By Jamie Thomas
They were one of a fantastic 2020/21 WBBL season’s biggest surprise packages, but the Essex Rebels aren’t finished there according to their star guard, Andrea Kohlhaas, who is looking forward to another year of growth and excitement for Tom Sadler’s side as the new campaign nears.
Securing some fantastic results and amazing highlights in an historic campaign, Kohlhaas and the Rebels showed they could compete with the best of the WBBL last year, and the 24-year-old revealed how this past summer has been a time for reflection and looking forward.
“We always knew from the get-go last season that we could compete with anybody in the WBBL if we showed what we were capable of on the court, staying on top of our game and putting in a performance for the full 40 minutes.
“I definitely think we showed what we could do in May Madness, because aside from a crazy two minutes and little things here and there, we gave London Lions a tough match, but against teams that good you can’t give them a chance like we did in that second quarter if you want to beat them.
“I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on and appreciate just how good we were last year – I don’t think we really appreciated or realised what we were capable of. I think we were just so happy to even be playing, given everything that happened in the world, and we just felt really lucky to be playing.
”The main reason I’ve come back is to help the team grow, develop and reach another level with the aim of winning this club a trophy, but I don’t think I could put it into words what it would mean for everybody at Essex to achieve that.”
“We all know that we can compete for silverware.”
There were many moments throughout last season where the Rebels showed their mettle, but what stood out the most was the team’s bond on the floor and the enjoyment they took out of being in each other’s company.
Kohlhaas detailed that bond and why the team even surprised themselves through the year.
“As a group I think we complete each other, we complement each other so well and we just had so much fun every night. I don’t think any of us, nor anybody else in the league to be honest, expected us to be as good as we were, and we’re excited to see what we can do this year.
“People can expect a lot of fun watching us, for sure, we have a lot of different threats in various positions and we’ll offer really exciting basketball to watch every single night. We all know that we can compete for silverware this year.
“I’m so excited for that first game back and I think at first it is going to be weird to see people in the stands again, but the club has done a lot to grow the community we have in the area supporting the club
“Our success is going to be about team chemistry.”
A number of key players returning has certainly been welcomed by the Rebels community, but one in particular that many speculated would mean a lot to the San Jose State University graduate is return of her fellow ‘Splash Sister’, Ashleigh Munns, and Kohlhaas discussed the value of the former Sevenoaks Sun to the team, as well as the importance of the team’s chemistry this term.
“Ashleigh is a complete player, she is a huge offensive threat but a very good defender and showed that against Cassie Breen a few times last year. She brings such good leadership to the team, has a lot of experience in this league and knows what it takes to win at this level.
“Having her helps us tremendously, she’s very communicative, all about the team and she’s so important to the team it’s crazy. She’s a competitor through-and-through and we’re both three-point shooters so we clicked quite early, I had a lot of fun with her and she’s so consistent so I always wanted to beat her in shooting drills, and she’s motivated me a lot, for sure.
“At the end of the day, I think our success is going to be about team chemistry again this year, and Ashleigh is a big part of that. Newcastle in the playoffs last year were a prime example of how important that chemistry is, that Cinderella story was a lot to do with chemistry, and we have that too so we won’t be afraid of anybody, we’re just really excited to play and anything is possible.”
“I feel really lucky that Tom took a shot on me.”
As the Rebels have developed and thrived since their arrival in the WBBL, their third-year guard has done the same, and she is clearly excited about the future for herself and the club as well.
“I feel like as this club has grown, I’ve grown with it. I feel really lucky and blessed to be a part of this family and to be able to see from my first year into my second year what jump I made as a player, but also the club as a whole, and again going into my third year now.
“The club has big plans, and it is so special to be here and be a part of it and I feel really lucky that Tom (Sadler) took a shot on me when he did and brought me here because I’ve loved every minute of it.
“We have exciting plans for the future with some great people behind the scenes putting their heart and soul into this programme, and I don’t want to give too much away about what we have in store but it’ll definitely be an exciting journey to watch.”