Experienced NBL1 West guard Desiree Kelley credits a change in her approach to basketball for her development player contract with the Perth Lynx.
After over 200 games with 2022 grand finalists Willetton Tigers, the 27-year-old has finally been given her chance at the top level of Australian women’s basketball.
Kelley stood out as one of the league’s best players across the finals series, and the season as a whole.
She averaged 14.88 points at 38 per cent shooting, 6.79 rebounds, 3.46 assists, 2.54 steals and 0.75 blocks – all up on her career averages.
One of her best games played out to get the Tigers into the grand final, putting up a double-double with 28 points and 10 rebounds.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum after her signing, Kelley explained what made this year different for her compared to her basketball career so far.
“I think I was able to put a lot more time into my game outside of just regular training hours,” Kelley said.
“That led into the games, and showed I hope that I was more confident. I was fortunate enough for my extra training to pay off on the court this season, which gave me that extra bit of confidence to try out and see what happens, and let what will be, be.
“In female sport, aside from the physical aspect of the game, there’s a lot that comes mentally with it. I think for myself personally, I’ve been able to mature in that aspect of my game as I’ve gotten older, which I’ve definitely noticed on the court in my basketball IQ.
“I felt like the time was right for me to get the opportunity to be able to play at that next level and be surrounded by extremely talented players.”
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Making the step up to the next level is something that many players may be intimidated by, but this isn’t the case for Kelley.
She’s set to play alongside and against some of the very best in the world, including a slew of Opals and WNBA-level imports.
What happens on the court will be less important than how she approaches the challenge off it, just like her NBL1 season.
“It’s a change of mentality for me,” Kelley explained.
“I’m fortunate enough that a lot of the players in the league I’ve had the pleasure to play with and against already. It definitely makes the transition easier.
“I think every player throughout their career goes through a time where they need to earn their spot, prove themselves. I’m definitely up for that challenge.
“When opportunities come my way, I’ll grab them with both hands and give it everything I can.
“I kind of feel like I’m learning all over again, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually quite enjoyable.
“[It’s] a little bit overwhelming, but that just comes with the extra sessions that are all just becoming second nature to me.”
In terms of playing style, Kelley is extremely versatile, able to play multiple roles as both a guard and a forward.
She’s on the taller end for a guard, making her a hard match-up both on offence and defence, able to put up big scoring numbers while also offering a presence under the post.
It’s an evolution in her game she’s worked hard on, becoming more all-rounded as her career has progressed.
“I used to be very scoring-focused when I was younger, and I used to think that was the only stat that mattered, which is obviously not the mentality that I want any player coming up to ever have,” Kelley said.
“There’s so much more to a game of basketball. I just think I really want to focus on improving all aspects of my game, not just my average scoring amount.
“You need to be versatile, you need to be able to bring more than one thing to the table. That gives any coach more of a reason or want to play you.
“I think that’s something I tried to really hone in on this season, is to be able to be that multi-faceted player where I can crash the boards and find the open players and also the open shots.”
Kelley and the Perth Lynx open the 2022/23 WNBL season at home, in a grand final rematch with the Melbourne Boomers on Wednesday, November 2.
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