Today KIN starts a new series on Kapiti sportswomen and men. Over the coming months we will feature a range of people from teenagers to pensioners, from international stars to enthusiastic locals. We start with one the most outstanding basketballers ever produced by the Kapiti Coast.
Jacinta has been an U18 & U20 New Zealand Basketball representative player and a member of the Hutt Valley Flyers, who won the national women’s basketball title.
This year she joined the Seattle Redhawks who won the 2013 Western Athletic Conference regular season title. She is currently studying at Seattle University in Washington State.
Well known local basketball enthusiast and coach, Angelo Robinson, recently interviewed Jacinta on her experiences in Seattle so far.
AR: Finally, after two years of hard work you have arrived in Seattle, Washington! Was it a difficult process to get over?
JB: I wouldn’t say it was a difficult process to get a scholarship to the States, I would say that it was definitely more hard work than anything. Because I lived an hour out of Wellington and was still in high school I could only go into town for NZBA morning training on Thursday and Friday mornings. Fortunately my class timetable allowed me enough time to make it back on time for my first class on those days.
Every holiday I went into morning training every day that I could waking up at 5am to make it in on time. I also attended every NZBA academy camp and trained with the guys there so I could compete at the highest level possible. The mornings I could not get into town, I trained out in Paraparaumu with either Peter Gosnell or myself working on ball handling, shooting, strength and conditioning.
I personally believe if you are not prepared to work hard on the court every day, you will not make it on scholarship. So in order for me to get this opportunity I needed to be prepared to work hard every day. Wake up, work out hard, go to class, and train again. This sort of hard work was what prepared me. But also hard work off the court is important, because getting good grades is the key. If I didn’t take the right classes or have the best grades I could, then colleges would not be interested in me. So it is crucial to understand it is not difficult to get a scholarship if you are prepared to work hard.
AR: What is the biggest difference between basketball in NZ and the USA?
JB: The biggest difference between women’s basketball in the USA compared to NZ is the strength and style that they play. They like to dribble a lot; I have noticed that they would rather dribble the ball up the court and set up a half court set. Whereas back home in NZ I was always taught to push the ball up the court in fast break or run 3⁄4 court sets.
AR: Have your teammates and coaches welcomed you to your new team or has it been a challenging process?
JB: At first it was difficult trying to fit in with the team because I came in just as the season finished in spring, before the seniors graduated and all the freshmen came in. It was awkward timing, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I was welcomed in with open arms by the coaching staff and team.
Training with them 3 times a day gave me a chance to get to know everyone. I was there 3 months before the rest of the freshmen and transfers arrived to settle me in to the American way of life. When the rest of the recruits got here, it was a great chance for me to show them around as the “professional freshman.” That is what the coaches called me!
AR: How does Seattle compare with Paraparaumu?!
JB: Seattle is definitely a lot larger then Paraparaumu, which is no surprise! It is an awesome city with many things to do. It rains often, but we had a very hot summer this year with less rain than usual apparently. The location of campus is very central to many things. 15 minutes from the airport, walking distance to many stores and down town where the Space Needle is located.
Seattle is a very ‘green’ city. They have so many different rubbish bins it confuses me! ‘Compost, recycling and trash.’ They recycle everything, if you own a plastic drink bottle, it is like a sin! There are trees and natural landscape everywhere, lakes and parks close by. In this sense it feels quite like home.
AR: Have you done any new training or things we don’t normally do in NZ? Have you seen improvement in your game so far?
JB: The ball handling skills and drills are quite similar to the stuff I did back home. The biggest difference in training is what we do for strength and conditioning. We do it four times a week with testing at the start and end of every quarter.
We also do what they call ‘open gym’ which is just a 5 on 5 scrimmage, and individuals which are positional training with the coaching staff. So there are three or four players to four or five coaches.
And we also have full team trainings too. I have seen an improvement not only in my ability, but in my speed, strength, body and confidence. I can only put that down to hard work and training 3 times a day 4 days a week.
AR: What does a normal daily and weekly schedule look like for you?
JB: Every quarter we are required to take a specific number of credits, in three classes. We have one or two classes every day, three trainings a day and 8 hours of study hall a week. We get Wednesdays and weekends off training in the off season, but in season everything picks up.
Everything we do is scheduled around our classes, so our whole team can attend every training together. NCAA guidelines are very strict and have specific training regulations to follow in how many hours we can train a week. Therefore we have to stay within these guidelines. Pre-season training is starting in a few weeks. And our first game which is an exhibition game is on November 1st.
AR: How are you doing in your classes?
B: I was not expecting to do as well as I did in the spring. My GPA for the quarter was a 3.767 out of a possible 4.0, which the coaches said they were impressed with considering it was my first time taking American classes.
I took three required ‘core’ classes which were, writing, math and social science. I got an ‘A’ in both math and writing, but I got a B+ in the social science class for American History.
Being the typical Kiwi I am, I managed to write about the history of New Zealand in my final paper alongside some American history. My paper was the similarities between the indigenous people of both NZ and the USA.
This was fun to do, but adjusting to the writing style was challenging. Besides the style of writing I think it was quite easy and similar to back home. Therefore if you have good grades in NZ you can continue to get good grades here too!
AR: Do you have any advice for Kiwi basketballers hoping to follow in your footsteps?
JB: The advice I have is to start working hard right now. Make sure you are taking the right subjects and get your grades as high as you can. Also talk to your teachers on or before your first day of class, tell them your goals and they will be more than happy to help you get to where you need to be in order to gain a scholarship.
Trust me if you are willing to put in the effort to learn, then they will put in just as much effort as you do to help you succeed. So work hard in the class room and on the court!
Train every day, pushing your limits and remember it is okay to make mistakes and mess up. If you don’t then you aren’t trying hard enough. Learn from your mistakes, push the limits and never give anything less than your best.
(KIN wishes Jacinta all the very best for her studies and basketball career in Seattle.)