British basketballer Hannah Jump on making NCAA history and missing Mini Cheddars

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Cheshire-born basketballer Hannah Jump is the first British woman to win a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball championship © Stanford Athletics
Cheshire-born basketballer Hannah Jump is the first British woman to win a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball championship © Stanford Athletics

Hannah Jump just accomplished a feat no one else can ever replicate, yet the aptly-named basketballer is more interested in talking about what happens next.

The Cheshire-born athlete this week became the first British woman to win a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball championship in a year the flagship US tournament was marked by controversy.

ESPN netted 4.1million viewers for the closely contested thriller, which pitted Jump’s Stanford Cardinal, looking to end a 29-year title drought, against underdogs Arizona Wildcats, playing in their first NCAA final.

It was an instant, heart palpitation-inducing classic from the tip-off. Pulses peaked in the fourth quarter, when Stanford found themselves up by a single point with only six seconds remaining.

But Arizona regained possession, and Jump, who played eight minutes in the game, watched from the sideline as WNBA-bound Wildcats star Aari McDonald launched a last-ditch three-point effort. It rebounded off the rim as the clock timed out.

“It was the longest six seconds of my life,” said Jump, recalling the clash with the dazed bewilderment of someone coming to after an out-of-body experience.

“The feeling of watching the ball not go into the basket and everyone dogpiling on the court, it was just surreal. It still hasn’t quite fully hit.

“I get sparks here and there. We had a parade when we got back, it had the whole student body, and bands, and it started to hit a little bit then.

“I get little flashes of it, but I still have to remind myself.”

Stanford ended their 29-year title drought after holding out for victory against Arizona © Stanford Athletics
Stanford ended their 29-year title drought after holding out for victory against Arizona © Stanford Athletics

She’s barely picked the confetti out from her dark blonde hair, but the 20-year-old, who played for England as an U16, was adamant her solo stay in the British winners’ circle would be short.

She said: “There’s a lot of talent now coming from England to play at high level colleges here in the States.

“It’s pretty awesome to know that I’m first, but I definitely won’t be the last.”

There were about 20 British women affiliated with squads in the NCAA’s top tier, Division 1, in the 2020-2021 season, and almost 30 more in Division 2. Jump names Hertfordshire’s Loren Christie and Essex native Charlotte Ellmore among her top players to watch.

Hannah, the middle of Anne-Marie and Danny Jump’s three children, picked up basketball after her family moved to Northern California when she was eight. Practically growing up in Stanford’s backyard inspired Jump’s dream, to follow in the footsteps of GB international and WNBA alumna Karlie Samuelson, who played for the Cardinal from 2013-2017.

She has fond memories of the close-knit Warrington neighbourhood where she spent her formative years, and misses little things about England, “like Quavers or Mini Cheddars”, and Cadbury’s chocolate most of all.

The 1.83m guard could be back across the pond in June - she’s been invited to Basketball England’s first selection camp for 3x3 basketball, an event making its Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham next summer.

The second-year student hasn’t settled on a course of study at her prestigious university, but Jump is leaning toward a major in psychology with a minor in feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

It’s no surprise, then, that she’s eager to discuss the firestorm sparked by two now-famous social media posts which called out alarming inequities between the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments.

Stanford performance coach Ali Kershner was the first to go viral. Her Instagram post included an image of the well-stocked men’s training facility juxtaposed with a photo of the women’s setup, featuring a labelled stack of “sanitized yoga mats” atop a folding table and a small set of hand weights on the floor. It was liked over 147,000 times.

Oregon forward Sedona Prince then rocketed the controversy into the stratosphere with a TikTok documenting the marked disparities between setups in more detail. Prince re-posted the clip, now viewed 11.5 million times on its original platform, to Twitter, where it garnered an additional 17.6 million views and drew support from the likes of NBA superstars LeBron James and Steph Curry as well as supplier Dick’s Sporting Goods, who offered to donate equipment to the women.

Jump said: “We’ve always known there’s been a massive difference, but I think just kind of seeing [it] first-hand made us really angry.

“The fact that they didn’t think we would know about what the men were getting, that obviously is being posted all on social media.

“So I think for our strength coach to go out there and post that was really powerful and it got a lot of movement behind it, but I think it also kind of helped the whole tournament gain more exposure.”

The ratings backed Jump's theory. CBS experienced a reported 14% decline in viewership for the men’s championship game, but the women’s title clash was up 9% from 2019, becoming ESPN’s most-viewed since 2014.

And speaking of titles, the future-focused British baller already has her eye on a second, declaring, “that’s the goal, to do it back-to-back.”

But first, she needs to remember this one.