Welcome to our new series of Big V Player Profiles! This week we chat to the Pakenham’s D2W star, Stephanie Pal.
Like a lot of Big V players, Stephanie Pal was so young when she picked up a basketball for the first time, she can barely remember how it all started.
“I was about six when I first started playing,” Pal elaborated. “My older sister played, and I used to go and watch her on Saturday mornings. I can’t remember if my parents just put me into a team to keep me active or if I wanted to join a team, but either way I’m grateful I started somewhere!”
Like most kids, initially Pal remembers loving the feel of scoring, but now the 23-year-old says her favourite part of the game has actually changed a bit over the years.
“As a kid, of course you always want to be the one that scores because you don’t understand that good defence or good passes can [also] make you a good player.
“I still love scoring – who doesn’t?!,” Pal continued, “but I think my favourite thing in the game now is a good block…like [a] sending the ball into the stands-type block.”
Pal’s first basketball team was the DSD Dolphins, which still run today as a part of the Dandenong Basketball Association. It was from here that Pal first leapfrogged into representative basketball, playing for the Dandenong Rangers Under 12s.
“I started playing rep for Dandenong Rangers when I was 11, [and] I played my whole junior career there and two seasons with the [Big V] Youth League team. I felt that I wasn’t progressing and there wasn’t a clear path from Youth League into the next level (which was SEABL – now NBL1), so I went along to the Casey Cavs tryouts and got selected for the Division 1 Women’s team.
“I felt a better opportunity arose for myself when I heard that Pakenham was putting in a [Division 2] Women’s side [in 2019], and that is where I’ve been playing this season.
Whilst she openly admits that a career in basketball is probably not for her, Pal also acknowledges that after playing four seasons of Big V – and counting – that it’s much more that ‘just a hobby’.
“I think once I moved to Casey and had a new beginning with a new club, I knew that I had to work hard to improve myself and my game and couldn’t just be complacent. I can’t imagine myself without basketball so although I don’t want to make it a career, it’s still much more than just a hobby [for me].”
Being a part of an Under 14 National Championship-winning side – which then resulted in her being to go to a ‘Children of the World’ camp in Turkey – would demonstrate just that, however Pal also likes to keep a well-rounded life when she’s off the court.
“I just graduated from a veterinary bioscience degree, but am currently working as a puppy pre-school instructor,” Pal said.
“I [also] have a plant addiction…[but] don’t tell my mum, I told her it’s just a phase!” she laughed.
Just like Giannis Antentokounmpo – one of the many players she looks up to – Pal stays humble at any mention of future success.
“A goal this season is to win,” Pal said firmly. “Being the first successful Pakenham Women’s team would be an amazing feeling.”
With the Warriors currently sitting atop the Big V Division 2 Women’s standings, they’re in with a fighting chance.