Joy Haizelden will journey Stateside next season to play for the University of Alabama. The 22-year-old moved to the UK from China when she was six years old and has been a key player in the GB Women’s senior squad since 2014. During that time, she has become a U25 World Champion, U24 European Champion and a senior World and European silver medallist. Away from the court, she has an undergraduate degree in Health and Human Science from the University of Sheffield. Rollt.’s Dylan Cummings spoke with Joy about her upcoming move to Alabama.
What will you study in Alabama and why did you choose to study there?
“I’m going to be studying a Masters of Public Health in health education and promotion. After graduating last summer, I decided not to do a masters straight away, but I was looking at different options for the year after. It was only when Karolina (the assistant coach) asked me if I’d considered studying at Alabama. At that point, I hadn’t. But the more I thought about it and after speaking to family and friends, the more I liked the idea of going to Alabama and so I decided to apply! Another important aspect was that the University of Alabama had the right masters’ programme that I wanted to study.”
What made you choose Alabama over the other university programs in the States?
“The Alabama Women’s team emphasizes family and I love that. The facilities look amazing, and they also treat athletes with disabilities the same as able-bodied athletes which is good to see. One of the other reasons I chose Alabama was because of a conversation I had with one of my teammates, Laurie Williams, who attended Alabama a few years back. She spoke highly of her time there and enjoyed it thoroughly, and this gave me more confidence to attend the university.”
How do you intend to fit into the team and bring them further success?
“This is a difficult question to answer. I feel like I won’t know until I get there and get a feel for what the team vibes are. First and foremost, I’d want to build strong relationships with all my teammates on and off the court as this is the foundation for a good team.”
What will challenge you in the intercollegiate league?
“The most challenging part I think will be playing against high-calibre teams. I think the quality of the games will be a good standard and each team will be difficult to play against. Plus, both Alabama and the other teams will have quality players who will push me to be at my best.”
How different do you think the intercollegiate league will be different compared to the UK leagues?
“I think there’s a big difference between the two leagues. First off, it would be the travel. In the UK, to get to an away game it’ll take 3-4 hours max but in the intercollegiate league, it can take up to 10 hours or more. In the UK league, there’ll be one game every 2 weeks, whereas, in the intercollegiate league, they’ll be 3-4 games in one weekend.
Lastly, in the UK leagues, the clubs would train once or twice a week, whereas the teams of the intercollegiate league will train most days with each other.”
How do you think the styles of play will differ between CWBA Women and Alabama?
“The CWBA Women’s team played with a lot of freedom, we never ran any set plays apart from one or two, the team was extremely fun to be a part of. I think the Alabama Women’s team will play with a lot more pace and intensity. The team will consist of different international players which means we’ll probably have more set roles but I’m just excited to be part of a new group of girls who want to work hard and push each other to be the best.”
What goals do you want to achieve in Alabama?
“The biggest goal would be to help the Women’s team bring another National Championship home. My other goals would be first to gain a masters and secondly to just enjoy the experiences of being abroad and living in another country, whilst improving myself as a basketball player and as a person.”
How do you think the culture in Alabama will differ to the culture in the UK?
“I’m not too sure about this. The only thing I know is that Thanksgiving is a big thing in the States whereas we don’t celebrate that here in the UK. Another thing would be that university sport is generally a bigger deal in Alabama than in the UK. I’m just looking forward in being in another country and learning about other people’s cultures and traditions.”
What will you miss the most about the UK when you’re in Alabama?
“I will miss my family and my GB teammates the most. I’m used to being away from my family due to travelling and GB commitments, but I still miss them dearly. I will miss my GB teammates because this will be the first time, I’ll be away from them since I first started centralised training, and I’ve built up some strong relationships with them.”
How would you describe your style of play?
“I’m quick, comfortable on or off the ball, and have good vision of the court.”
Has anyone specifically influenced you to play the way you do?
“No-one in particular comes to my mind. I’ve watched a lot of other mid-pointers, but I wouldn’t say they have influenced me as I’ve wanted to create my own identity as a basketball player. Maybe my previous coaches, Miles Thompson and Dan Price, have influenced me, as they coached me for about five years. They taught me the fundamentals and how to read the game.”
What piece of advice has stuck with you throughout your career?
“Take every opportunity that comes your way, as you don’t know where it may lead you. This was Dad’s advice to me over the years and it resonates with me a lot as I’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities through wheelchair basketball.”
If you could do a training session with three other players from anywhere in the world male or female that you’ve never trained with before to improve your skills which players, would you choose and why?
“There’s so many to choose from! I’d want to train with Becca Murray, I know she’s retired but she was and is the best mid-range shooter in the game and the way she creates opportunities for others is exceptional. Patrick Anderson, because he’s fundamentally sound and it would be awesome to see how he trains. Lastly, Rose Hollermann as she’s killing it in Spain with Gran Canaria, and plays so confidently in a mixed team!”
Thanks for your time Joy!
Rollt. would like to thank Joy Haizelden for the interview.
Joy Haizelden Profile:
Date of Birth: 01/12/1998 (aged 22)
Hometown: Southampton, Hampshire
Started playing: 2012
GB Senior Debut: 2014 Women’s World Championships – Toronto, Canada
Disability: Spina Bifida
Future Club: University of Alabama, USA (starting September 2021)
_Blackhawks, GBR (2012-16)
_CWBA, GBR (2016-21)
_2014 Women’s World Championships – Toronto, Canada – 5th
_2015 U25 World Championships – Beijing, China – Gold
_2015 European Championships – Worcester, GB – Bronze
_2016 U24 European Championships – Elxleben, Germany – Gold
_2016 Paralympic Games – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 4th
_2017 European Championships – Tenerife, Spain – Bronze
_2018 World Championships – Hamburg, Germany – Silver
_2018 U24 European Championships – Bordeaux, France – Gold
_2019 U25 World Championships Suphan Buri, Thailand – Bronze
_2019 Women’s European Championships – Rotterdam, Netherlands – Silver
Interview: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Steffie Wunderl