BATHURST basketballer Emily Matthews has taken the next step towards Australia’s elite ranks by being named as a Sydney Uni Flames development player.
The Bathurst Goldminers graduate moved to Sydney seven months ago to play for the Sydney Uni Sparks in the South East Australia Basketball League.
She impressed so much as guard in her inaugural season that she was one of three Sparks named as a Flames development player for 2017-18.
The Flames are the defending Women’s National Basketball League champions, so not only will Matthews learn from some of the country’s best coaches, but she will train alongside some of Australia’s leading female players.
“Seeing as they just won the championship last year, I didn’t think it would happen this early for me, but I’m glad it did,” the 18-year-old said.
“Getting to play alongside players like Belinda Snell, who has been captain of the Olympic team for a few years now and Katie Ebzery who has just come back from the Euro League.
“It’s great having Cheryl [Chambers] as a coach, she’s part of the Australian coaching squad as well and Karen Dalton our assistant coach, she has played for Australia and in the WNBL before and played high levels as well.
“With this opportunity right in front of me, I will utilise the knowledge of great coaches and players to develop my skill level further and I can not wait to get into it. I am really excited to see where this opportunity will take me.”
Matthews played 21 games for the Sparks this season, scoring an average of 4.1 points per game as she and her team-mates made it as far as the conference preliminary final.
She sunk 16 three-pointers over the course of the season, pulled off 10 steals, four blocks and 20 assists.
Matthews feels the exposure to higher level basketball helped develop her game.
“It was a lot more intense training and a lot more training throughout the week. The weights program that we do has really helped me, I’m a more built player now,” she said.
“It’s improved me so much, I’m a much more confident player now playing alongside players who have been in the WNBL for quite a few years now. It has been a real game changer for me.
“We had a pretty good season, we went down by eight to Geelong, who ended going along and winning the whole thing.”
While Matthews was injured near the end of the SEABL season, she underwent a number of physiotherapy sessions to ensure she was ready to join the Flames for pre-season training.
“We just started pre-season the week gone and yet again, the training has stepped up big time. I am very sore,” she said.
“We train four times on court a week then three to four times in the gym of a morning. It’s a big step up, that’s for sure. Some of the Flames girls played down the in the Sparks for us as well as a bit of an off-season, so I knew quite a few of the girls going in.
“Being selected as a Flames development player has to be one of my best achievements yet. To all the people that have given me this opportunity, words don’t begin to describe how thankful I am.”