Bendigo basketballer Jess Rennie has barely had a chance to catch her breath since the end of the SEABL season, but the 16-year-old would not have it any other way.
Rennie has spent the last month training with the Bendigo Spirit ahead of the start of their WNBL season.
The development player even managed some court time during the Spirit’s practice match against at the Ballarat Minerdome against Melbourne Boomers.
The teenager has clearly relished her opportunity to train alongside stars such as the Spirit’s two-time grand final MVP Kesley Griffin, Canadian Olympian Nayo Raincock-Ekune and American guard Blake Dietrick.
“Playing and training against the best is definitely best for me,” Rennie said.
“It’s a great group to get to train with, with Nayo coming from Canada after the Olympics and Blake from the WNBA and Kelsey.
“I played against Ash (Karaitiana) in our SEABL final – going from playing against her to with her has been fun.
“I play on her in regularly in training.”
The improvements to her game and fitness have not gone unnoticed by the Spirit coaching staff, teammates and Rennie herself.
She still gets excited when talk turns to her WNBL practice match debut against the Boomers last month.
“I thought SEABL was quick, but WNBL is amazing,” Rennie said.
“Just the speed and playing on their point guards Maddie Garrick and Brittany Smart – it’s a real challenge.
“But it’s my goal to get to their level.”
Rennie has identified improving her skills in the point guard position as a priority and has appreciated the opportunity to work with one of the club’s more senior players Kerryn Harrington, who is entering her 10th season in the WNBL.
“Kerryn knows how to communicate with people and teach people,” she said.
“That’s something I can’t take back to juniors, knowing the skills you need at that level.
“She’s given me a lot of confidence.”
Rennie combines her Spirit duties with state country team training commitments and is on track to play at the Australian Country Junior Basketball Camp in Albury in January.
Spirit coach Simon Pritchard said Rennie had responded well to the pressures of a WNBL pre-season and playing against seasoned players.
“She’s got a lot to work on but what we like about Jess is she is learning what it takes to be a WNBL player,” he said
“Some of the things she get away with from younger girls she can’t with the senior girls.
“The thing we like is that she takes feedback on board and responded brilliantly to the changes we have asked her to make.”
Rennie has impressed all and sundry with her dedication, including the Spirit’s two-time championship star Griffin.
“She steps on the court, does what she’s good at and is willing to listen and super-coachable,” she said.
“I wouldn’t think that she was still in high school if I just rocked up to one of our trainings, which shows the incredible potential she has.
“She’s a really hard worker and you can tell you she is excited to be here.
“She volunteered on her school holidays to work full sessions on both days of our school holiday camp, which shows the great person she is.”
Rennie averaged 4.8 points per game in her debut SEABL season with Bendigo Lady Braves, including a season-high 12 points on debut against a Ballarat Rush team featuring Spirit squad members Harrington, Ashleigh Spencer and Molly Matthews and former club import Joy Burke.
Article and Photo: The Bendigo Advertiser