HOT TALENTS: Mildura Heat imports Alyesha Lovett and Jacob Pettway are ready to bring everything to the table for their respective Big V Basketball team campaigns, beginning next Saturday. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
ALYESHA Lovett says it is a “dream come true” to play basketball in Australia.
That is saying something as the 25-year-old already has the experience of playing basketball on the US College circuit, in Spain and in England.
The Mildura Lady Heat will hope this comes to the fore during the 2019 Big V Basketball Division One Women’s competition.
Lovett, a 183-centimetre guard, is a versatile basketballer who is set to add further height, leadership and defensive skill to the Lady Heat’s already impressive firepower.
The Newark, New Jersey native said she has been welcomed into the Mildura community with open arms.
“I’ve always wanted to (play in Australia) so this is a dream come true for me. Being here is just amazing,” Lovett said.
“I like the weather and the people. The community is really nice and have welcomed me with open arms.
“Of course I have my own personal goals but as a team we just want to compete and win and show a different side to what they showed last year.”
The frustration of injury reared its ugly head for Lovett during her third year with the University of Cincinnati, who play in the American Athletic Conference in NCAA Division One.
An Achilles tendon injury forced her to sit on the sidelines for the entire year.
Rather than become bitter, Lovett threw herself into the coaching side of the game, trying to increase her knowledge and vision of the game and help her teammates improve.
“I quickly transitioned into more of a ‘players coach’ when I injured myself,” she said.
“I learned the ins and outs of plays and film and scouting, so I really learned a lot, not just for myself but also for my players. It has definitely made me a better leader.”
In her Senior season with the Cincinnati Bearcats, Lovett started all 30 games, averaging 11.3 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game, as well as 1.7 steals.
Following her College career, she headed to northwestern Spain to join CD Ponce Valladolid, where she averaged 17.9 points, five rebounds, two assists and 1.7 steal per game.
Following her spell in Europe, Lovett joined the Nottingham Wildcats for the 2017/18 Women’s British Basketball League campaign. Starting in all 20 games through the Championship, she averaged 14.6 points, 3.15 turnovers, 2.2 assists, and 7.65 rebounds per game.
“When I went to Spain, I thought it was a little slower, but once I got used to it, it was beautiful,” she said.
“It’s kind of the same but they’re different techniques, and I learned to combine that European style with that American style, you could say.
“A lot of girls in the UK played in the States as well so that made it a little bit easier.”
The Mildura Lady Heat campaign begins at the Toyota Hothouse next Saturday, March 16, against the Hawthorn Magic.
Rebounding back from severe injury
By MITCH RODD
A NASTY broken tibia injury has almost been a blessing in disguise for new Mildura Heat import Jacob Pettway.
Not long after the talented forward finished his College basketball career with Point University in his home state of Georgia, being pushed in the back during a pick-up game led to the severe injury.
The injury set Pettway back for a year in recovery, and he was also unable to fulfil his first professional contract.
After attacking his rehabilitation, Pettway, who stands at 201 centimetres, believes he is physically and mentally stronger, and said his time on the sidelines helped improve his knowledge and tactical awareness.
This all bodes well for the Mildura Heat, with the 28-year-old import set to play a vital role in the team’s Big V Basketball Division Two Men’s campaign.
Despite his short time with his new squad, Pettway is already convinced Mildura can be a championship contender.
“I think it’s going to be a special year. We’re more than a good chance to go all the way,” he said.
“The guys are great, I really like them. They are great listeners, willing to learn and know what I know. They are experienced too because they went to the Championships last year.”
After spending his Junior College year at Tuskegee University in 2012/13, Pettway made the switch to Point University, where he averaged a massive 14.6 rebounds per game, as well as being named in the All-Conference team.
The injury setback, however, means the Heat will be the first team the big-man has played for professionally.
“I had signed another contract when I first got out of college but I fractured my tibia so I kind of went into recovery mode,” Pettway said.
“It was our first pick-up game after the season, somebody pushed me in the back and I came down and all the pressure was on my right leg.
“As soon as it came down you could hear the snap. It sounded like a really big pencil breaking. It echoed through the gym, very painful.
“It took eight to 12 weeks for the fracture to heal, and to fully regain my strength was probably another eight months. So about a year (I was out).
“I’m back to where I used to be, and probably even better. I can jump a little bit higher with physical therapy, and improved everything from my flexibility to ball handling, shooting, and even the way I think about basketball is totally different now.
“When you’re watching basketball from the sidelines, everything slows down because you’re not playing. So I see a game from a slower perspective, different angles, being able to read the play differently.
“I’m a pass first player. I like to score but I also like to get my team involved because that also helps make it easier to score down the stretch.
“I love defence. I think I’m going to control the defence with blocking rebounding and steals and make sure everybody is in the right position.”