CARLEY Mijovic got used to packing up her life and moving across the country to follow her basketball career.
The Victorian junior left home at 15 – moving to the AIS and spent three years playing with the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) team, where she won the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year award in 2012.
After finishing her time at the AIS, Mijovic, originally from Narre Warren, headed back to her junior association Dandenong to play with their WNBL side.
It was followed by a season at the Canberra Capitals, then Adelaide Lightning before last season playing with the Perth Lynx. In between there was stints at Kilsyth in the South Eastern Australia Basketball League (SEABL) and Waverly in the BIG V competition.
For the 22-year-old utility, it has been a whirlwind few years since leaving Victoria.
“I started in under-10s or under-12s and then I left when I was 15,” she said.
“It doesn’t feel that long ago.
“Dandenong Rangers were really good for me as a club growing up as we had access to coaches other clubs didn’t have.
“It was a good association to be part of and grow as a player.”
After the end of the WNBL season earlier this year, Mijovic decided to stay in Perth in the off-season.
Having signed a new contract in April, Mijovic spent many an hour with Lynx staff including coach Andy Stewart.
She also signed with Kalamunda Eastern Suns in the State Basketball League, where she finished third in average points, fourth in average rebounds and third in average blocks as her team missed the finals on head-to-head record.
The decision to stay meant she also had far greater access to the Lynx’s staff and facilities.
“I love Perth,” she said last week. “And it’s really good to stay here.
“I wasn’t happy with the teams when I moved from them… I wasn’t always comfortable or learning.
“Staying in Perth was good and to get a lot of game time and still train with Andy and the strength and conditioning coach was what I needed.
“Tessa (Lavey) and Nat (Burton) when they were in town trained as well, but they were pretty busy with the Olympics.
“It was just me for most of it – I’ve grown as a player and the one-on-one training was what I needed.
“I’m not just a three-point shooter; I’ve worked on my driving and my defence, which hasn’t always been the strongest.”
Stewart said they pushed for Mijovic to stay in Perth in the off-season it was part of the process to make her a better player.
“She started on the bench for us (last season) and we had specific things we wanted her to adjust,” Stewart said. “The first few weeks it didn’t happen.
“When she did something unacceptable we would pull her out of the game, it was tough on her.
“Part of the idea was to have her here (in the offseason) even though she could have gone home and played in the BIG V or SEABL.
“We wanted to spend some time with her and now she is turning out to be one of the premier fours of the competition.
“She’s now turning into a relatively consistent defender and can post up and has a mid-range shot.
“The way she’s going about scoring, she’s scoring in multiple ways… it’s fun to watch.”
Coming off a grand final appearance, the Lynx and Mijovic know they had to get better to go that one step further.
For Mijovic, it meant getting used to a starting role which she took over late last season.
“Getting the starting role is a big step up,” she said. “I’m playing more than I’m used to.
“I’m getting used to people guarding me a bit more but I’m quite excited to start and have more of a main role.”
So far this season it’s been an inconsistent start, going win-loss in their first five games. They started the season with four straight games on the road.
Like her side, Mijovic’s form has been up and down as she’s averaging more than 16 points a game and nearly six rebounds.
“It’s good to be home for a few weeks,” she said.
“Teams are adjusting and seeing who is scoring and who isn’t – they are changing their defences and you’ve got to work out how to get open when the defence is glued to you.
“We need other people to step up.”
After the WNBL season, Mijovic is looking at spreading her wings and taking up her travels once again.
This time will be a little further than Australia though – as she hopes to take her basketball overseas and the first of those locations is in the WNBA.
Mijovic was drafted by the Washington Mystics in 2014, but has yet to go over there and play… but now she feels ready to sink her teeth into the American league.
“I’m hoping to play in the WNBA,” Mijovic said. “I was drafted by the Mystics and they have the rights to me for five years,” she said.
“I’ll get my agent to start talking to them.”
The long term goal for Mijovic however is a little closer to home – as she wants to make the Australian team and be a part of the Opals’ Toyko 2020 Olympic team.
She was part of the Australian under-17s and twice in the under-19 world championships team and has a taste already for life in the Australian colours.
Mijovic has been part of initial Australian squads the last couple of years and hopes that further green-and-gold representative duties are in her future.
“Being involved to see what it is like, I’ve got a heads up,” she said. “It’s a big step and very full on, there’s no time to slack off.
“Hopefully they see me in their future teams.”