The 2020-21 Molten WBBL Defensive Team of the Year, as voted by WBBL Head Coaches, includes an impressive array of record-holders across both the British top-flight and among these players’ NCAA college careers. It features a pair of forwards from Leicester Riders, the backcourt pairing from London Lions, and only the sixth player to have ever featured in this team more than once. It was hotly contested with five votes being the most received by any individual and a total of 21 players receiving at least one nomination
Jasmine Joyner – Nottingham Wildcats
In her third season in the WBBL following an NCAA career in which she finished eighth all-time in blocked shots and was All-SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, the 6’2″ American forward makes a second consecutive appearance among the best in Britain’s defensive ranks, receiving five votes from WBBL Head Coaches, meaning that she joins only five other players to have made the team twice. She finished in the top five in eight different statistical categories, including third in steals per game (2.5) and fourth in blocked shots (1.4) as Nottingham forced the second most turnovers of any team and had the third best defence overall; she was also seventh in defensive rebounding (6.5) as Wildcats gave up the second fewest second chance points. Joyner had her season high in blocks in perhaps her best performance when she put up 37 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks and three steals against London in January, but sadly had her season ended with an injury in the WBBL Trophy Final, having put up 24 points, 15 rebounds, four steals and a block in their semi-final victory.
Kennedy Leonard – London Lions
Also receiving five votes, Leonard makes the defensive team after already being elected to the Molten WBBL All-British Team of the Year and is among the league’s MVP candidates. While her offensive contribution often grabbed the headlines, Leonard also led the league in steals with a massive 3.9 per game which is the highest mark ever achieved in the WBBL era, and her total of 77 steals for the league season was 22 more than the second-placed player. She had multiple steals in all but four games with a season-high of eight in a near quadruple-double of 24 points, 17 assists and 10 rebounds against Durham Palatinates. Those steals set the tone for Lions all season as they forced by far the most turnovers in the WBBL at 22 per game. She also had seven steals to go with 21 points and nine assists as she lifted the MVP award in London’s WBBL Trophy Final victory.
Azania Stewart – Leicester Riders
The third player to receive five votes was London 2012 Team GB Olympian Azania Stewart, a 6’4″ centre who was also a silver medallist in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and played professionally in countries including Australia and Latvia after graduating from the formidable University of Florida ranking third in school history for blocked shots. This season, leading the WBBL with 1.9 blocks per game, she was the defensive lynchpin on the best defensive team in the WBBL, and she was also eighth in the league with 8.8 rebounds per outing including six at the defensive end, while taking 1.3 steals in just 26 minutes per game. She had five double-doubles, saving her season-highs for the biggest games with five blocks in a huge clash with London Lions that secured Leicester’s second-place finish, while she had 13 defensive rebounds as Leicester were the only team to beat Sevenoaks Suns in league play.
Shanice Beckford-Norton – London Lions
A Barking Abbey junior product, Beckford-Norton returned this season after four years at Louisiana State University and a professional season in Germany. With perhaps the quickest lateral foot speed in the WBBL, Beckford-Norton is often given the toughest assignments and harassing other high-scoring guards or point guards, and never was this more evident than her MVP performance in the Play-off semi-final matched-up against Nottingham’s Chelsey Shumpert live on Sky Sports, also doing similar in WBBL Trophy Final success. She received four votes from WBBL Head Coaches, finishing the season with an average of 1.7 steals per game including nine games with multiple steals, led by a season high of four in a great performance against Cardiff Met Archers where she also had 12 points, six rebounds and five assists. One of the league’s most aggressive players, she was seventh in fouls drawn and eighth in free-throws made.
Ella Clark – Leicester Riders
Returning for her second season in Leicester, Clark is a 6’3″ GB international who has played professionally in Spain and Italy, and is fourth in blocked shots in Long Beach State history following her college career. For Riders this year, coming from the bench and regularly playing in rotation with Stewart, occasionally together, Clark was second in the league in blocked shots just behind her teammate with 1.6 per game. With Clark and Stewart on patrol, Riders conceded the fewest points in the paint of any team in the WBBL at just 19 per game as a key facet of their league-leading defence, also allowing opponents a field goal percentage of just 33%. Averaging 5.2 defensive rebounds in just 25 minutes, Clark was there to haul in many of those missed shots and end opponent possessions. She had a season-high of four blocked shots against Essex Rebels in April and nine defensive rebounds against Caledonia Pride in February.