Holly Winterburn of Leicester Riders has been awarded the Molten WBBL Young Player of the Year award for the third time already in her career, and third completed season in a row, at just 20 years of age.
The Northampton-native progressed through the Riders’ set-up at Charnwood College, being named MVP of the Women’s Elite Academy Basketball League in 2018-19 alongside playing in the WBBL, and spent last season at the powerhouse University of Oregon in the formidable Pac-12 Conference with a season-high of 17 points against South Dakota.
Returning to Leicester this season, the award has further significance as she took on the captaincy of the team following the departure of Kate Oliver in February. Riders went 12-4 with Winterburn as captain, finishing second in the WBBL Championship and pushing champions Sevenoaks Suns all the way as they beat them and the other team in the top three, London Lions, in consecutive days at the end of April to maintain a title challenge.
Winterburn had her season-high of 36 points in that clash with London, a critical 84-80 victory in their penultimate game that secured second place, as she shot 12-17 (70%) from the floor and made all eight of her free-throws, including 10 points in the fourth quarter as Leicester came from behind.
Overall, she averaged 15 points per game on 36% three-point shooting, and was third in the WBBL for assists per game (6.2), sixth in steals (2.1), ninth in defensive rebounds (6.1) and tenth in fouls drawn as she proved to be a match-up nightmare for opponents all season. She had a single-game high of 12 assists against Sevenoaks, and 13 rebounds twice, with a best effort of 5-8 (63%) three-pointers against Durham Palatinates.
Her assist and rebound numbers are highs in her young career as she continues to develop her all-around game, as was her three-point percentage which has improved year-on-year and continued to do so on the other side of the Atlantic.
Winterburn has already been elected to the Molten WBBL All-British Team of the Year and the Molten WBBL Team of the Year this week, and was second only to Kennedy Leonard in weekly WBBL All-Star 5 appearances over the campaign, featuring nine times.
More significantly than that array of awards, in February she lifted the WBBL Cup at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester with a near-MVP performance as she was close to a triple-double with 16 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in a 78-67 defeat of their season-long rivals Sevenoaks.
In her fifth WBBL campaign already, having made her debut in 2015-16, she adds this year’s haul of accolades to a burgeoning trophy cabinet as a two-time WBBL Trophy winner in 2018-19 and 2017-18.
The award is voted for by WBBL Head Coaches, who pick their top three candidates, and it was tightly contested after a highly competitive WBBL season. Winterburn was selected in first place by five coaches and second by one other, just edging out Sian Phillips of Caledonia Pride who had three first place selections.
Molten WBBL Young Player of the Year Recipients:
2019-20 – N/A
2018-19 – Holly Winterburn (Leicester Riders)
2017-18 – Holly Winterburn (Leicester Riders)
2016-17 – Gabby Nikitinaite (Sevenoaks Suns)
2015-16 – Georgia Gayle (Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters)
2014-15 – Savanna Wilkinson (Barking Abbey Crusaders)