County Upper School Basketball Academy star Lizzy Sanders signs for Washburn University to play for Ichabods' Lady Blues
Fresh off the back of her double national cup success with County Upper Basketball Academy, Lizzy Sanders is aiming for the stars after signing a fully paid US scholarship.
The 19-year-old is the first from this year’s last-year students at the Bury St Edmunds school's post-16 programme to get a deal over the line to take her talents across the Atlantic to combine with continuing her education.
With good interest coming through for her, the Barrow-based scoring machine – who plays stretch four – accepted the offer from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
In doing so she becomes the first of County Upper’s female students to sign with an NCAA Division 2 programme and the 43rd basketball player helped by head coach Darren Johnson to attain a roster spot on a US College team in 14 years.
While others have gone on to Division 1 colleges, which require students to stay on for summer schools, Johnson explained those opportunities have been much harder to come by since Covid-19 descended.
“To get this one, which is fully paid, is quite an achievement to be fair as a lot of people are not able to get scholarships,” he said.
“The colleges were granted an extra year with players due to Covid, so they are hanging on to their best players and scholarships are not being fed up.
“She had received interest from D1s and been talking to them but she might have had to wait longer for them.
“This school (Washburn) is one she went out and visited and they paid for her (fully) and she really liked it.
“They are a high D2 programme and have won a national championships in the past.”
Sanders will be flying out in mid August to join up with The Ichabods, as they are known, ahead of their 2022/23 campaign.
They are coached by Lora Westling, who was a standout member of the team that won the Lady Blues their first NCAA Division II national championship in 2005.
Last season the Ichabods finished with 11 wins and 11 losses in conference play and with a 14-14 overall record helping them to earn an MIAA Conference Tournament appearance. They eventually made it to the Elite 8 stages, losing to eventual MIAA finalists and National Tournament participant Missouri Southern State University.
Johnson said of the move: “This is fantastic news for Lizzy.
“She has come through our junior programme with the hope of one day attaining a scholarship to a US college. And through a long process she has finally found a school that she is looking forward to attending, and a school I feel she could really contribute to.
“Since joining our programme she has truly committed herself 100 per cent to reaching this goal so it is so rewarding to see Lizzy achieve it, as she deserves all the success she gets,” he added.
Sanders started her playing career at the age of nine under the guidance of Wynn Jones at Westley Middle School. She then joined the West Suffolk Wolves U14 team, progressing into the U16s side and helping them to win the Southeast Conference and reach the last eight of the National Tournament in both age groups.
Sanders’ talents led to her progressing through county and regional sides before represented the England U15 in the Copenhagen Invitational.
She also went on to attend the Great Britain U16 National Teams Camp before Covid hit and was also invited to the Great Britain U18 National Teams camp, but the pandemic meant it never happened.
Of her most recent season, Johnson, who will continue his coaching with West Suffolk Wolves once County Upper School Basketball Academy ceases at the end of the academic year, said: “Lizzy played on the West Suffolk Wolves NBL D2 Womans team making an instant impact in the league as she was recognised in the end of season accolades of being just one of five players making the NBL D2 Team of the year, leading all players in both the North and South NBL D2 women’s conferences in points per game.”
“She averaged 22.1ppg while also making it into the NBL D2 Womans record books with 41 points scored in a single game becoming only the third player in NBL D2 Womans history to do so.
“The leader of this record, with 44 points scored in a single game, is Harriet Welham who is also a past County Upper School student and Ipswich player.”