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JOSH WARD-HIBBERT believes there is an "electricity" now to English basketball after the country's Commonwealth Games heroics.

The London Lions star, 28, believes the men's gold and the women's silver medals in the 3x3 event has helped the country become even closer to a "great basketball nation".

4Joshua Ward-Hibbert believes there the future is bright for English basketball after the Commonwealth Games heroics 4He was recently called into the Great Britain 3x3 squad - but did not feature in Birmingham

England historically won the Commonwealth Games' first gold in men's 3x3 basketball when Myles Hesson's overtime buzzer-beater sealed a 17-16 win over Australia.

But it was heartbreak at the buzzer for England's women as they took a silver medal after a 14-13 loss to Canada.

Ward-Hibbert said: "There’s electricity in British basketball right now. From top to bottom.

"From the level we have some of our seniors playing at, to the national team continuing to collect big scalps.

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"Our youngers coming through are stronger and stronger and now a gold and silver at the Commonwealth Games.

"This was another piece to an incredible journey British basketball is on.

"The men’s and women’s team both played and fought so hard. Everyone is super proud of them.

"And thanks to the players and the coaching staff all involved, they laid another steppingstone for British basketball to edge closer to becoming a great basketball nation."

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Ward-Hibbert was actually once destined for tennis stardom, making waves with a record 133mph serve as a junior at Wimbledon and winning an Australian Open Boys' doubles title.

It was the fastest serve ever recorded by a junior at Wimbledon, and he then partnered Liam Broady to the 2012 Australian Open Boys' doubles title a few months later.

But at age 22 he made the difficult decision to turn his back on tennis and switch to basketball.

Now he's a professional star and was recently called into the Great Britain 3x3 squad - but did not feature at the Commonwealth Games.

He said: "I found the decision super hard even though tennis took the front seat in a lot of my decisions I loved basketball.

"If someone asked me 'would I love to play at Centre Court at Wimbledon?' of course I would.

"But at the same time I'd love to play a (basketball) World Cup final. I just go down to the likes of Wimbledon now as a cheerleader to support my guys."

Ward-Hibbert's basketball journey kicked off at the Derby Trailblazers before he bagged a professional contract with the Leicester Riders.

He was involved in three BBL play-off wins during his four-years at Leicester.

Ahead of the 2020 season, he moved to the London Lions, helping them to the play-off final where their season ended with an heartbreaking defeat to the Newcastle Eagles.

He said: "I really want to play for Great Britain or England. Representing the country at that level would be a huge achievement. It's such an honour.

"I'm putting myself in the best position to do that. I know I've got the ability to be playing internationally.

"Playing in European competitions against some of the best teams has been big for me being able to contribute.

"Confidence wise that was a big step for me to say as a British player that I contributed, because a lot of teams have American imports.

"That's something I'll hold for a long time."

News Source: the-sun.com

Tags: basketball commonwealth games tennis wimbledon doubles title at the commonwealth games open boys’ doubles a professional love to play to basketball stronger to the play the country to becoming

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San Francisco 49ers | 49ers vs. Saints: Five keys to winning fourth straight game, avoiding trap door

SANTA CLARA – Definition of a trap game in the NFL:

1. Play on a short week of preparation, such as on a Sunday following a Monday night road game.

2. Jetlag after extensive travel, such as training in Colorado’s high altitude for a week before crossing international borders to look marvelous in Mexico.

3. Face an inferior, desperate opponent as a warmup act before stronger challengers arrive to dictate a playoff path.

The 49ers (6-4) qualify for that perfect storm. A three-game win streak has stroked their ego in what’s been an emotional and physical stretch ahead of Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints (4-7).

A 38-10 rout of the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City has the 49ers feeling like world-beaters. Sunday, they just have to beat the Saints, and whatever mental and physical hangovers exist from this past week’s travel and Thanksgiving festivities:

“New Orleans is a very good team. I don’t have to make that up,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You just have to turn the tape on and watch it. But it was a lot of energy last week, you have to be aware of that.”

Here are five keys to the 49ers winning to launch a three-game homestand, which brings in the Saints, the Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before an NFC West showdown at Seattle:

5. TWO-QB ROTATION?

Andy Dalton is 3-5 overall – 0-2 on the road — since assuming the Saints’ starting quarterback role from an injured Jameis Winson, and Dalton is coming off his best game of the season: 21-of-25 for 260 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Before that 27-20 win over the Rams, coach Dennis Allen pondered a quarterback switch. The 49ers could be pondering the same, at least in terms of Dalton rotating with Taysom Hill, whose rushing ability and passing cameos date back to his time as Drew Brees’ potential heir apparent.

“We’ve played them before, and whenever Taysom is in there, we have to be ready for what he brings to the table,” Nick Bosa said.

Hill played a bit role (five carries, 13 yards; no pass attempts) in the 49ers’ 2019 win at New Orleans, but he ran for 45 yards (eight carries; one fumble) in a 2020 Saints win at home.

Simply, the 49ers must be on alert for Hill’s rushing ability, but be more prepared for Dalton’s quick throws to Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry). Dalton reportedly was on the 49ers’ radar in free agency before the Saints hired him (rather than trade for Garoppolo).

4. STOPPING THE RUN

All three of Alvin Kamara’s touchdowns this season came in one game – a 24-0 shutout of the Raiders. He’s run for over 100 yards in only one game. He missed Thursday’s practice with an illness.

It bodes well for the 49ers if Kamara is not in the playmaking form that’s made him a perennial Pro Bowler since 2017. Mark Ingram has missed the past three games with a knee sprain, but he returned to practice this week, and the Saints’ rushing attack could use his boost.

However, the 49ers’ run defense is the NFL’s best, allowing just 81.1 yards per game and just 3.37 per carry. They’ve also allowed the NFL’s fewest rushing first downs (47 in 10 games).

“We have to stop the run if we want any success,” Bosa added of this (and almost every) game plan.

The 49ers have stopped their opponents from scoring after halftime in each of the past three games. That strategy has served them well, too.

3. KEEP EATING

In a conversation about Bosa this week, Aiyuk noted: “It’s a tough standard when you’re great.” Speaking of, Aiyuk is amid the greatest stretch of his three-year career. “Trying to get there,” added Aiyuk, whose two touchdown catches Monday night raised his season total to a career-best six.

Tight end George Kittle also had two touchdown catches to declare at customs upon returning from Mexico. With Deebo Samuel limited in this week’s light practices because of a hamstring issue — he’s listed as questionable this game — the 49ers’ passing attack could lean more on its red-hot targets in Aiyuk and Kittle, not to mention Christian McCaffrey, who caught all seven of his targets Monday night.

Whoever Jimmy Garoppolo is aiming at, his trust factor seems at an all-time high, and reflecting that is a 104.1 passer rating that is better than any of his previous season-ending marks as the 49ers’ starter. He can count on Aiyuk, Kittle, Samuel, McCaffrey and so many more, such as Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud and Kittle’s understudies at tight end.

2. RUN-FIRST OFFENSE?

Elijah Mitchell is averaging 5.5 yards per carry in his two games since a Week 1 knee sprain. Only one of his 27 carries has headed wide around the edge, showcasing his vision up the middle rather than the speed that made him the team’s 2021 leading rusher.

Such production has worked in instant harmony with McCaffrey. That’s good. What could the Saints do to make things bad?

“Their linebackers are tough, strong and come downhill fast in the run game,” center Jake Brendel said. “They’ve had some injuries but they’re coming back now. That defense plays very gap sound. We have to be on point and do our job to get some yards.”

The Saints are allowing 132.1 rushing yards per game, ranking just 23rd-best in the NFL. It’s not a doomsday defense, and it recently lost leading-tackle linebacker Pete Werner to ankle surgery. Demario Davis has nine tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits, so the 49ers must watch out for him.

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1. TURNOVER TIME

To oversimplify things, the 49ers are on a three-game win streak because Garoppolo has not had a pass intercepted in those games. So many other factors contributed to victory, of course, but consider it a welcome sight that none of his past 100 passes have been intercepted, a streak actually dating the past three-and-a-half games, to the second half of the 49ers’ loss to the Chiefs.

Turnovers can be a great equalizer, especially for a downtrodden team on the road looking to upset a mentally and physically fatigued host.

Thing is, the Saints have the NFL’s worst turnover differential. They’ve committed 19 turnovers, including an NFL-high 12 interceptions that should have the 49ers’ secondary craving the ball.

The Saints’ defense has intercepted only two passes all season, and of their five fumble recovers, only two have come since Week 3.

As for the 49ers, they have a minus-1 turnover difference (12 takeaways, 13 giveaways). If there is one glaring aspect aside from Garoppolo’s turnover-free streak, it’s that the 49ers’ defense has just one fumble recovery this season (their special teams unit has two).

After admiring “the intent” of his players’ on film, Shanahan noted: “We protected the ball, and then when you protect the ball, you don’t turn it over, you don’t get a lot of penalties, usually the way you’re playing ends up leading to a victory in the end.”

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