Tasmanian basketballer Olivia West speaks about her basketball odyssey to Utah

Court out: Olivia West at home in Launceston between her studies and basketball duties in Utah. Picture: Scott Gelston.
Court out: Olivia West at home in Launceston between her studies and basketball duties in Utah. Picture: Scott Gelston.

The career path of basketballer Olivia West has taken a lengthy detour between visits to Elphin Sports Centre.

Between playing with Trojans from under-10s in the LSBL and returning to practice this week, West has taken her game to new levels nationally and internationally.

Launceston-born, the former Sacred Heart and St Pat’s student started playing at the age of five, eventually earning selection to state under-16 and under-18 teams, being invited to Tasmanian Institute of Sport camps and touring Victoria and South Australia.

A development player with the Tornadoes at the age of 14, West gained a TIS scholarship under coach Justin Schueller but when the program was shut down she moved to Melbourne and played in Victorian junior sides, helping the state win the under-18 national championships.

She played for Bulleen and Diamond Valley in the Big V state league before an opportunity arose to take her basketball overseas.

“A friend had signed with Utah State University and her coach asked if she knew of any point guards interested in going to college in the US,” West said.

“I started talking to him and they ended up offering me a scholarship.”

One year into a four-year scholarship for a degree in dietetics while playing division 1 college basketball, the 19-year-old is back home reflecting on where basketball has taken her. 

Showing her two allegiances by sporting a Utah state top and Tasmanian shorts, West said she was loving America.

“Basketball is just so much bigger over there.

“The stadium we play in holds 10,000 and the footy stadium 35,000 and that’s just one of 400 colleges and many of them are a lot bigger.

“The facilities are incredible. We charter a private jet to all our games and have brass bands and cheerleaders and the games are streamed live on a TV network. It’s all really over the top but makes for an incredible atmosphere

“It’s awesome and I love it so much. It’s just a great life experience and the more places it takes me, the better it gets.”

​Following in the footsteps of fellow Tasmanians Hugh Greenwood and Kai Woodfall, who accepted basketball scholarships to University of New Mexico and Missouri’s Southwest Baptist University respectively, West swiftly adapted to the lifestyle.

“I settled in after a couple of months. Utah is an interesting place, there are a lot of different religions there, plus I’ve been to California, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and seen so much of America.”

Having grown up admiring Tornadoes like Sharin Milner, Nat Hurst and Jessica Bibby, West has a long-term plan to play WNBL or head to Europe and an ultimate dream to play for the Opals.