Capitals import Jordan Hooper a long way from home

It's a unique place, Alliance.

It's a small town in Nebraska, in the centre of the United States, with a population of about 8400 that quickly grows accustomed to the scores of coal trains passing through every day.

Head a little "further from civilisation" and you'll find the Hooper's family ranch, sporting a unique combination of cows, windmills, and a big concrete slab upon which Jordan Hooper dreamed of being a basketball star.

It's a dream that has taken her a long way from home with Hooper set to help the Canberra Capitals get their WNBL season back on track against the Townsville Fire at the National Convention Centre on Friday night.

Hooper never ran out of things to do growing up on a ranch - she'd come home from country school, where she was one of four students in a one-room school house, and get straight to work.

She'd help her dad fix fences, windmills and wells, move and wean the cows, and then take care of odd jobs in the hayfields.

There was always plenty happening, but the promising youngster would always set aside some time for basketball - with a name like Hooper, it was almost as if she had to.

"I started playing in third grade, but I went to country school as well," Hooper said.

"I just played with the boys, there was only four of us in the school - so I just played whatever sport they were playing, which was usually football, soccer or basketball, or tag or something.

"We were all different ages. It was literally just a one-room school house. I stayed there until third grade and then I transferred in fourth grade to a different country school.

"We were all different ages, all different grades, then that closed down. I finally went to town for high school."

From there her basketball career began to blossom, carving out an impressive college career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before being drafted into the WNBA in 2014.

Realising her WNBA dream meant Hooper had to leave her home state but she has loved every bit of the journey that has taken her around the world.

It's a "little bit different" to Alliance, but the 25-year-old forward still loves Canberra - "it's small enough and it's big enough all in the same thing" - and it's nothing like the huge culture shock she experienced when she played in Turkey three years ago.

The only issue she had settling into Canberra was remembering to drive on the right side of the road, having had to learn it when she played for the South East Queensland Stars two seasons ago.

"I really enjoy my peace and quiet, I enjoy my alone time and all that good stuff," Hooper said.

"Everyone says this is a smaller place compared to Melbourne and Sydney. Coming to a smaller place doesn't really bother me, having nothing to do doesn't bother me at all.

"Growing up on a ranch was different but it also gave me the work ethic. I don't get frazzled in different situations, I just roll with the punches."

Hooper's family won't be able to see her play for the Capitals - "a lot of them don't have passports, so that's a problem" - but "hopefully some year they'll make it to wherever I am in the world".

It will be a long way to go from the family ranch just outside Alliance, but Hooper says the trip would be worth every cent.


Friday: Canberra Capitals v Townsville Fire at National Convention Centre, 7.30pm.

This story Capitals import Jordan Hooper a long way from home first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.