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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Susan Egelstaff

Basketball's McGarrachan shocks herself with GB return

If someone had told Erin McGarrachan a year ago that today she would be stepping on to the basketball court wearing a GB vest, she would have thought they were mad.

But sport’s a funny old world, and a year is a long time.

A decade ago, McGarrachan was Scotland’s top female basketball prospect. While still in her teens she had represented Scotland before moving across the pond to Texas to study, as well as hone her skills in the home of basketball.

By her early 20s, she had broken into the British set-up and represented GB in the 2015 Eurobasket tournament.

But not long after that appearance, McGarrachan suffered a serious ankle injury that called a halt to her professional basketball career.

Instead, she focused on her career in accountancy, accepting the fact her time at the top of her sport was behind her.

However, when the world began to open back up following the pandemic, McGarrachan got a call from the then-boss of Caledonia Pride – now Caledonia Gladiators – Scotland’s only female professional basketball team.

The Cumbernauld native was invited to join the squad for the second half of the season and while she accepted, she did so with few aspirations of rekindling her former status as a GB internationalist.

Except, to the surprise of everyone, including McGarrachan herself, her return has proved unbelievably successful.

This past season has seen the forward play a major role in Gladiators’ campaign in which they finished an impressive second in the WBBL, with the 31-year-old recording the best stats of her career and making it into the WBBL Team of the Year.

Her success has far exceeded her early-season expectations.

“Coming back, my mentality was very much what can I do to support the team and support the younger players – to provide support and experience if and where needed,” she says.

“I never thought about how well things were going. I was just taking it one game at a time and making sure the team could rely on me.

“So I didn’t have a certain moment where I thought this is going great, it was more just that we were building momentum and we wanted to see how far we could go. And it ended up turning out really well.”

McGarrachan’s accomplishments domestically, unsurprisingly, caught the eye of GB’s head coach Chema Buceta and last month she was called-up to GB’s 15-women training squad.

A run of impressive performances in international friendly matches was enough to earn McGarrachan selection in the final 12-woman squad for Eurobasket, which begins in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, today, alongside her fellow Scot, Hannah Robb.

Being back in GB colours, eight years after her previous appearance at Eurobasket has been an amazing experience.

“I’m really excited. If someone had asked me a year ago about the GB team, I’d have said no way, I retired from that a long time ago. So it’s quite surreal for me to be here,” she says.

“When I got the message that I was being invited to this GB camp, it totally took me by surprise. In my own head, I’d written it off a long time ago.

“So it was really flattering to get the call-up and then amazing to make the final team and now, I can’t wait to get started at Eurobasket.”

GB will open their campaign today against the hosts, Slovenia, before facing France tomorrow and Germany on Sunday.

With GB having failed to progress from their group in McGarrachan’s last appearance in the tournament, she is quick to stress that the squad have far higher aspirations this time around.

“My last time playing Eurobasket feels like a lifetime ago,” she says.

“We’ve got a really good group here so it’ll be interesting to see what we can do. We want to be in that top three. But taking it one step at a time, we firstly want to top our group and progress to the quarter-finals, which I don’t think is outwith our limits at all.”

With McGarrachan having forced herself back into international reckoning and the Olympic Games only a year away, is she now looking to make her Olympic debut at what would be age 32?

While McGarrachan’s experience prevents her from getting too far ahead of herself, the prospect of competing in Paris has crossed her mind.

“Having the Olympics round the corner is exciting and this whole experience with GB has gone well so far so we’ll see how we get on in Eurobasket and then it’ll be on to the next thing,” she says.

“It’s very easy to get carried away and I have to take age and stage into consideration. But I’m still so passionate about basketball and I’m loving being back in the GB team.

“So I’d always be up for throwing my hat in the ring for the Olympics.”

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