BASKETBALLER Sara Blicavs is in Bendigo on a mission - and it has little to do with her main goal of helping Spirit win back-to-back WNBL championship titles.
The Australian junior and Opals representative has drawn up a "bucket list" of things to see and do during her tenure in the central Victorian city and has already ticked off a day at the races by attending the Bendigo Cup.
Blicavs plans to visit the usual tourist sites - Golden Dragon Museum, Central Deborah Gold Mine and Discovery Centre - with team-mate and list co-conspirator Tessa Lavey.
But there are other, less obvious local experiences awaiting her.
"We want to take a blow up pool or boat to Lake Eppalock on a free day and have cheese platters and apple cider out there," says the 188cm tall guard/forward who signed with Spirit this season after a year at the Dandenong Rangers and several seasons at the AIS.
"We're going to have a picnic in Rosalind Park, full out with a picnic rug and basket; a wedges tour to see which Bendigo cafe serves the best wedges; and we'd love to go up to the Murray River and camp out in a tent."
Horse riding with her mum and a trip to scenic Turpin Falls near Redesdale also feature.
At 20, the fun-loving Blicavs has been touted as one of the future stars of the WNBL. And if sporting pedigree has anything to do with it, the Sunbury-raised girl has a genetic head start.
Her parents are both Australia basketball representatives: dad Andris played for the Boomers at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and mum Karen (Ogden), who twice won the WNBL MVP award, for the Opals at the 1983 world titles.
Middle brother Mark is a former athletics star who now plays AFL football for Geelong and oldest sibling Kris has just finished his first season with the Ballarat Miners in the SEABL.
Having a famous sporting surname might help get you noticed, but it comes with the heavy burden of expectation.
"It can be hard," Blicavs says, recalling the time she was selected in her first Australian under-17 team and her parents came across disparaging comments online suggesting she was only in the squad because of her last name.
"I felt that pressure from others when I was young and still do to this day. It put a lot of doubts in my head because if I was not playing well, I felt like people expected me to be.
"But recently, I have come to terms with the fact I have got so much to learn and who cares what anyone thinks, I'll just give it my best. My parents tell me that all the time."
Her family background means Blicavs is never short of expert advice.
"Dad, every day, lecture upon lecture upon lecture. And I've heard them all before," she says, rolling her eyes but sporting a grin.
"Whenever he can get his two cents worth in, he will. Mum's very positive - she tells me what to do sometimes, but she knows I'll hear it all from dad.
"Whether I choose to listen is a different thing. But it's not like I'm hearing it from a nobody!"
Her parents had finished playing elite basketball by the time she was born, but Blicavs has seen footage of them in action and heard others speak glowingly of their feats.
She was 10 when she began in Sunbury's domestic competition and joined the rep squad program two years later. She was also a talented distance runner.
At 15, she moved to Melbourne Tigers and basketball won out: Victorian selection and invitations to Australian Institute of Sport and national development camps followed.
Blicavs made her WNBL debut as a 16-year-old after earning an AIS scholarship.
"I was so scared and nervous," she recalls, but scored seven points for the game.
"The level of intensity was amazing and I was exhausted after two minutes. Rebounding was so much harder because you were getting smacked around by these big bodies and it was a real eye-opener. But it helped prepare us for when we left the AIS."
Blicavs says her time at the institute was "the best two years of my life" - her off-court antics with fellow athletes providing just as many memories as the elite training experience.
"It's like you are stuck in a prison and there are curfews - even if you are over 18, you have to be back in your pod by 10pm and swipe in with a card," she laughs. "Our coach would check the time we'd swiped back in and we'd be in so much trouble if we were late.
"I was once late by about three minutes and got grounded for a whole weekend.
"But our pod was away from all cameras and one day our back fence broke. Instead of telling our house parents, we used it as a gate and could come and go as we pleased, no swiping!
"It wasn't until we left that they found out about the fence. Because there's nothing much to do there away from basketball, you'd have to come up with your own fun... it was awesome."
Despite her youth, Blicavs already has an impressive list of career highlights, including world university games and world 3x3 championship bronze medals, representing Australia at under-17 and under-19 level and making her first Opals team in June.
She has played basketball in Spain, France, Chile, Russia, Greece and China.
"At the time, I didn't really think about it much but when I reflect on it now, I am only 20 and I have been fortunate enough to see different parts of the world... even though we do see a lot of buses, hotels and basketball courts, you still get a feel for what a country is like."
Blicavs (her Latvian surname is pronounced Blitzavs) joined 2011-12 WNBL champions Dandenong last season after leaving the AIS, but struggled to find her feet at the club.
She says Bendigo is proving to be a completely different experience and she's loving it.
"You will never lose your confidence playing in this team," she says.
"The girls are always telling me to shoot the ball. Sometimes I don't shoot as I don't think it would be a great shot and they'll ask why not? They want you to have a go anyway. They're great and it's awesome to have someone the calibre of Kristi Harrower helping you out."
Still, coming into another team that has just unfurled a championship flag is a little daunting.
"I feel like the team has all these expectations on them and Bernie and the girls talk about the win and it's hard because you weren't there for it.
"They try not to dwell on it, though - it's a new year and we are starting all over again.
"But if Bendigo doesn't win this year, I'll feel like I am the X-factor because Dandenong lost out the year after winning the title when I went there."
Blicavs spends several nights a week in Bendigo living with team-mates Maddie Garrick and Ebony Antonio, then splits the rest of her time between her parents' place in Sunbury and Mark's home in Geelong, where she stayed while playing SEABL for the Supercats.
In her spare time, she enjoys hitting the beach, performing yoga and chilling with friends.
"I love eating out and I am a bit of a coffee connoisseur," she says. "In Geelong, my dad challenged me to tick off every cafe in the city before I left and I think there's only about five I haven't done. I am doing well in Bendigo, too!"
Given that knee injuries ended the professional careers of both her parents, it's only natural to wonder how Blicavs' joints are holding up to the rigours of her sport.
"Oh no, don't jinx me - touch wood, my knees are completely fine," she says. "I have had more problems with stress fractures in my shin and back but thankfully not the knees.
"I'm the only one in my family who hasn't had a knee operation or something wrong. Dad is on 13 operations, mum is on eight. Dad even has his kneecap floating in a jar at home!"
While her dream is to make an Olympic squad, Blicavs is not looking too far forward.
"Right now, I have so much to work on that I am not even thinking about making Australian teams," she says. "I've had so much pressure at times trying to be good that I wasn't enjoying basketball.
"So I'm just trying to improve and if I am lucky enough to make an Australian camp next year, I'll try and beat the girls who would make the team.
"But I am not aiming to make any particular team so I don't have that added pressure.
"Now I have that mindset, I feel much more at ease and I am playing much better."
We want to take a blow up pool or boat to Lake Eppalock on a free day and have cheese platters and apple cider...Sara Blicavs