TESSA Lavey reacted like any other 16-year-old WNBL prospect would having to guard Australian basketball royalty Lauren Jackson.
“Oh no,” the Dandenong Rangers point guard, now 25, muttered as she “switched onto” Jackson during one of her first WNBL games.
A decade on the Rio Olympian and world cup silver medallist has credited the “eye-opening” days at AIS with forging lifelong friendships and fast-tracking her development despite often being on the wrong end of 40-60 point hidings.
“Yes we did get beaten by 60+ most games but … I wouldn’t want to have it any other way,” Lavey said ahead of her 150th WNBL game tonight against Sydney Uni Flames.
Lavey lived with current Rangers teammates Sara Blicavs, Carley Mijovic, Rebecca Cole and Tayla Roberts during that three-year stint in Canberra.
“We really relished that opportunity to play in the WNBL and I think it proves now that it was a really good thing to play … at such a young age because we got the experience.”
After stints at three other WNBL clubs the Swan Hill junior returned to Melbourne last year, signing with the Rangers, to be closer to family and friends.
While things didn’t go to plan last year, failing to reach the post-season, the Rangers season-opening win over reigning WNBL champions Townsville Fire has fuelled belief at Stud Road.
“We have the players to be able to do that (win the title) and we definitely have the coaching staff so we just got to ask ourselves, ‘why it can’t be us this season?’,” Lavey said.
Rangers coach Larissa Anderson heaped praise on Lavey, who missed the entire preseason due to Opals commitments.
“She’s starting to get back to that really aggressive and assertive self that we all know she’s got in her … I’m proud of how she’s come out this season, she’s on a mission,” Anderson said.
“She’s got a phenomenal resume for her age — 150 games has crept up very quickly.”