Cherwell was given the opportunity to speak with the Oxford University Basketball Club’s president, Shivani Abensour, in our first instalment of Captain’s Corner.
Tell us about when you started playing basketball?
I started playing the year before I joined Oxford, in my gap year. When I joined Oxford I tried out for OUBBC, I didn’t really think I’d get selected, but I did.
What made you want to get involved with basketball in Oxford?
My older brother got me involved in basketball at home. When I got to Oxford, I thought “I’ll try it out, why not? Being on a team sounds fun.” Trials were super intimidating because there were loads of people who could play basketball really well. When I got selected, I remember thinking this is going to be so much fun because basketball is such a great sport to meet lots of people. It’s super sociable.
What drew you to basketball?
It’s both a good workout and a nice thing to have alongside your work and other stuff that keeps you busy at Oxford. After a basketball training session, you come out sweaty and exhausted and feeling like you had a proper workout. I enjoy that. It helps that the people are nice and stuff. It’s always a great time.
What makes basketball the best sport?
There’s two sides to it. If you’re athletic, you can do well, but at the same time there’s so much intelligence to the sport, and you can really study it, its tactics and plays for example. Plus, I think it really teaches you to have a strong mindset. To say “Okay, well, this week I haven’t been doing very well. But next week, I’ll be back pushing through the tough times.
What position do you play?
I’m usually shooting guard.
What does a shooting guard do?
I’m quite small. Shooting guards, stay kind of outside the three-point lines and cut through. You’re not a big player who’s posting up next to the hoop. If you have a good dribble and a good shot, you’ll get on as a shooting guard.
Is OUBbC just tall people only?
No. It does help if you’re tall, but at our level, being smaller, and more athletic and stuff is better than if you’re really tall, but not athletic in any way. Anyone can join the club – in the blues team, we didn’t have that many tall people this year.
How’s the season gone?
Pretty well. In the BUCS league, both teams are in Division One, The men finished third and the women finished second. Which was really great, because when we started, we thought we were going to get relegated! The women 2’s however got relegated to division three, which is unfortunate but probably a good thing anyways, because they lost quite a lot of players last year.
And this season saw the men’s team join the National Basketball League?
Yes, we started in the NBL this year. A lot of the Blues players are very skilled and wanted to play in the league especially considering they are doing so well. The only downside is that when you join the NBL you have to start at the bottom division and work your way up. So yeah, they were doing well, they finished 5th this season.
How did varsity go?
Varsity was a clean sweep for OUBBC with wins across both the blues and reserves for men and women. The W2 game however went down to the wire.
The W2 game was intense, all over the place. You didn’t really know who was going to win until the last minute. In the other games, despite what the scoreline suggests, they were close. The woman’s blues game, for example, started out quite close. As the game went on, and the second half began we started playing really well. One of our shooters got a few 3-pointers and that created the gap. All the games were really good fights. It wasn’t like one team was massively dominating over the other.
Was Varsity altogether a memorable day?
Yes, it was a big day, we even had a pop-up shop! We had so many spectators, I think 180 seats in the Main Hall. Plus the top of Main Hall was packed. By the end of the day, we had maybe 200, or 300 spectators!
What’s your best sporting moment?
Winning varsity this year. It’s my last year here and I’ve won all my varsities throughout my time which is great. It was a nice way to end, winning in the last game of the season, my last game representing Oxford.
What is the worst defeat that you can think of?
Our defeat against Worcester. It wasn’t the worst defeat of the year, but it was hard because the players were tough on us. The vibe of the game was more aggressive and there was a lot of chat. That wasn’t a fun game to play.
Did you guys decide to embrace the spirit of smack talk from them?
No, that’s really not our thing. All the girls on the team are very friendly and very nice. I don’t think any of us could ever talk back in the team.
The worst bit about being President of OUBBC?
It’s a lot of responsibility, and I juggle lots of jobs at one time.
And the best bit is?
Giving back to a club has given me so much. But also changing the way the club was run. Giving more attention to women’s and wheelchair basketball at Oxford. OUBBC is a joint club and equal treatment is important.
One’s to watch?
Holly Hayward. I think she had a game where she scored only 3 pointers, that’s crazy! Maike Meier plays WNBL for reading, not only is she an amazing player she has a great vibe. On the men’s side, there’s Josh Soifer who has the highest number of points in a game in our history, which was over 50 points, perhaps 56 or something, which is crazy. Also, their captain Alex Koukouravas is another great player.
Where do you see the club going in the future?
It slightly depends on who’s there and who’s staying, but definitely growing wheelchair basketball and giving them more help to have a proper team. Besides that, the goal is to build solid teams and keep winning our varsities.
Where can we watch OUBBC?
The season’s over now. But when it resumes, we have BUCS games on Wednesdays and the NBL on Saturdays all at Iffley. BUCS games are always great to watch, usually with 6 pm or 8 pm Tip. It’s good vibes even if you don’t really know basketball, it’s always fun.
Image Credit:[Shivani Abensour] Oxford University Basketball Club