15 February 2024

Riverina basketball star shoots for the big time in the US

| Michael Murphy
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Amelia Hassett playing for Eastern Florida State College where she averaged 19.4 points per game and 13 rebounds. Photos: Supplied.

Adelong basketball star Amelia Hassett has had her outstanding sporting talents recognised by being recruited to the prestigious American college Virginia Tech. It continues a meteoritic rise in the popular sport for the 19-year-old, who is described by those close to her as a hard-working and humble young athlete.

Virginia Tech is a research-based University that is also highly regarded for its sporting prowess, with the basketball program contesting the highly competitive NCAA Division 1. The Hokies, as they are affectionately known, are currently sitting atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After completing high school in Tumut, Hassett moved to the US for the 2022-23 season where she attended junior college at Eastern Florida State College. Hassett won a state title in her first season with the Titans and was averaging 19.4 points per game and 13 rebounds in the current season before being approached by Virginia Tech.

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Hassett’s latest achievement is the result of an incredible dedication to her chosen sport, and the unwavering support of family and friends.

“It means a lot to be recruited by such a high program, because I feel like all of my hard work is paying off,” Hassett said.

“Virginia Tech is a place that I never thought I would be at, so it is a dream come true.

“My parents have had a big part in my career and have helped me achieve my goals, but also my coaches, from when I was younger to now. All of them have played a part in my development.”

What began with a game in Tumut to follow in her brother’s footsteps evolved into a vocation that steamrolled towards success. As an under-12 player, representative basketball in Wagga saw Hassett develop under the tutelage of Jason Maskell, but a move to the Cootamundra Cougars became the platform for NSW representation and eventual involvement in Aus Camps through the AIS Centre of Excellence for Basketball.

basketballer ready to shoot

On the path to a basketball dream. Hassett playing for the Cootamundra Cougars.

Inquiries from recruitment agencies began to roll in, and it was around year 9 that Amelia’s mum, Rachael Hassett, remembered her daughter saying: “I want to go to America and play basketball.”

As her skills continued to improve, a phone call from Albury Bandits head coach Mat Paps led to a trial at the border city. Hassett impressed, and a great debut season in the NBL1 competition by the high-scoring forward was only eclipsed by the opportunity to play with her childhood idol, Lauren Jackson, the following year.

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Rachael said she and her husband, Rohan, were excited and proud after the Virginia offer.

“Amelia is very driven and very hard on herself,” Rachael said.

“She spends a lot of time by herself training, and in all the time we were travelling to Albury for training and games, she never once said, ‘I don’t want to go’.

“The period during COVID was tough, but she continued to train, even doing online Zoom training sessions.”

The Hokies were not the only NCAA Division 1 school to approach the Riverina star, but as with her move to Eastern Florida, Hassett was impressed by what the staff had to say, and what the school represented.

“I chose Virginia Tech because of the coaching staff and how much I felt I could fit into their program,” Hassett said.

“The coaches have a lot of knowledge, and they want to help me develop my game and go to the next level.”

basketball player

Amelia Hassett after committing to Virginia Tech.

With Hassett having settled into American life, the move to the university town of Blacksburg, Virginia, will be made easier by the presence of fellow Australian Georgia Amoore, but the initial trip across the Pacific Ocean brought some trepidation.

“It was the unknown for me. Not knowing if I would enjoy it here, or if the people would be nice, but after the first year it definitely became a lot easier,” Hassett said.

When Hassett reflects on her basketball journey, she says it all feels surreal at times. Despite her enormous achievements, she remains humble. People say that you wouldn’t know Amelia played basketball unless you asked, but college basketball is by no means the top of the tree and there are still plenty of goals ahead.

“My goals at VT would be to develop my game and play against the best players, and just to continue to grow as a person and a player,” Hassett said.

“I definitely think a dream would be to go to the WNBA, but also even to go to Europe and play.”

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