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Esther Little accepts full scholarship to play US college basketball at Gonzaga

Ixworth’s Esther Little has accepted an offer to continue her budding basketball career at a top US university.

Little, a former Thurston Community College pupil, has selected Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington and is set to attend on a full scholarship from September 2021.

Gonzaga are considered one of the best college basketball teams in the world, with the men’s team ranked second and the women’s team 13th.

Esther Little has been an important part of the Ipswich squad since she was 13 years old
Esther Little has been an important part of the Ipswich squad since she was 13 years old

The college competes in the West Coast Conference in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the highest level of intercollegiate athletics.

The 18-year-old said interest from US colleges had begun when she was in Year 10, three years ago, with ‘around 100’ universities reaching out to the talented youngster since.

Little, who was a vital part of Ipswich Women’s historic treble winning team in 2017/18, winning the National League, Playoffs and Cup, said: “It doesn’t feel real yet, it’s been such a long process. And it’s been a really hard decision.

“My dad and Nick (Drane, head coach) have been really good about controlling who I talked to so it hasn’t been too much to handle, you build relationships with those you talk to.

“You have to consider so many factors but as soon as I spoke to Gonzaga I knew it was going to take something special to beat them.

“I just got a feeling and I’m really happy with my decision.

“In the basketball community, if you’ve missed them, there’s something wrong.

“They are very good.”

Little – who has also played for Team GB at both U16 and U18 level – added that she has decided to defer her entry for a year, having originally been classed as 2020/21.

She said: “I have been at Ipswich since I was 13 and played basketball with the same girls for most of that time, so I just want to make sure I’m ready for it.

“I feel like that extra year is going to be the difference between being ready and succeeding, and not being ready and not enjoying it.”

She added that brother Isaac had given his seal of approval, something ‘really important’ to her.