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Boomer youth league MVP of 2012 Tessa Ramsay this week signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) for an athletic scholarship to attend Newman University in Wichita, Kansas to study and play basketball for the 2013/14 US academic year.
Tessa is a lifelong Boomer junior so this is a great story about one of the pathway options available to junior basketballers at our Club who come up through the VJBL, but are also good students and would like to combine their tertiary study with further basketball development in the US college system.
We stand to be corrected, but we believe that Shannon Malone was the last Boomer junior to attend US college, with Shannon completing her studies at Bridgeport University and returning home a couple of years ago. Before that, WNBL star and former junior Hanna Zavecz attended the University of Wyoming between 2004 and 2008, before returning to play WNBL at Bulleen and be a part of the 2011 Championship team.
Tessa started playing basketball at Bulleen as an 8 year old with Templestowe Heights Primary School in our Primary School Competition at Sheahan's Road. In those days, Michelle Brehens used to keep an eye on the primary school girls and Tessa was invited by Michelle to play for Bulleen in our Junior Club in the EDJBA. Tessa started out in girls D grade and over a few seasons slowly worked her way up to be playing with girls who also played in the VJBL on Friday nights.
A few of the girls invited Tessa along to watch a Friday night VJBL game and she was hooked, coming along to tryouts in 2005 as a lower age Under 14 to begin her VJBL playing days. More hard work over a few years saw her make the ones for the first time as a top age Under 16 in 2009, playing in VJCL teams through to last season in Under 20s. While never quite cracking a VJCL title, the highlight for Tessa would no doubt be capturing the National Junior Classic Gold Medal with the Boomers Under 18 girls in 2011.
As part of her basketball development, Tessa also attended Box Hill Senior Secondary for the last three years of high school. This provided the opportunity to spend more time practicing as part of the school program with Head Coach Natasha Main, but also to play with girls from other VJBL Clubs as part of the school team. The Box Hill girls played in the Australian Schools Nationals in 2011, winning the Silver Medal, and in 2012 won the Victorian College Championships (VCC) title. Also in 2012, Tessa was selected in the girls School Sport Victoria state team which won Gold at the School Sport Australia 2012 championships held at Dandenong in August.
In 2011, Tessa began her Big V career with Bulleen in joining the Youth League team and had a break out season in 2012 to lead the team in scoring and be awarded the Club MVP. She will play one more season of Big V in 2013 before heading off to college in August.
The college system is the heart and soul of amateur sport in the US. The dominant association is the NCAA and Newman University play in Division II of women's basketball in the Heartland Conference. Newman are recent back to back conference champions and have a new coach who is looking to rebuild the program for further success over the next few years. The college selectively recruits international players, with one Aussie from Adelaide on the roster as a freshman for the 2012/13 season that has just commenced.
For any other Boomer Juniors who might be thinking about US college at the end of high school, it is important to understand that getting to college is not just about being good at basketball. For once, the movie perspective is true, college is just as much about academics as it is about sport. To get to college, you have to do the right subjects at school from years 9 to 12, and you have to reach minimum grades to qualify for college consideration. There is also a test you have to sit in Year 12 called the SAT, which is a four hour standardised exam that every college prospect has to complete. You need to obtain good grades from years 9 to 12 AND achieve a certain mark on the SAT before a college will even consider your basketball ability.
Also, recent rule changes mean that you now have to go straight on to college in the year following Year 12, you can no longer have any sort of "gap" year before commencing study at a US college.
Having said all that, if you are reasonably good at school, it's not too tough. There are at least a couple of hundred Aussie kids playing basketball in the US college system - it's tougher for boys to get into the top NCAA divisions, but any girl who has played at the top level of the VJBL through Under 16s and 18s would have a good shot at NCAA Div I or Div II. If you have made state teams (or even squads) at Under 16 and/or Under 18, your chances improve further. There are also other associations such as the NAIA or Junior College as alternatives to start with - but it is quite complex, so do your research !
There are a number of people around the Club who are familiar with the college system, so if you are a Boomer junior considering US college as a future possibility, our Club General Manager David Feehan can put you in touch with people who can provide further information.
There are also other Boomers still exploring college as an option for 2013 and we will bring you further news as it comes to hand.