BASKETBALL-MAD Rachael Bland has fulfilled a childhood dream after accepting an offer to play for a university in Canada.
The 21-year-old, from Lambton, Washington, has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks since taking up the game six years ago.
Rachael was at Oxclose Community School when her hoop dreams began and she will now represent the Lakehead University Thunderwolves, in Ontario.
Playing sport abroad has long been an ambition of Rachael’s, even in her earlier days as a young footballer.
She achieved her goal after sending tapes of herself playing for Leeds Carnegie, whom she has represented for the last two years, to Lakehead University in the hope of being recruited.
Jon Kreiner, Rachael’s new coach in Canada, is delighted to have her on board and said: “Rachael has done a lot already in her great basketball career and we are thrilled that she will bring that experience to Lakehead University.”
Since shooting her first free throw, Rachael has notched an impressive series of achievements in the game, often holding her own with the boys too.
She was a part of the boys’ team from Oxclose School who won the Sunderland Schools Basketball final at the Metro Radio Arena in 2007 before going on to captain the men’s second 11 at TyneMet College.
Picked up by the Newcastle Eagles organisation while still at school, it was clear from early on the Rachael was talented.
She said: “I could see myself picking up techniques quicker than others and that was a good incentive to keep going and learning. You never stop learning in the game of basketball.”
There have been many people involved in that learning process and Rachael paid tribute to her coach at TyneMet, Marc Steutel, as well as the “great group of girls” on her team in Leeds, whom she says she will miss.
Rachael has wasted no time in setting new targets to aim for while across the pond.
“My physique is not great for the WNBA (the professional women’s basketball league in the United States) but I hope one day I can be considered for the Great Britain squad,” she said.