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Lavey dreams of qualifying for Rio

23 April 2015

BASKETBALL: When Tessa Lavey was a child she dreamt of meeting her basketball idols, Erin Phillips and Penny Taylor.

Now the 22-year-old can say she’s not only met them, but played alongside them for Australia at the World Championships last year. She is now doing everything possible to keep improving and join these stars of the sport at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Lavey says it’s an honour and motivating to play with women of such a high calibre, with the Opals having claimed a medal at every Olympics since the Atlanta 1996 Games.

“It’s a feeling of awe. I’m so young and I grew up idolising these girls,” she said.

The rookie point guard has been named in the most recent Australian women’s basketball team squad, to join 17 other potential Opals players at a one week camp in Gosford, Sydney on April 27.

The camp is the second of four for this year, with this one focused on preparation for a European Tour to take on Serbia, Spain and Italy in late May.

Australian Head Coach Brendan Joyce says the camp includes many young players due to overseas commitments of experienced players.

“We hold four camps during the year to provide an opportunity for all the girls to attend, because of the WNBA and Europe seasons the team can’t all get together during the year,” Joyce said.

“We need to make sure all the girls are up to date with the style of play we’re doing and to work on cohesion and culture in the team.

“We’ve built up a really strong culture over the years.”

Joyce is excited by the prospect of Lavey improving at the camp.

“We do testing every year and she has the highest endurance, plus a tremendous skills package,” he said.

“She’s the quickest and most explosive athlete in the squad.”

Lavey played 12 minutes against the USA at the World Championships, which Joyce says suits her style of game.

“The game is played at a much faster pace overseas, and that suits her,” he said.

Lavey hopes to get a chance to play overseas again, relishing the tight contests.

“I thrived overseas, I loved it. It’s faster with more one-on-one, whereas it’s more statistics based here,” she said.

Based in regional Victoria playing for WNBL team Bendigo Spirit, Lavey appreciates how much she can learn from the older players.

“I take a lot of confidence out of the camp. It makes you feel like you’re a part of the team, like a big family. We train hard and play hard, but it’s also just good to be able to talk to the other girls,” she said.

“If I’m given the chance to play in the European Tour I can’t wait to give it a real crack.

“When we were at the World Championships (fellow point guard) Erin Phillips really helped me on the court and with my game plans.”

Out of the women on the European Tour squad, eight of the players have never played overseas.

“We don’t always have the top players in the squad, which gives us a good opportunity to maintain depth by including younger players and develop players for the future,” he said.

“The Opals camps provide an opportunity to see if younger players can cope playing overseas.”

Included in the squad are 23-year-old Maddie Garrick and 18-year-old Lauren Scherf.

Joyce hopes the young guns will learn from veterans including Belinda Snell, Laura Hodges and Kathleen McLeod.

Lauren Jackson is aiming for a fifth Olympics at Rio 2016 but she has had a horror run of injuries. Liz Cambage, who dunked at her first Games in London as Australia won bronze, will also not attend the camp because of injury. Joyce is hopeful they’ll both play for Australia later this year.

The Opals need to beat New Zealand in the Oceania Qualifier match in August this year, to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

For Lavey, getting on court against New Zealand would fulfil a lifelong goal.

“If I got to play in the qualifier against New Zealand it would be huge. I have a lot of hard work to do, but I really want to help the team get to the Olympics.”

And onto the Rio 2016 Olympic Games?

"Well it’s what I dreamt of growing up!"

Annie Kearney

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