SEEKING another career-defining opportunity has Louella Tomlinson packing her bags… again.
Well-travelled athlete Tomlinson, 28, will add Spain to her ever-growing list of international playing destinations after signing with Campus Promete for the Spanish Liga Femenina 2016-17 season.
The former Melbourne Tigers’ junior is another champion to rise through the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (Melb Utd. VJBL) ranks and she looks back fondly on her seven years in the red-and-yellow jersey.
Getting to play for her dad Ray throughout those junior seasons was amazing in of itself, but the friendships she made there have been enduring – even as she made the leap towards other leagues and countries around the world.
But wherever basketball has taken her… Tomlinson has always remained a Tiger at heart.
“I’m still good friends with a lot of the girls I played with – there were four of us that played together for the whole seven years, before I left to go to the AIS, obviously under dad’s (Ray Tomlinson) instruction,” Tomlinson said.
“I’ve got a lot of fond memories and funny memories and all the things that come along with your dad being your coach and I loved my junior basketball.
“I’m really excited that Monique Conti (Australian Sapphires’ world champion team member) did so well for Tigers’ basketball, and I’m just happy that my dad gets to be a part of the club that my parents started.
“That’s really exciting and I’ll always be a Tiger.”
With her foundation formed in the local junior ranks, Tomlinson took to every basketball chance should could grasp… whether at the Australian Institute of Sport, across at American college St Mary’s, or going to Europe.
Therein lies an important idea in Tomlinson’s basketball beliefs – you have to take it on.
Whether on or off the court, opportunities won’t last long and sometimes you’ve got to take them on yourself… and she believes there’s no better place to start it than in Victoria.
“I think… now that I have seen what goes on in Queensland and Perth, kids in Melbourne have it best,” Tomlinson said. “In terms of the competition, the standard, you get pushed to improve and I think it’s pretty awesome.
“Kids will ask me ‘how long have you been playing basketball’ and I’ll say ‘hmm… 22 years’ and it makes me seem pretty old to the little kids.
“But I think if you have a passion for it you can continue as long as you want and I am passionate.”
The 1.93m centre will take to the “baloncesto” court in Logroño, La Rioja – in the north of Spain – when she leaves Australia in five weeks’ time to add to her prior European campaigns in Italy and Hungary.
For Tomlinson, her third European season is about taking another big opportunity and not resting on her laurels.
“Just decided it was time to give Europe another shot and just take advantage – so I’m really excited,” Tomlinson said. “Spain is definitely on the list of places I’d love to go and live for eight months so that’s why this thing is pretty exciting as well.
“My first couple of years there (in Europe) – I had previously played at Dandenong when we won the championship and I didn’t get to play a lot and didn’t get an opportunity, so I went to Europe.
“I believe that’s where I was able to fully make that transition from being a college athlete to becoming a professional and my game definitely adapted to that scenario.
“I also became stronger – I believe they still do a really good job of incorporating the bigs into their teams in Europe.
“I think for me that was good that they wanted to throw me the ball every time down the court, so I was able to build my confidence that way and also have some really strong girls to play against.
“That was a pretty big step up, but it was also exciting at the same time.”
Spending the last two WNBL seasons in Perth – with the West Coast Waves, which morphed into Perth Lynx – was enjoyable, but for Tomlinson there was another opportunity on the doorstep and she had to give it a red-hot go.
“At the stage I am in my career, I’m 28 and have so many opportunities, so I felt that if I’m not happy I should do something else and give something else a try because I’m blessed,” Tomlinson said. “I can play anywhere and I did have a lot of offers at the end of the season, so it is exciting and I do have the opportunities that I have and have helped me grow as a person and a player.
“I’ve found that in different avenues of basketball, but it’s definitely something I take pride in.
“Everyone has a different pathway – some kids stay here, others go to college, and I think that if you get an opportunity to do either you have to make the most of it – if you can’t find that passion within, you’re not going to continue.
“That I’ve been able to continue my career past college and I’m very lucky and I understand that and it’s pretty cool.”
Pictures courtesy of Perth Lynx