KATRINA Hibbert has come full circle.
The tenacious guard/forward achieved it all in a glittering WNBL career and after turning her hand to coaching is making a fast rise up the ranks, highlighted by her recent appointment as Victorian Women’s Under-20 coach ahead of next year’s Australian Junior Championships.
The 40-year-old said it was an honour to coach her state and play a pivotal role in the outstanding pathway program.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity and it does feel like I’ve gone full circle,’’ she said.
“I went through the Victorian program myself so I’m quite honoured. There’s a lot of talented coaches out there so to be afforded this opportunity and experience it takes me back to my youth and it’s a great period.
“Under 20’s is where they finish their juniors off and embark on their senior basketball. Even though a lot are playing seniors this is a final stage for a lot of them and I think it’s a privilege to finish off with them and see them transition into senior women’s basketball.”
After progressing through the state ranks herself, Hibbert went to college where she became a legend of Louisiana State University before returning home to Australia to carve out a brilliant WNBL career, which featured two league MVPs with the Bulleen Boomers.
Drafted by the Seattle Storm in 2000 and a Commonwealth Games gold medal with the Opals in 2006 are key accolades on a star-studded basketball CV.
Hibbert’s transition from player to coach has been just as successful.
It all began with a brilliant stint with Hume City in the Big V, capped with coach of the year honours, before a move this year back to her home club to lead Eltham Wildcats’ State Championship Women. She has continued to ply her trade as Guy Molloy’s assistant coach at WNBL outfit Melbourne Boomers.
“When you get exposed to different opportunities it definitely helps your development,’’ Hibbert said. “I’ve been an assistant coach to Guy at the Boomers and head coach in Big V so seeing it from different perspectives, as an assistant and head coach, has been beneficial.
“I like opportunities and when something like this comes your way, how can you say no to it?
“It was just about managing it around work, I’m a teacher, and other basketball commitments but we got around it and I’m really excited.”
Hibbert is also excited about the plethora of talent available for selection, tryouts start later this month, and believes both Victorian and Australian women’s basketball is in a great state.
“Obviously the Vic Country under-18 girls won last year so that’s a really tough group but we’ve still got Mon Conti, Ezi Magbegor and Keira Rowe who have been to under-19 worlds and we’ve got girls in WNBL programs so there’s a lot of experience and talented young Victorians,’’ she said.
“I’m excited to see all the talent across Australia in our age group, the style of play and to work with such talented young players excites me and seeing what we’re capable of achieving together.
“When Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor retired there were a few question marks over who are our next superstars coming through but we’ve got so much talent coming through I don’t think it’s about individuals anymore it’s about the whole crop which is exciting for Australian basketball.”
Hibbert recalls winning a few titles and “a couple of bronzes” during her time as an under-age Victorian rep and says gold is the goal at Gosford.
“Of course it is. We’re going there to win,’’ she said.
“I think the championships are more than just success and winning, there’s a lot of layers to it.
“Particularly for the top age players they are graduating from junior to senior women’s basketball, it’s a bit of a last hoorah and reward for all the years they’ve been committed to the Victorian program.
“For the girls it would be very rewarding to have some success and a fitting send off.
“You always want to play the best so I think when you go to the Australian Championships it’s exciting because you get to see who some of your future team mates will be in Opals, WNBL or wherever your senior career takes you.
“It’s also great to be able to see the competition you’re up against for certain positions as well, it’s a good opportunity to see where you fit in across the basketball spectrum.
“The tournament is not only a great measuring stick for individual players but girls are then able to make decisions about whether they want to stay in Australia and continue their basketball through our great pathways here or head over to college and look at the college system and get a taste of that.”