think any of us have ever had doubts in our minds about being good enough. We knew that we could rough up teams. And we’ve said from the start that’s what we’re here to do.”
Fighting talk, still.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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