ELLESMERE Port star Jo Leedham will continue her preparations for London 2012 this evening – with a clash against the best women’s basketball team in the world.
Leedham and her Great Britain team-mates face reigning Olympic gold medallists the United States in their last warm-up match before the Games get under way in nine days’ time.
Team GB will be firm underdogs for the eagerly awaited encounter at the Manchester Arena. But they will have been buoyed by their superb victory over France on Sunday.
Leedham, 24, top scored as Britain recorded a stunning 74-67 success over a French side ranked eighth in the world.
The result delighted Leedham’s basketball-mad family.
Her parents, Kim and Sue, and sisters Jennifer and Kirsty, will be in Manchester this evening and in London during the Olympics to support the former Catholic High School student.
Dad Kim said: “It is a very exciting time. It was a great result to beat France and a great all-round team performance.
“Johannah is confident but says the team just have to keep on doing the basics – diving on loose balls, working hard for each other, rotating round and double- teaming – and not get carried away.
“If they can all stay healthy and avoid injury they can do well.”
Britain are 49th in the current International Basketball Federation women’s standings and will be the lowest-ranked team in action at the Games.
But they showed at the weekend they have what it takes to compete with the best by finishing second at the Standard Life Game On 2012 tournament in Sheffield.
Leedham scored 12 points in a 74-57 win over AfroBasket champions Angola and then netted 23 in the triumph over France.
But the 5ft 11in guard, who was named her team’s MVP, could not stop Britain from going down 87-63 to tournament winners and Olympic group rivals Australia, who are ranked the second best team in the world.
Leedham said: “They’re monstrous. But for us to be able to play a team like that, when we have to play them again, it’s great for us to get our feet wet and great preparation.”
Leedham knows several of the Australian players after playing her club basketball for Bulleen Boomers in Melbourne last season.
Her career started at Ellesmere Port Panthers after being introduced to the sport by her big sister Jennifer, who is the head coach of the Franklin Pierce University women’s team in New Hampshire in America.
The youngest of the Leedham sisters, Kirsty, is a former England and Great Britain junior international, while dad Kim is chairman of the Ellesmere Port-based Cheshire Juniors Basketball Club.