IT’S a whole new ball game and Paisley-born guard Robyn Lewis will embrace it for all it is worth as Caledonia Pride play their inaugural fixture in the Women’s British Basketball League this afternoon against Leicester Riders.

Its launch has been three years in the making, even since the WBBL was established to sit alongside the established men’s top tier with a mission to raise standards and provide a platform where homegrown talents might showcase their wares. Glasgow Rocks pondered an application to join but opted out. Instead it is basketballscotland, the governing body, who have forged an entrant that will try to attract an audience that the pre-existing amateur set-up could never reach.

“This all means a lot,” says Lewis, who was lured back from Leicester to become a cornerstone of this start-up enterprise. “Just in terms of being the first women’s professional team in Scotland, being role models for younger girls. That’s massive. I didn’t have that personally when I was growing up. I had to go away and look for other options to play at a higher level. This is something really positive to have.”

Financed with the aid of seed funding from sportscotland, the Pride have the duel purpose of drawing a crowd to their home at the Oriam Centre while better preparing Scottish players for the international stage. In recent times, Scotland have punched well above their weight within the Great Britain teams. Out of sight has been occasionally out of mind and being on regular show will better allow those with ambition to make their case.

Lewis, capped at Under-20 level, will be among those hoping to profit from the opportunity. As the Pride’s playmaker, she feels a responsibility to ensure the side is not overwhelmed upon arrival.

“My old coach in Leicester worked a lot individually on my game,” she says. “The first year I was there was so skills-specific. I couldn’t really do the basic things that the other girls knew. But in my last year, he was telling me: ‘It’s not so much skills now, it’s the leadership we want you to develop.’ That’s been huge for me, in this training environment, being able to show others what they need to do. I’m not the young one any more. I have to show a lead.”

Even with two American imports acquired to lend a hand, plus the expertise of Dutch coach Bart Sengers, the target of being competitive in season one is modest. Yet to accomplish even those, Lewis admits, Caledonia must play to their strengths and hope weaknesses shrink with time. “Because,” she adds, “it is a tough league and it’s improving every year.”