Altona basketballer Kayla Salmons’ advice for young girls is to remember to have fun playing basketball.
Salmons, 18, from Hoppers Crossing, is in the Victorian under-20 women’s team representing the state at this week’s Australian Junior Championships in Queensland.
She started playing basketball at age eight for Corpus Christi at Werribee, before switching to Altona Gators.
“I’ve basically been there all the way ’til now; I haven’t swapped clubs,” Salmons said.
“My mum played basketball when she was younger as well so my mum convinced me to play – and also ‘cos I’m really tall (193 centimetres).
“It was a sport where I could just belong and make friends.”
It is Salmons’ third consecutive year representing Victoria in the nationals.
“It’s really important to me because it’s something that everyone strives for, and I’ve definitely strived for it,” she said.
“It’s just a great opportunity to get noticed across Australia and just have a great time, because this year I am planning on going to college.
Salmons has a full-ride scholarship to Idaho State University in the US.
It’s a one-year contract which will then be renewed.
Salmons said it was another step towards her ultimate goal.
“My ultimate dream is probably to go play basketball in a European league or in a Chinese league,” she said.
“I’ve always wanted to travel the world, that’s like my biggest thing.
“And that’s why I want to go to college as well; to be able to live somewhere else while getting a degree is really cool to me.
“Just to be able to play overseas, travel the world and still do the thing that I love is my ultimate goal.”
Salmons’ secondary schooling started at Thomas Carr College in Tarneit from years 7 to 10, before she obtained a scholarship to attend Haileybury College in West Melbourne for her final two years.
She is currently working at an Altona cafe on an industrial estate to earn money before heading to the States.
Salmons said if she had any advice for other players, especially girls, it would be to just enjoy themselves.
“Sometimes, especially as a young athlete, you get so involved in having to win, having to play well,” she said.
“[That] is definitely a very important part of playing basketball and progressing but I think sometimes, especially as a kid, you just forget that you started basketball to have fun and to play with your friends and to make friends.
“I’d stress to every young girl that no matter how many coaches are telling you to strive and be the best, don’t forget why you started and why you’re still playing basketball – because it’s a fun sport and don’t take that for granted.”
Head coach Katrina Hibert said the team could “play big and dominate the paint and we can play with a smaller line-up with versatility through all positions to stretch oppositions and be aggressive and disruptive defensively”.
“I’m excited by the potential line-ups we can play,” she said.
“After the past 12 months of uncertainty from week-to-week on competitions, it’s exciting to see the tournament up and running for this cohort of athletes who have already missed so much competitive basketball.”