Sarah Thomson, Caledonia Pride’s point guard, admits that she can’t quite believe the start her team has had to this season’s Women’s British Basketball League. A ninth-place finish out of ten teams in last year’s competition, in what was the Caledonia Pride’s inaugural season, meant that expectations were somewhat tempered going into their first fixture of the new season last weekend. And when the fixture list was released, revealing that the Scots were to take on the defending champions, Nottingham Wildcats, in their opening match, most observers were not overly optimistic.

However, Caledonia Pride came out all guns blazing and in one of the biggest shocks of recent years, defeated Nottingham Wildcats by 78-64, recording a convincing victory and giving themselves the best possible start to the season. “It was amazing to get such a good start – there had been a few nerves before the game because we’d had some injuries and illnesses in the lead-up but we managed to come good at the right time,” Thomson said. “It’s such a difference from last season. Last year, we had a quite a few games at the start of the season where we weren’t even able to compete – we were getting beaten by 30 or 40 points, which is tough to take. So to have had a start to the season like we did last weekend is brilliant. What I think is one of the most exciting things is being able to show everyone the difference in the team from last year – our victory last weekend was even sweeter because it showed just how much hard work we’ve put in over the summer.”

Things do not get any easier for Thomson and Caledonia Pride from here, though. Their second game of the season is this afternoon, with the Scots taking on Leicester Riders, in Leicester, and with the English team having finished in second place in the WBBL last season, Caledonia Pride will have to bring their best form once again if they are to record their second victory of the season. While Thomson is aware that she and her teammates must not become over-confident or complacent following their victory over last season’s champions, she is hopeful that the confidence the team has gleaned from last week’s performance will stand them in good stead over the coming weeks. “Last weekend was a great triumph but we want to build on that success and instil that culture where everyone works really hard so that we can continue improving,” the 21 year-old said. “In fact, the performance was even more encouraging than the result because you can train as hard as you like but if you don’t perform on the day then it doesn’t mean anything. So going forward, we’re feeling good. I’m not saying we’re going to win every game because there’s some major talent in the league but we’re going to compete well, that’s for sure.”

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There are a few factors which have contributed to Caledonia Pride being a far more adept outfit this season. The formation of the team, which was a significant step forward for women’s basketball in this country, was hugely positive but with a number of young players in their line-up, the team suffered from a lack of experience. However, the players have learnt from last year and with a number of new signings, Thomson is confident that her team is significantly better equipped this year round, and they are targeting a far higher finish in the league as a result. “Now that we’ve now had a whole year together, we’re a lot further down the line in our development,” she said. “I definitely think that we can finish mid-table or even higher which, compared to last year, would be a great improvement. It’s a huge motivator knowing that we can compete in every game, so that’s driving us on.”

The formation of Caledonia Pride, which is the first-ever professional women’s basketball team in this country, has also been significant for the advancement for women’s sport in Scotland and with the team’s home games at Oriam in Edinburgh being well supported, Thomson admits to being hugely excited about where basketball in this country is headed. “When I was younger, there was nothing like this in Scotland,” she said. “When I was a kid, if you wanted to play basketball, you had to go to America whereas we’re now showing that if you’re Scottish, you don’t need to go a million miles away from home to achieve something and it’s great to be a part of that. So I’m so excited to think what we could do in a few years time when it’s only taken us 12 months to get to this point.”