Manchester Giants have completed the signing of veteran Great Britain International forward Will Saunders, whose last act in the British Basketball League was to lift the BBL Trophy with Newcastle Eagles in March 2020, following a career spanning high levels in Italy, Spain, and Iceland.
The 6’7″ 29-year-old Londoner brings great experience to Manchester and has featured regularly for the national team during World Cup and EuroBasket Qualifiers in the last five years. His standout game was in 2016 when he produced an impactful eight points and seven rebounds in just nine minutes to break open what ended in a 95-72 victory over Luxembourg at the Copper Box Arena, playing alongside former NBA star Ben Gordon, and helping GB to qualify for EuroBasket 2017.
“I remember the coaching staff looking over at me one practice and asking me, ‘what do you think?’,” recalled Manchester Giants owner Jamie Edwards about his first experience of Saunders. “What I saw that week was something you cannot see on a scoresheet. And to be more competitive and to progress, we need that.”
He won the BBL Trophy with Newcastle, scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds in 25 minutes during their narrow overtime defeat of Solent Kestrels at the Emirates Arena; and he also scored six points in the semi-final as they came from behind to knock Cheshire Phoenix out by one point on aggregate.
His standout season as a professional came in 2017-18, when he poured in 17 points per game for Cambados Xuven in Spain’s LEB Silver, also grabbing eight rebounds and handing out two assists per outing – he led the entire league in scoring and was fourth in rebounding that season.
In 2018-19 he played for Valur in Reykjavik, Iceland, averaging 10 points, six rebounds, and two assists per game; and that was the last in a number of overseas stops that also included a season in Italy’s highly competitive Serie A2, where he averaged seven points and four rebounds per game for Novipiu Casale Monferrato.
“I like the new direction that the club is taking and happy to be playing for an organisation like the giants, working under an experienced coach,” said Saunders. “I’m most excited to play in front of those Giants fans and hopefully, we can bring some success back to Manchester.”
Saunders moved from the UK to the US as a 17-year-old to complete High School, and a successful college career followed as he averaged 12 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes per game over two seasons at Charleston Southern, being named to the All-Big South Conference 2nd Team in his senior year. He left with the third highest number of three-pointers made (95) in a single season in the school’s history, and seventh all-time in three-point percentage (40.6%).