Ahlise Hurst grabs her chance in the WNBL with Bendigo Spirit

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IF AHLISE Hurst had one wish this Christmas, it would be that the WNBL season was closer to opening than ending.

The 17-year-old is loving every moment of her first season as a development player for Bendigo Spirit, even accounting for the team’s overall disappointing season.

And following a break-out 15-point game in a mid-December loss to league powerhouse Townsville Fire, Hurst is definitely feeling she belongs in the league’s premier women’s basketball league.

“It was pretty exciting … I had just come back from the Australian Schools Championships in Melbourne and I was on a roll from nationals,” she said.

“Going into the game I was just confident and ready to go and it turned out I was able to play a lot more minutes than I normally would.

“Things just flowed throughout the game – it was one of those times I thought ‘I should be here’ (in the WNBL).”

Hurst, who will turn 18 on January 6, could only describe her first season in the WNBL as “awesome”.

“To be able to compete with these players and get the chance to improve against players like Kelsey (Griffin), Ash (Karaitiana) and our imports and everyone else is amazing,” she said.

Basketball is in the blood for Hurst.

Her father ‘Jumpin’ Joe was a former NBL most valuable player award winner in 1998 and enjoyed stints with the  Hobart Devils and Canberra Cannons.

A standout at Northwest Missouri State University in his college days, he played professionally in several countries including Sweden, Iceland, Croatia, Indonesia and Portugal.

Ahlise did not hesitate in nominating her father as the greatest influence on her blossoming career.

The highlight of the youngster’s busy basketball year was her gold medal win with Victoria Country’s under-18 national championships win in Townsville.

Hurst is one of six players on the Spirit roster to sign with the Bendigo Lady Braves for the 2018 SEABL season.

The 174cm guard played nine games with the Lady Braves last season while combining duties with the club’s development league team, and joins Nadeen Payne, Ashleigh Karaitiana, Kara Tessari, Maddi Wild and Jess Rennie on next year’s roster.

“It should be a great season,” she said.

“Coming from Spirit to SEABL, we won’t be starting anything new, our team will be set.”