Shyla Heal might be one of the Bendigo Spirit's youngest players, but she already has a lifetime of experience on the basketball court.
Heal started playing as a 5-year-old, but it was a key moment three years later that it was realised she had what it took to succeed.
"One of my first memories of basketball is when I played in an under-12 representative competition and everyone I was competing against was a lot older," Heal said.
"That got me going as I then knew I was capable playing against people who were much older than myself."
The 18-year-old from Sydney was born into a world surrounded by basketball.
Her father is Shane Heal, a former Australian Boomer who competed at multiple Olympics as well as a stint in the NBA and has coached several teams.
This is also the type of basketball career that Shyla wishes to achieve.
"I've already got a solid start to my career and I want to make it lasts for a long time," Heal said.
Among her aspirations are to make the Australian Opals squad in the next two to three years and one day play in the WNBA.
"If I continue to work hard each year and improve, I know I will get there," she said.
Heal represented Australia at the Under-17 Oceania Championships in Guam as well as the FIBA Under-19 Women's World Cup in Thailand.
After the championships in Guam, Heal received offers to go to college but turned them down to instead make her debut with the Perth Lynx in the WNBL.
"I wanted to stay in Australia and play WNBL," Heal said.
"My dad talked me through it all...but I decided my pathway was to play WNBL where hopefully WNBA scouts will find me."
Heal has learnt a lot from her father, who offers words of advice frequently for not just basketball related matters.
"I call him everyday as he helps me a lot on and off the court," Heal said. "So lucky to have him by my side."
Heal was one of the first players announced on the Bendigo Spirit's 2019-20 WNBL roster under first-year coach Tracy York.
After only five rounds into the season with the Spirit, one of the league's youngest players has enjoyed every second.
"This season - for me - is about showing the league what I can really do," Heal said.
"My age isn't really a thing for me as so far this season I've been doing well and have learnt a lot from Kelly Wilson and Tessa Lavey.
"I'm receiving plenty of guidance from them on how to be a proper point-guard."
Wilson and Lavey share a co-captaincy role with the Spirit, with first year recruit Carley Ernst as vice-captain.
However, it's not just on the court she receives their guidance.
Heal lives with both Ernst and Lavey and in the past has referred to them as her big sisters.
After five round of the 2019-20 season, Heal has scored 63 points, average of nine per game in addition to 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
The team sits sixth on the ladder with a 2-5 record ahead of the league's break this weekend, as several WNBL players are competing at a pre-Olympic qualifying event with the Opals in Malaysia.
"My age isn't really a thing for me as so far this season I've been doing well and have learnt a lot from Kelly Wilson and Tessa Lavey.Shyla Heal
During the break, the Spirit is focused on bouncing back after recent losses.
"Each week at training we have a different focus...at the moment we're working through our plays and who the ball should go to at what times, it's all very crucial," Heal said.
"It's about doing of all of the little one per centers.
"Diving for loose balls, rebounds and boxing out. If we do all of these things then everything else will come together. We want to come back and show the league what we can really do."
Spirit's next game will be on November 24 at the Bendigo Stadium against the Melbourne Boomers, tip-off 2.05pm.
Season so far
- Round 1: def by Melbourne Boomers 72-87
- Round 2: def by Melbourne Boomers 74-70, def Perth Lynx 91-79
- Round 3: def by Southside Flyers 77-85
- Round 4: def Adelaide Lightning 67-54, def by Southside Flyers 80-93
- Round 5: def by Adelaide Lightning 105-77
- Southside Flyers 6-1
- UC Capitals 5-2
- Melbourne Boomers 4-2
- Adelaide Lightning 4-2
- Perth Lynx 2-4
- Bendigo Spirit 2-5
- Sydney Uni Flames 2-5
- Townsville Fire 1-5
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