Ipswich and Great Britain forward Esther Little has verbally committed to Gonzaga University. The class of 2021 athletic wing has been heavily recruited by a number of high performing D1 School’s and has chosen Gonzaga after a long recruitment process, having received multiple offers from big name D1 programmes.
Gonzaga, who are currently 13th in the NCAA Division One rankings, were once again the West Coast Conference (WCC) Champions in the 2019/2020 season, finishing with a 28-3 record, and are expected to continue to be a powerhouse programme in the WCC in the coming seasons. This means Little is likely to have the opportunity to play a part in the NCAA tournament, as part of a top programme, as she continues to add to her impressive resume.
The 6’2 forward has well over fifty junior international caps to her name, and has set records on the international stage for rebounds both in a single tournament (u18 Women in 2019) and total rebounds by a GB junior women’s international. Her club career includes multiple trips to final fours and junior national titles as well as establishing herself as a major contributor at senior women’s level, at the age of just sixteen, helping Ipswich to a historic treble in 2018 as a starter on the team that completed an undefeated 23-0 season.
Esther is currently in year two, of a three-year programme at Ipswich Basketball Academy (IBA) based at Copleston High School & Sixth Form, one of the leading academies as part of the England Development Programme (EDP). During her time with the academy so far, she has led the team to the WEABL Semi-Final in 2018/2019 (losing to eventual champions Charnwood College), with the team going one better in 2019/2020 reaching the final against City of London Academy (which has been postponed, and is expected to be played later in the academic year). In February Esther captained Ipswich to National Cup success, in a 60-57 victory over Reading Rockets.
In 2018/2019 the Ipswich youngster was named as WEABL South Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and was named to the WEABL All First Team, after leading the conference in scoring (19.8) rebounding (12.7) and assists (5.7). Her 19/20 season started on the sidelines, with a fractured foot keeping her out of action until the new year. On her return Little has again put up eye-popping numbers of 15.5 points per game, 19.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists. Although she did not complete enough games to qualify for the WEABL end of season awards, it is clear that she Ipswich star would have been a frontrunner for league MVP.
The 18-year-old had this to say about her commitment to Gonzaga: “I’m so excited to finally announce my commitment to the University of Gonzaga and become part of the Zags family. I was fortunate enough to receive a number of offers from several Division One schools, but from the start, Gonzaga were top of my list, and after visiting last September, I absolutely fell in love with everything about the programme. The facilities are amazing, but every College has amazing facilities. It was their culture, their staff and the sense of family that made them stand out for me – coming from Ipswich, we have those same values, so to be honest, from the moment I visited, it was going to take something incredible to sway me”.
Ipswich Head Coach Nick Drane said “The recruitment process has been a really fascinating for Esther. I’ve been fortunate enough to go through the process with a number of our players, male and female, but Esther’s recruitment has been on another level – we have had communication literally every day for well over a year, from nearly a hundred different schools of varying levels, so narrowing it down and getting it to a manageable number for Esther to build a relationship with has been exciting, overwhelming and an amazing experience, both for Esther, her father Matt and myself as her coach. As always, she has conducted herself in an incredibly professional manor, dealing with the attention, pressure and stress of making such a big decision with her usual class”. Drane added “Esther will be in amazing hands with Coach Lisa Fortier and her amazing staff at Gonzaga, who have been an absolute privilege to get to know during this process”.
Esther added “I can’t wait to get started at Gonzaga, working with such an amazing group of players and staff, led by Coach Fortier – who I had an instant connection with. But I also want to enjoy my final season with Ipswich one more season’s playing with the girls I have grown up with. Especially with the way it looks like this season in going to end, I want us to go out the right way, and leave our mark. I can’t really put into words what Ipswich means to me. The club represents way more than just basketball to me and my family. Gonzaga has that same people first, family culture and I can’t wait to start this next chapter”. Esther saved her biggest thank you for her father “I must also give a special mention to my Dad, who has been so supportive through this process. He’s an absolute rock for me, as well as my brother and sister. This wouldn’t be possible without him”.
Esther will play her final season with Ipswich in 2020/21, the programme that she has been so immersed in since she started playing the sport at just eleven. Especially given the uncertainty around the end of the 19/20 season, the young star will be looking to finish this chapter of her playing career with a bang, before she heads to play at one of the best and most respected university programmes in the NCAA.
A personal message from Esther:
It’s been one heck of a journey. None of this would have been possible without my family, my teammates or my coaches who have been by my side through not just the recruitment process but my whole journey. From the first day I picked up a basketball to the day my dream came true, committing to play the game I love at the next level in America at Gonzaga. The belief and confidence they have given me is something which will never be overlooked. The guidance, not just through basketball but everyday life will never be forgotten.
The biggest thank you goes out to my Dad, my absolute rock and my number one fan. You’ve sacrificed more than I can put into words which has allowed me to do what I love every day. You’ve stuck by me in the toughest times and always managed to get me through absolutely anything.
To my little brother Isaac & my big sister Bethany. You have travelled the country, the world to support me, to watch me represent multiple teams and have inspired me every day to work harder to be the best version of me I could be and for being my best friends all day every day.
To Nick, there aren’t enough words to show how grateful I am for all your support throughout my career. Nothing will be able to make up for the endless hours you’ve put into me as a player but more importantly a person. I never realized how much one person could truly change my life until you took me under your wing when I was going through the most difficult time in my life. You have provided me a family that has given me more than I could’ve ever dreamed of.
And finally, I need to say a special thank you to Hazz, my mentor. I am blessed to have you by my side every day, teaching me, supporting me and hyping me up through every little thing. You’ve truly become family, and I am beyond appreciative of every lesson you have taught me and for your continued guidance.
Ipswich basketball, from the bottom of my heart I just want to thank every person who has been with me along the way, you’ve taught me how to smile, cry, fight and love. But most importantly you’ve taught me how to live a life I love. I have been through so much adversity but none of that can overpower the memories I have made here in Ipswich with my teammates, coaches and fans here in Ipswich.
It’s been an unbelievable ride with you all, but we are far from done yet. With the season ending this way just gives us more grit and determination for what we can achieve in my final year. The best thing to come out of my time here is not the basketball, it’s not the awards, it’s the people and the memories… these will stick with me for a lifetime.