A FRUSTRATING but ultimately character-building last 15 months for star young Bendigo basketballer Jess Rennie has found its silver lining.
The 18-year-old Bendigo Spirit and Braves shooting guard has signed to play college ball with the University of Tennessee.
The skilled perimeter shooter has endured a tough last year and a half following a knee injury.
Rennie missed the Braves' 2018 championship-winning season and also the Spirit's 2018-19 WNBL campaign after tearing her ACL and MCL in an Australian School Championships game for Bendigo Senior Secondary College in late 2017.
The former Victorian Country junior representative will head to Knoxville, Tennessee on a short trip next week for introductions and will return full-time in June.
Rennie, who will turn 19 in May, said a college career was something she had always had in the back of her mind.
"I was never 100 per cent sure until this year - there was some thought given to staying her and playing," Rennie said.
"But the urge certainly got stronger from about December onwards.
"It's a massive school. They went to the NCAA tournament, but they a really young side. Being in the top 64 teams is still pretty amazing though."
Rennie becomes the second Australian on the Vols women's roster after the recent addition of fellow three-point threat Lou Brown, from Melbourne, a graduate transfer from Washington State.
The three-year WNBL development player said she was showing no lingering effects of the knee injury, which put her career on hold for 15 months.
"The knee is good .... I'm fully back in training and the knee feels awesome, I have had no trouble at all," Rennie said.
"Obviously it has been a long haul ... it was 15 months before I was fully back on court, but I am so glad I took those extra few months.
"Normally they recommend only 12 months, but I'm glad it was the 15 for me as I have had no troubles whatsoever.
"People have kept asking whether I am going to play or not (before I leave), but I won't. I have been training with the youth league girls, which is best for now."
Rennie, who played in the 2017 SEABL grand final for Bendigo, is the latest player to travel the pathway from the Braves to the US on a basketball scholarship.
Former SEABL (now NBL1) team-mates of hers currently playing in the United States include Chloe Bibby (Mississippi State), Ahlise Hurst (New Mexico) and Alex Strawhorn (Kilgore College), while another Madi Sexton has returned home after a short stint at South Carolina Aiken.
"Chloe is in the same conference - Southeastern - as me, so we will likely play against each other, which is pretty cool," she said.
Rennie said her recruitment would not have been possible without the help and support of Samantha Tomlinson, who is director of Aussie Basketball USA, which connects Australian athletes with scholarship opportunities in the US.
Tomlinson is the sister of 2018-19 Spirit player Louella Tomlinson.
Rennie also praised the role of her parents Dave and Sharon and her previous two Braves coaches, current leader and 2018 championship coach Megan Moody, and Jonathan Goodman, who guided the club to a grand final berth in 2017.
"My family have been great, mum and dad have run me everywhere over the years for my basketball ... they are just as excited as me," she said.
"They are coming over for the visit next week.
"Megan Moody has been there and done this whole experience and I have been grateful for everything she has done.
"And Jono Goodman - even though I haven't seen him in a while - helped me make a video, which really started this whole process.
"I'd also like to thank all my team-mates for helping me get this far and Chris Hogan and Val Someinov at Bendigo South East, who have helped me with my rehab. I wouldn't have got back without them."
SIX FAMOUS FORMER TENNESSEE VOLS
Peyton Manning (Super Bowl winning quarterback with Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos).
Bernard King (Four-time NBA All-Star, whose Volds' number 53 was retired).
Charles Scott Abbott (One of the two originators of Trivial Pursuit).
Reggie White (13-time NFL Pro-Bowler with the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers and Super Bowl champion in 1997).
Dolly Parton (Country music singer, recipient Honorary Doctorate, 2009)
Chris Hadfield (Canadian retired astronaut, engineer, and former Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot).
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