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Gonzaga Women's Basketball

Doing the little things: Gonzaga women’s Esther Little plays crucial role off the bench

By Jim Allen The Spokesman-Review

PORTLAND – The stat sheet doesn’t reflect her contributions, and Esther Little is fine with that.

It’s the little things that win games and championships, and Little has contributed a little of everything this season at Gonzaga.

“I just fill whatever role is needed,” said Little, who has played every position in her three seasons at GU.

Going into Friday’s Sweet 16 game against Texas, the 6-foot-2 native of Ipswich, England, is averaging just one-half point a game and has just three points in the past 11 games.

Yet in the past five games, with stakes higher and several teammates sidelined by injury, Little has risen to the occasion. During that span, she’s averaging almost five rebounds while playing 20 minutes a game.

Against a physical Texas Longhorns team, Little’s tough defense and high energy level could be critical.

“She fits in with our team really well because she’s very unselfish,” GU coach Lisa Fortier said. “She will not do something that she is not supposed to do, and she’s trying always to serve our team, which is really what our team is all about.”

A national team member at every age group in England, she committed to GU in the spring of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

GU coaches knew they were signing an experienced player.

By 2020, Little had logged more than 50 games in international play in addition to English league games.

For the past two seasons, Little has played at the senior women’s level in England.

Her Ipswitch teams won the U16 and senior women’s national cups, along with several divisional titles in the National Basketball League.

Little set a British record in rebounds at an individual tournament after averaging 12.1 per game in Skopje, Macedonia.

As a freshman with GU in 2021-22, Little played in 15 games.

Last year, she logged almost 500 minutes in 31 contests and started in four as the Zags’ depth was tested like never before.

They were quality minutes, too, as Little grabbed 82 rebounds, including 26 on the offensive glass.

She also shot a Bulldogs-best 59% from the floor.

“When she came in, we loved how she could guard, and her length,” Fortier said. “She’s improved defensively, if that’s possible, understanding people’s movements.

“She is trying always to serve our team, which is really what our team is all about.”