Jo Leedham has completed a remarkable clean sweep by winning the Molten WBBL Player-of-the-Year award for 2021-22,
Leedham had already won the Basketball Journalists Association award and having been named to the all-WBBL, defensive and British teams of the year, and was voted top by all 12 head coaches in the rest of the league. She was the player who featured by far the most frequently in the weekly WBBL All-Star 5, doing so on 11 occasions as the only player in double-figures and four clear of anyone else.
It is the first time that a London player has won the award, adding to an historic season of firsts for the club with it also being the first time they had won the WBBL Championship and WBBL Cup, as well as representing the country on the continent by reaching the knockout stages of the FIBA EuroCup Women, which included a famous victory over French powerhouse Tango Bourges, the eventual winners and Leedham’s former club.
Lions’ coach Mark Clark had praise for Leedham:
“Jo has taken our group forward three years in this season our culture, our expectations of each other” he said.
“The MVP is not only your best player but she makes everyone around her better Jo has demonstrated to the whole of British Basketball how to go to work every day. It’s been fun and a privilege to work with her.I said in commentary once covering GB women that great things happen when Jo Leedham touches the ball. That’s happened every day this season.”
Leeham is the first British player to win this award since the WBBL’s inaugural season in 2014-15 when it was won by former Great Britain international Stephanie Gandy of Sheffield Hatters. In her customary all-action style, her name is all over the WBBL leaderboards after she averaged 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals per game in the WBBL Championship, ranking first in the league in steals, first in field goal percentage (56%), second in three-point percentage (43%) and tenth in overall scoring.
That included four regular season double-doubles while averaging just under 26 minutes per game, with a near triple-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a March victory over Durham Palatinates, while she recently had 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals against the same opponent in the Play-off quarter-finals. She had a season-high 27 points against Sheffield Hatters in the WBBL Cup quarter-final, 12 rebounds in a league win over Nottingham Wildcats in which she also had her season-high of seven steals, and 10 assists against Sevenoaks to end the regular campaign.
Perhaps her most iconic moment, a play of the year contender came in the WBBL Trophy final as she threw herself to the floor to grab a loose ball and assist a teammate with a pass over the back of her head, among 14 points, six rebounds and six assists in that game. She also had a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds in the BBL Cup Final victory over Newcastle Eagles.
Predictably, Leedham had praise for her team-mates as they prepare for Sunday’s Play-off final against Sevenoaks Suns:
“I'm super proud of our team. When we put this group together people obviously had their expectations and opinions, but what I’ve been so proud of is how we’ve grown and played every game at our absolute best level” she said.
“We’ve not cruised or taken it easy in any game, we’ve given our best every night and respected every team because they all deserve to face us at our best and fans of the league deserve to see us at our best. We’ve played hard in every game and taken huge strides. What we’ve done this year has certainly helped put British Basketball on the map in Europe. I’ve spoken to a lot of former teammates and people I know in the game in Europe and they’ve all said ‘you guys are pretty good’ with a tone of surprise in their voice, in a good way!"
“We’re trying to show that women’s Basketball is here in Britain and that we are moving in the right direction. We have great young players coming through, we have established talent all over the world, and we want to inspire other young girls that they can do this and be like us.”