Welcome to our series of Big V Player Profiles! This week we feature Werribee CW player, Jess Slade.
Growing up in netball-dominated New Zealand, very few people – including herself – could see Jess Slade playing professional basketball in Australia.
“New Zealand was a very netball-oriented country for young girls growing up,” Slade told Big V media. “So when I was first introduced to mini-ball at primary school (a modified version of basketball with smaller balls, rings and courts), I fell in love with the game.”
“I loved the freedom to be able to dribble and run with the ball compared to netball, and the fluidness as players to do fancy things like pick and rolls and alley-oops on a five-foot hoop.”
Slade started making representative teams from a young age and even played several years in New Zealand’s Women’s Basketball Championship for Hutt Valley and the Capital Flyers. To her surprise, she was awarded the WBC Manager/ Administrator of the Year for 2014 without even realising she was nominated.
Following this, Slade headed across the ditch and landed in Melbourne’s outer west.
“When I arrived in Australia I Googled the closest [club] to my house and it happened to be Werribee Devils, so I went along to tryouts at the end of 2015 and got to understand the Big V structure and how the whole system works for that season.”
She joined the Devils’ Women’s team for the 2016 season, averaging over 15 points and 10 rebounds per contest. She moved to the Sunbury Jets in 2017 and won a championship under fellow Kiwi – coach Kennedy Kereama – but saw limited court time, and hence moved back to Werribee, where she has been since.
“I’ve grown a lot as a player since being here in Melbourne and have enjoyed experiences at both clubs under great players and coaches.”
Slade says her time under current Devils coach, Reece Potter, has been instrumental in the player she has become.
“I actually literally look down to him because he’s shorter than me, but he’s been a great leader for the team because he leads by example. Even though he is younger than me, he’s taught me the importance of leading from the front and creating a team culture where everyone wants to buy into the system and work toward a common goal.”
Potter has also taught her that there is more to the game than the end result.
“What I love about the game is the entertainment factor and the adrenaline rush it brings when things go well as a team.
“Basketball is more than just a game of wins and losses. It’s the friendships, memories and lessons gained along the way that last a lifetime.”