By Jamie Thomas
We’re approaching the end of a superb WBBL season that many thought might never take place – including one of the league’s sharpest shooters, Sevenoaks Suns star guard Renee Busch. Ahead of the showpiece finale that is the Playoffs, the GB International reflected on how the last 12 months reinforced her love for the game and using her platform to inspire others.
Taking pride of place on the back of Busch’s jersey are the words ‘Use your Voice’, and the 28-year-old has certainly used hers in the last year to share training videos of herself, a high-level professional, on social media going back to basics with some fun drills in her back garden, which strengthened her love for the game in the toughest of years, and surely inspired others too.
“When everything stopped everybody had to re-evaluate, I think, at whatever level you’re involved with basketball.” Busch explained. “For me I was very much asking why do I play, what do I enjoy about it – because I was confused for a time wondering why I was training if there was going to be no season.
“Then I had a realisation that I am still that little girl inside who loves to go out to the backyard and shoot some hoops, so that’s what I started doing again and you realise you love it, that you can improve with resources out there, and I thought it might inspire the young girls I coach, too.
“Using your platform is so important, and it is something I’ve become more aware of in the last year, which is actually what I put on my jersey to remind myself. It is important to see people that look like you and realise you can do it too, sharing positive things, what you love and especially in these days when social media is all that you have – I know it has helped me a lot and inspired me too.”
“It has been a wild ride, but we’re so grateful to be here now.”
Perennial winners of the WBBL Playoffs over recent years, the Suns have won the last three iterations of the competition and head into the post-season off the back of another strong Championship campaign, after a very entertaining three-way battle at the top of the standings with Leicester Riders and BA London Lions.
The Suns haven’t lost in the playoffs for five years, last tasting defeat in the 2015/16 season semi-finals, and Busch detailed her feelings regarding the playoff challenge that lays ahead.
“I feel like we enjoy the whole thing and a lot of it is because of the time we have getting to know each other. This is always a fun time of the year, but it is strange this time because we had such a long time off over the winter, so we’re just super grateful to be here and having a lot of fun.
“We have a lot of returning players, but there are always new faces and new pieces to the puzzle, so figuring out how we work takes some time and get to a point where we’re flowing and really improving, but we’re there now and we’re very excited for the playoffs.
“It feels like we’ve had three different seasons in one, so it has been strange and difficult for all of us, and for me on a personal level I definitely had my ups and downs. It has been a wild ride, but we’re so grateful to be here now.”
“We know who we are and what we can do.”
Whilst it has certainly been a more turbulent year for the Suns – owing to the pandemic, in particular, and some stints of self-isolation for the team – they certainly got back to their usual selves once they got a regular run of games under their belt.
Going into the playoffs with a hectic schedule, 28-year-old Busch detailed what it was like watching other teams steal a march in the standings whilst the Suns were out of action, how tough it has been to catch up in recent weeks, and her pride in the team’s growth over the years.
“It was interesting whilst we weren’t playing and we were so far behind in terms of games played, we saw the power rankings and things come out and we weren’t on the radar so naturally we were thinking ‘ok, are people forgetting about us?’ but we know who we are and what we can do.
“The last few weeks have definitely been different and taxing. Our prep time has been so much shorter, but I think it has also been great for us because that game experience is so valuable compared to us just practising, and it has brought us closer together, so it has been really tough but fun.
“I am someone who forgets to look back on things, to be honest, but I can’t believe it is my fifth season here and how far we’ve come in that time in terms of the level of play, our professionalism as a group, how much the whole league has developed – I’m very proud of our journey.”
“We’ve appreciated our time together so much more.”
The continuity and consistency of the Suns roster is certainly going to be one of their biggest strengths going into the post-season, where they’ll face stern challengers who want to wrestle away the playoff crown they currently hold, but Busch delved deeper into the side’s qualities that’ll stand them in good stead, and why those qualities have only been strengthened in a pandemic season.
“Everything that has gone on has certainly heightened that sense of togetherness for us, because although we haven’t been able to hang out together as much off the court, we’ve appreciated our time training together, our time spent together during warm-ups and all of that even more.
“We’ll do whatever it takes for the team – we’re very unselfish, very focussed and all on the same page and we want to do well for each other. Whenever I feel upset during a game, it’s because I don’t want to let my teammates down. I couldn’t care less about my own stats, but I want to be great for the people in this group.
“I think even if you had some foresight for what was to come from the world just over a year ago, nobody could have imagined just how they were going to feel and cope with each step of the way.
“For me personally, there were certainly a lot of times where I thought there was no chance we were going to be back playing for this season, but then obviously there were glimpses of hope and it’s amazing that we’re now all back playing and about the have playoffs.”