I didn’t think that my first interview was going to take place at a Basketball Stadium. But these were no ordinary circumstances. In three days' time, Australian basketball player Steph Reid was making the trek from Melbourne to Northern Queensland to join the ‘Townsville Flames’ for the upcoming NBL1 North Season. I was lucky to join her on one of her last individual training sessions in Melbourne.
“New PB!’ Her coach exclaimed, as Steph completed one of the first dribbling exercises of the session. Steph is consistently seeking to improve even the smallest of her skills, and this really defines her as a player – she is always working towards ‘creating for the team [so that] everyone is in the best position to score.’
I observed from the sideline Steph’s discipline and precision as she repeated and perfected multiple small exercises, which will then translate to a much bigger impact at game time.
“It’s all small steps,” she said, during a drink break.
“Before I got injured, I was working out with Mason Rogers [Townsville Fire Assistant Coach] every day,” Steph explained, while icing her ankle after the training session. “Every morning I coach individual sessions [for junior athletes] [and] a couple days a week I’ll lift straight after.”
Despite an ankle injury, Steph is determined to get herself into the ‘best possible position’ to play in the upcoming NBL1 and WNBL seasons with Townsville. This would continue her basketball career in the north, after moving to Townsville for the 2020/21 WNBL season under Coach Shannon Seebolm. Prior to this, Steph played two seasons with the Dandenong-based Southside Flyers.
“As much as I loved Southside, because I was at home and the girls were great, I really think that Townsville was a better place for me in regards of opportunity.” Steph explained that it was ultimately the combination of the coaching staff, Townsville community and culture of the team that were the biggest motivators for the transition.
Steph took on a defensive position with her new team which she explains is “all energy and effort and fun.’ Despite being known for her larger-than-life defensive presence (and her shoes!), Steph also was extremely efficient offensively – shooting 48% from the field, 47% from the 3 point line, and 90% on free throws. In her best game that season, she scored 17 points in a little over 19 minutes on the field, with 2 rebounds 3 assists and 1 steal.
“Having a defensive role, I didn’t expect to shoot the ball as much as I did,” Steph admits.
After finishing in last place in the previous season, Townsville entered in the six-week intensive ‘Hub’ season with a vendetta. For Steph, this is the kind of environment she enjoys and thrives in as a player. “Our team was very much like this too, we excelled in it.”
And excel they did, making their way into the 2020 Grand Final against Steph’s former team – the Southside Flyers. While they missed out on the flag this season, Steph is determined for Townsville to take home the championship in the 2021/21 season.
“I really want to win a championship with Townsville…because once you lose a Grand Final, you don’t get to lose the next one. You have to win.”
Basketball has been a significant part of Steph’s life since her early childhood. She recounts becoming ‘obsessed’ after joining a domestic team at just five years old. “Once the Commonwealth Games came to Melbourne, I had the goal that I wanted to play for Australia.” Years later, Steph is still focussing on this goal – she aims to make the Olympic Squad for 2024.
In 2014, Steph had the opportunity to travel to the United States and play College Basketball on a scholarship at the University of Buffalo, New York. One of Steph’s biggest career highlights came from the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship game – a first in the school’s history. Winning five consecutive games to reach the final, Steph scored a floater in overtime on the buzzer to win the championship. Steph’s coach at Buffalo, Felisha Legette-Jack, has been very influential in the way Steph has approached being an athlete both on and off the court, teaching her “what it takes to be a professional at every capacity.”
Over the progression of her basketball career, something that has remained important to Steph is being involved with community-level sport. Steph believes that “playing sport at a high level creates an obligation to give back” to community and grassroot sports.“When I was younger… there was never any athletes that really invested their time back into us as young players. This is a connection I have learnt to really value now.”
Steph has certainly come a long way since discovering her passion for the sport at age five. She has had the privilege of learning from many mentors and teammates, including the likes of Leilani Mitchell, Lauren Nicholson and Shyla Heal. Each of her experiences has shaped the way Steph views success in the sport. “There’s a lot of different ways you can have success. A lot of it is winning the moment or the day. You can measure it in wins and losses, but you also gain things out of [the] losses. Success is just growing and learning in the process.”
This process of learning and improving is something that Steph has both embodied and aspired to embody for others. And of course – she does it all with genuine enthusiasm and love for the sport.
“It’s easy to bring heart and passion when you genuinely love what you are doing.”
We absolutely loved getting to talk with Steph Reid and watching her slay on the court. In the 2021 NBL1 North Conference playing for the Townsville Flames, Steph finished as part of the All Stars 5 where she averaged over 19 points per game.
Images from @steph_reid and videos courtesy of WNBL and NCAA