A BASKETBALL ace who helped Great Britain to their first ever promotion to the European elite is preparing to take up a scholarship in America.
Kristie Shiels, of Little Sutton, is preparing to move from her home in Bebington Road to Florida having recently secured her place in the annals of British basketball history.
Great Britain’s women’s under 20s team has always played in Division B of the annual FIBA European Championships. But this year in Macedonia they surprised everyone by winning gold and promotion to Division A.
“It was a shock,” said Kristie, a former Ellesmere Port Catholic High pupil. “Usually Britain lose most of their games and are never in contention so it was like, ‘oh, we’ve reached the quarter-finals’, then ‘I can’t believe it, we’re in the semi-finals’.”
“By the time we got to the final against Slovakia we were just going for it because we never thought we would get there.”
They narrowly clinched the final 47-46 and Kristie, who made three of her four three-point attempts, returned home with a gold medal.
“It was unbelievable,” she said. “Particularly for me as I had the added pressure of trying to sort out my move to the States.”
Kristie got into basketball at Catholic High, when her netball coach Mrs Lodge suggested she see basketball coach Mike Burton about switching sports.
“I was 14 and had never seen a basketball match in my life, never mind played it,” said Kristie. “But I just took to it and Mike sent me over to the Ellesmere Port Panthers (now the Cheshire Jets Juniors) to develop my game.”
Having played for Leeds Carnegie University last year Kristie decided to apply for a basketball scholarship at a US college for 2011-12. But having made enquiries a space came up this year at short notice and the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of sorting out visas, filling in forms and preparing for the move to Palm Beach State Junior College, Florida.
Kristie also had help from Jennifer Leedham, another Ellesmere Port girl who went to America on a basketball scholarship. She is assistant coach at Franklin Pierce College and the sister of GB international Johannah Leedham.
“I have had a lot of help and advice,” said Kristie. “It is a really big move. I’m just glad I can go over there with some silverware to back up my abilities.”