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, her family and members of the Gonzaga staff (Photo: Gonzaga University)
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.
Esther captained the U18 Ipswich Women's team to victory in the National Cup Final in early 2020
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.