Basketball Crazy Interview: Rebecca Mercer
PERSONAL: DOB 20/08/1986; Height: 175cm
JUNIOR ASSOCIATION: Kalamunda (WA).
FIRST PLAYED WNBL: 2003/04
Current Team: 08/09 & 09/10 Go 2 & 5 Perth Lynx (Number 44) http://www.wnbl.com.au/index.php?id=565
NCAA Div 1 Team: 06/07 & 07/08 Montana State University – Bobcats (Number 4)
Watch Rebecca Play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwmN8Ssf8lM
NJCAA 04/05 & 05/06 Lake Region State College
Perth Lynx 03/04
BASKETBALL CAREER SO FAR: Rebecca has represented WA at Australian Junior Championships in U16’s, U18’s and U20’s. She played in the Australian Youth team at Oceania Games in Coffs Harbour and attended Lake Region State College in North Dakota USA, Montana State University in Montana, USA. She toured Bahamas with Montana State University. Basketball highlights include Australian Youth Team Gold Medal in 2004, NJCAA National Champions in 2005/2006, NJCAA 2nd Team All American, Conference MVP in 2005 and 1st team All Conference in 2006. Rebecca was the Big Sky Conference New Comer of the Year in 2007. Rebecca was member of the All Conference 2nd Team in 2007 and All Conference 1st Team in 2008. She also played in the Big Sky Championship Game.
BBC Hi Rebecca, thank you for taking the time to talk with Basketball Crazy.
RM Thank you for the invitation
BBC Basketball Crazy recognises you as being one of the higher achieving Aussie players with your college career and would like to give young Aussie players some insight into the whole college set-up, lifestyle and commitment. Would you mind if our questions are predominantly about your college career and how you have settled back into Australia?
RM Not at all, I would be happy to share my college experiences.
BBC Thanks, Rebecca, at what age did you first think about going to a college in USA and did you have someone in Australia helping and encouraging you to go?
RM I was in year eleven when I decided to go to college. I was training and playing for Craig Mansfield who was an assistant coach at the University of North Dakota at the time. He was the one who helped me get to America and my junior college (Lake Region State College). Lake Region is about an hour from UND.
BBC Did you have any reason, encouragement, desire or offers to stay and play basketball in Australia instead of going to US College?
RM At the time I was training with the Perth Lynx. I wasn't allowed to play any games because it would make me ineligible to go to college. I was asked by Joe McKay before returning for my senior year if I wanted to stay but I had school to finish and the most important year to go. Other than that I wasn't asked to stay to play for any teams in Australia.
BBC You decided to go to NJCAA for your first two years of college, was it a full scholarship offer and what was so special about Lake Region State College’s offer to you.
RM I did get a full scholarship for Lake Region. They paid for my housing, meals and tuition. The only thing I had to pay for were my flights over to America and spending money. You can get a job within the school to earn a bit of money but there is not a lot of time between training everyday and classes to work. I was also very, very lucky to have Mum and Dad send me a bit of money when I needed it.
BBC What direct costs were you still required to pay that were not in your scholarship ie Airfares, text books, medical insurance?
RM Some text books in Jnr College and spending money.
BBC Can you explain this decision to go to NJCAA and why you never went directly to a four year NCAA D1 or D2 college?
RM I was unsure of what degree I wanted to persue initally and junior college lets you get all of your general subjects out of the way like sciences and maths. Then after Jnr college you focus on the classes more specific to your major and minors.
When choosing a 4 year college I think its very important to understand where you are going and feel comfortable at the school you as are going to spend a huge part of your life at. Going straight to a 4-year school from Australia without visiting it is a big chance to take. If you don't like it then you are either stuck there for 4 years, or have to make a difficult transfer which can include sitting out some years or just going home unhappy. From a Jnr college, you are allowed up to 5 fly in visits to schools that are recuriting you. I flew to four colleges before making a decision. The schools recuriting you, pay for you to fly there, they pay for meals, take you out, you scrimmage with the team and hang out with them to best get a feel for the school. I am so glad I did this becuase after visitng a few schools that were recuriting me I found that the one I favoured before visiting just wasn't for me and the one I wasn't that interested in was perfect!
BBC Can you tell me about your life experiences and time at Lake Region State College?
RM Well, I am from Kalamunda which is in the Perth hills and thats about half an hour from the city and 45mins from the beach. Lake Region is in the middle of farming country in North Dakota which is dead flat with no trees and not many people. It was a huge change in scenery which was a little hard to adjust to. I relied heavily on my parents when I was at home to help me make decisions so not having them there made it difficult to make decisions on my own.
BBC How did you mix with the team and coaching staff? Did you all get along well? Did they love your accent?
RM At junior college we only had the mens and womens teams so we all got a long really well and hung out for most of the time. There wasn't much to do there so spent almost all of our spare time together. The good thing about going to college to play basketball is that you instantly have nine new friends and people to help you get settled. Most of my best friends at MSU were actually not athletes and I loved to have that balance between the ego's and personalities of the athletes and normaility and more down to earth people that didn't play sports.
They did love my accent and whats even funnier is when they used to ask me to speak in an American accent. People would ask you a question and then when you opened your mouth their eyes would light up as they realised you were an Aussie.
BBC What were your greatest memories of LRSC on and off the court?
RM My greatest memories off the court were countless. We did one night dress as ninja's in all black and ran around the campus scaring and pranking people and then eventually had all the dorms people chasing us. A few of us also went to Canada a few times and they were great trips especially when we took four cars full of people and my friend Mallory took her mums Escalade. We were going through the border securitya t Crystal City and she had loads of her gear from her room ready to move out of the dorms in the next week. So we had to explain why an Aussie, a yank and two Pom's were going to Canada with a car load of home items. It didn't look good!
On the court would have to be when we won our two regional/conference titles to go to nationals both years, when we won a game at naionals and when I got named and NJCAA all american.
BBC Towards the end of your two years at LRSC, did you at all feel concerned that you may not have a scholarship offer to attend a Senior College?
RM Not at all. I had many offers and went to visit my favourite of the schools. When you go to a JC it is almost a part of the coaching staffs jobs to help you find a school to go to.
BBC What was that experience like and what made you end up selecting Montana State University?
RM It was a busy and sometimes distracting time. I had a lot of people calling me and endless letters from schools. It is great they have rules in place that only allow schools to call you once a week or else they would bug you everyday. It's a nice feeling to have people wanting you to play for them. I chose MSU because of the girls. I trained with them and i loved their game style and tempo. I also loved the coaches.,they were so nice and Coach Binford especially got me there. She played WNBA and also in the WNBL so she understood me and I trusted that I would fit their program really well. Also MSU is very big but not as big as one school I went to (North Carolina at Wilmington). It was soooo big that I got a little worried that I wouldn't be able to get around and I might feel alone. MSU was the perfect choice and I loved it!
BBC What made you select Teaching/Education to study?
RM The whole time I was in America i still didnt know what i wanted to do but phys ed teaching was the closest. I did want to do physio but it would not be recognised over here in Oz and would take a lot of studing (and i wanted to dedicate most of my spare time to basketball).
BBC How hard was it to meet the study commitment with the home and away basketball season? How did you cope?
RM It wasn't too bad. I really dislike school but I got through. Our team held the 4th best GPA in College sports in America so our coaches were always on us about our grades. If we had anything less than a B grade we had to pick it up. If we didn't meet a certain GPA (which was way higher than what we needed to play) we had study table hours that we had to sign in and out of in the Academic Centre. We also had study table on the road so the whole team would have to do certain amounts of hours of study at the hotels. Lots of the girls also studied in the spare time on flights and at hotels.
BBC What were your fondest memories of your time at Montana State on and off the court?
RM On the court it was for sure beating the Montana Griz at home. It hadn't been done in like 7 years. I was on TV and the whole team played amazing. Senior night was also one of my greatest memories. Mum and Dad came to Bozeman and surprised me at 11pm at night in Walmart and walked me out for the game. It was just awesome. We also went on a trip to the Bahamas where we played their National team.
Off the court would have to be all the time I spent with one of my best friends Megan. We lived together with my german teammate Mara and had a laugh at almost everything we did from watching the ENTIRE series of Seinfeld when we had no cable to our final trip to Las Vegas and LA.
BBC Did you have any injuries you had to deal with while in college? If so did the college look after you?
RM I had servere chronice plantar faschiitis for my final year at MSU. It also worsened in the final month of games when i got a stress fracture in the right foot too. I would only train once or twice a week, I would spend everyday in a boot and on crutches and go to a game, play then get back in it straight after. We tried every means possible to fix to the point where i could pretty much write a book about it! They were even going to fly me to the other side of the country to see about a new treatment for it. They were fantastic and the trainers (especially Heather) spent at least an hour on my feet everyday.
BBC As your college life came to an end, what opportunities were presenting themselves both in Australia and overseas for you to consider?
RM I had the chance to get an agent to go to europe if I wanted to play on. At the time i still had my long term prac to do so I stayed home to finish my school which was very important.
BBC Would you do anything different regarding seeking a college scholarship if you had your time over again?
RM No. I am so glad I went to a JC first and I recommend that to anyone. You just get such a better chance to explore your options for a Div 1,2,3 or NAIA school than you would from Aust.
BBC You decided to come home and play for the “Go for 2 & 5 Lynx”, was it and easy transition from a basketball point of view?
RM It was very different. In college I could shoot any shot that I was presented with and in a new system you have to change your game a lot. I feel like I have gone backwards a little bit but thats what happens when you change teams and get a different role for your team.
BBC Basketball Crazy understands that you had to continue studying when you came home to finish your degree, did you have any problems with this?
RM A lot! Trying to communicate with people who are 14 hours behind you means that it takes almost a week to get something sorted. It was tough but the principal it Queens Park (Paula Gray) was fantastic and helped me a great deal!
BBC You are now teaching, are you enjoying it and have you made a good decision to study education?
RM I thought that at the end of my prac I did not want to teach but since I have been doing relief there is nothing I want to do more. Its great and I have worked with some great schools.
BBC This question is more after your opinion on Australian Basketball, do you believe Australian Basketball could be doing more to encourage good players like yourself to stay in Australia to study and play basketball rather than go overseas and if so what do you think could be done?
RM Yes for sure. I think that if WNBL clubs would work with universities and provide some scholarships they would be able to keep good young players at home and bring exciting new players here. There will always be the glamour and excitemnet of playing college in America that will take young players away but it is tough to be away from home and those ones that want to play here and study will have an option this way.
BBC What does the future look like for you regarding basketball, career and life in general?
RM Well finding a teaching job next year is looking tough so far with not many jobs around at the moment but I have some other options. I am excited for the remainder the WNBL season under new coach Vlad. He is very uptempo and passionate and I think we may be able to turn things around. I have settled in Perth for now with my partner and we are not ruling out going overseas or interstate at any point in the near or distant future and are just looking to take things as they come!
BBC Thank you for sharing your college experience with Basketball Crazy and I wish you luck with your basketball and hope to see a few more win’s on board for the Lynx this year. Thanks
RM Thanks for your time and it was great to share my great college experiences with you!