FORMER Mildura Lady Heat star Jasmine Simmons is on top of the world after leading Australia to a gold medal at the FIBA Under 17 world championships in Spain.
The 17-year-old Australian captain recorded 14 points and 12 rebounds in the Sapphires’ 24-point championship decider over Italy on Sunday morning.
Experiencing an undefeated campaign, it was the first time Australia had won an Under 17 FIBA gold medal, having not finished higher than fifth in previous years.
Hardly tested in the pool games, the Sapphires proved too good for the Czech Republic and United States on the way to the final.
Despite injuring her thumb early in the tournament, Jasmine was one of three Australians to be selected in the championship’s All-Star Five.
Speaking to the Mildura Weekly at her family home on Wednesday, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) athlete said the amazing feat still hasn’t sunk in.
“I can’t really put it into words, and I still haven’t fathomed what has happened,” she said. “Making history with the group we had, and finishing the way we did, I can’t really describe it.
“It feels like a dream, and it’s been a goal for the group since we started our 18-month venture, and for it to be actually done, it hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Playing against countries including Mexico, France and China, Jasmine said the world championships were an eye-opening experience.
“It was a really competitive environment to be in on and off the court,” she said. “Every meal you ate with the opposition you were sitting with French girls and the Canadians, every team that was in your pool.
“It was an intense environment, but it was fun at the same time, and it was one you didn’t want to leave.”
Praised by coach Shannon Seebohm for their selflessness and team-first attitude, Jasmine said her team deserves to be the best in the world.
“We really focussed on the team aspect of defence, which is what not many teams focus on,” she said. “That’s what the Opals (Australia’s senior women’s team) focus on and they are the best defensive team in the world, so we were like ‘if they can do it, why can’t we?’
“We had a lot of values and goals set before the tournament, and we made sure that the girls didn’t focus on personal statistics, because we are a team.”
Returning to the AIS next week, Jasmine said she’s considering a move to either the WNBL (Women’s National Basketball League) or an American College once she completes Year 12 in 2017.