By Lance Jenkinson
It took US import Alyssa Bennett some time to show her full potential in a Werribee Devils singlet, but she has since produced at an All Star level to guide her team to the Big V basketball women’s division 1 play-offs.
Bennett’s slow start to her own lofty standards was somewhat to be expected, as she had not played organised basketball for two years because of personal issues.
She was also finding her feet in a foreign land while integrating into a new team.
“At the beginning of the season, it was a struggle for the team because everybody was new,” Bennett said.
“I was new, I was just getting my feet into the door. We had to grow chemistry and learn more about each other on and off the court.
“We’ve got better with that and you can see the transformation.”
Bennett had no doubt that she could produce at the level she demands of herself, but a lack of match fitness did dent her confidence.
While the 28-year-old had not played in an organised match situation for two years, she was still working hard behind the scenes to keep her body in shape and maintaining her touch with the basketball.
“Even though I was working at training, it’s different when you haven’t played organised basketball for two years,” she said.
“I feel like I worked pretty hard the years I have taken off and it shows on the court.”
Bennett is undoubtedly in the upper echelon of players in division 1. Averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per game, she will be included in MVP discussions.
Her ability to play in three positions – centre, power forward and small forward – makes her valuable for Devils coach Reece Potter.
“He just switches me up where I can be a mis-match problem,” Bennett said.
Born in North Carolina and raised in Virginia, Bennett was never too far away from the basketball court as a child.
Bennett is not a boisterous import who likes to hog the limelight. She prefers to stick to the background, take a young player aside for a quiet chat and lead by example.
“I’m not really outspoken or talkative,” Bennett said. “I’m very laid-back … but this team seems to embrace that and know who I am.”
Bennett will be Werribee’s go-to player in the play-offs.
With 15 double-doubles leading into the last round, she will provide a headache for opposition coaches.
“I’m looking forward to going to finals and seeing what finals has to offer,” she said.
“I want us to go out and fight and make our coaches proud and make each other proud.
“I’m really excited.”
Werribee rounded out the regular season with a 75-35 win over Western Port Steelers at the David Collings Indoor Leisure Centre on Sunday.
The Devils will face Warnambool Mermaids in the elimination final at The Arc Sports Stadium on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Werribee finished the men’s state championship season on a high note, beating Keilor Thunder 60-51 at Eagle Stadium on Saturday night.
Star import Konor Kulas produced 22 points and 10 rebounds – his 17th double-double of the season.
Kulas was undoubtedly the team’s MVP, averaging 24.2 points and 11.1 rebounds a game.