Casey Valenti-Paea didn’t expect to be named in this year’s Vic Metro under-18 basketball side for the Australian Junior Championships, let alone be one of the team leaders.
After not having the best tournament before the team was selected, Valenti-Paea thought she would miss out.
But the coaches thought differently and named her in the team for the April championships.
The 16-year-old Tullamarine resident said she was excited.
“I can’t wait,” she said.
“I’m expected to be one of the leaders, which is a big step up for me. It’s big thing and I’m a little bit nervous as I don’t want to stuff it up.”
Having claimed gold the last time she pulled on a Victorian jumper, Valenti-Paea said she was hoping for a repeat effort this time round.
“I obviously want to win a gold medal,” she said.
“I want to have a good time with the girls, as well. There are some new girls in the team.”
The team has started training ahead of the championships and has played two practice matches against women’s sides.
A second state team selection is testament to Valenti-Paea rise since she started playing basketball as a six year old.
“We had a family team in Keilor,” she said.
“My cousins played in a mixed team and my auntie was the coach.
“I can’t remember much, but I kept asking the ref if I could blow the whistle.”
Since then, Valenti-Paea has played with several different clubs, including Keilor, Diamond Valley and Bulleen Boomers.
Last season, she combined playing with the Boomers and the Craigieburn Eagles in Big V women’s youth league division 1.
At the Eagles, Valenti-Paea was a stand-out, earning all-five star selection and being named defensive player of the year.
She averaged just over 20 points, as well as 10 rebounds and eight steals a game.
Valenti-Paea said she really loved the defensive side of the game and the opportunity to play with the Eagles last season was a good one.
“The coach, Debbie Coulson, asked me if I wanted to play youth league – I wasn’t sure what that was,” she said.
“I was really proud of myself. I didn’t know what a triple double was, but I got a couple of them.
“I love the defensive side of things and live for steals.”
Valenti-Paea will play with the Bulleen Boomers in the new NBL1 competition this year.
The Maribyrnong Sports College student said she hoped a good national championships will lead to higher honours.
“I want to perform well and hopefully get a scholarship at the AIS and Centre of Excellence,” she said.
“Hopefully, I’ll get asked to trial for the Australian team. That’s my aspiration.”