Katie-Rae Ebzery needed to walk away from basketball to realise that she wanted the sport to be a part of her life. Nearly six years later, and still only 25, Ebzery is making her debut for the Jayco Australian Opals in Europe.
Basketball and Ebzery have gone together since the Novacastrian was aged five or six. By the age of nine, she was making her first representative teams. In 2005, Ebzery found herself at the Australian Institute of Sport.
“I was pretty young and I guess I was a bit overwhelmed,” says Ebzery now looking back on her three years in Canberra. Not that she would change the experience. By the age of 18 she had 65 WNBL games under her belt.
“Getting the opportunity to play in the WNBL at a young age and knowing this [playing for the Opals] was a goal that I wanted to achieve has always been a factor.”
After a season at Dandenong, Ebzery walked away from the basketball court. For six months she did not touch a ball.
“I was missing it within a few months,” Ebzery says. “I wanted that feeling again of wanting to be around it. I certainly hoped it would be that way and not the realisation that I didn’t want it to be a part of my life anymore.”
Ebzery returned to the WNBL for the 2010/11 season with the Sydney Uni Flames and hasn’t looked back. The move catapulted her into the Emerging Opals team for the 2011 and 2013 World University Games, along with the FIBA 3X3 Women’s World Championship in 2012 with bronze medals achieved across the board. Ebzery believes that having the opportunity to play 3X3 has definitely played a role in keeping her game invigorated.
“That was a really fun experience,” she explains. “It was amazing. Those forms of the game definitely keep it fun and fresh as opposed to the regular five on five game.”
According to Ebzery’s mentor at the Sydney Uni Flames, Karen Dalton, the key to her “evolution” is Ebzery obtaining a balance between basketball and the rest of her life. Something that Ebzery, a genuine high-achiever, is doing incredibly well. Hard work takes place both on and off the court.
“Her best season has been when she’s managed to work, play basketball and study – she’s found that balance here at Sydney Uni,” says Dalton. “Her ability to manage what she’s done in terms of moving to Sydney, studying full-time, working; the key to her success is having a well-rounded life.”
It’s almost unsurprising that it’s the multi-tasking elements of basketball is what Ebzery finds most attractive about the sport.
“I love being able to do everything on the court,” she admits. I played a bit of netball where you’re a bit restricted. In basketball, everyone can contribute to anything on the court at anytime – you can play offense and defence. I love how fast-paced it is and the athleticism and skill. It’s not one-dimensional and that’s what’s really fun about it.”
So far in Europe, with one game left to play against Venezuela on Monday, Ebzery has been making the most of her court time, with two stand-out games against Italy. In game one, Ebzery scored a game-high 21 points, in game two, she scored 12 points and managed two steals.
With the Rio Olympics on the horizon, there was no way that Ebzery was going to take the opportunity in Europe for granted.
“My selection is the result of sticking with it and putting in the work.”