GABRIELLA Adams-Gavet puts her return to basketball largely down to fate.
Fate, and a hunger for competition that stems back to her teenage years and beating up on younger brother and now Oklahoma Thunder NBA superstar Steve Adams.
Adams-Gavet, a 26-year-old former New Zealand under-20 representative, also knows that hard work is the only way to succeed in her comeback to competitive basketball with the Newcastle Hunters in the Waratah League.
The 185cm power forward doesn’t have to look far for inspiration.
Apart from her brother, who is one of the premier big men in world basketball and earns $25 million a season, Gavet’s husband is new Knights enforcer James.
“I am definitely nervous,” Adams-Gavet said. “I haven’t played competitively for years. The hunger is still there. I have been wanting to play at this level – and even see if I can get higher – for a while.
“In New Zealand women’s basketball doesn’t exist beyond social competitions.”
Adams-Gavet googled Newcastle basketball after her husband signed with the Knights from Auckland late last season only to learn she had missed the selection trials for the Hunters.
She joined a Monday night social competition team and her first game happened to be against a team which featured Jaimee Seebohm, a Hunters player and wife of coach Shannon.
“Jaimee approached me after the game and said ‘I don’t recruit but I am going to have a chat to my husband’,” Adams-Gavet explained. “When she spoke to me I was so keen. It was fate that the game I played was against Shannon’s wife.”
The coach too has been impressed with his recruit’s size and athleticism expects her to improve rapidly.
“Gabriella played Junior Tall Ferns, but she hasn’t played for a while and is still getting back into it,” he said. “Once she gets some training under her belt she will be an important role player for us.”
Keen to make up for lost time, Adams- Gavet has been doing “extras” including working out on the court with her husband and Knights teammates Mason Limo and Herman Ese’ese.
“James played when he was younger in Auckland,” Adams-Gavet revealed. “League is obviously his primary sport but he is not a bad player. He can dunk. Mason and Herman came along the other day and we played two-on-two. I was trying to practise the things Shannon had taught me on the boys. I posted up against Herman a couple of times and James switched with him so he could defend me properly. I have always enjoyed playing mixed basketball. It makes you play tougher.
“In New Zealand I was big compared to a lot of girls and they put me in the post. The dream is to shoot threes. But now I am playing with Shannon that dream will have to wait. It’s good to be coached again. He is awesome. The drills we are doing now, I haven’t done since I was in my teens.”
In Steven Adams’ biography: My Life, My Fight the seven-foot centre credits Gabriella and another older sister Lisa for getting him into basketball and tells how they used to beat him up on the court.
Basketball is entrenched in the family, which includes 18 siblings. Gabriella’s two eldest brothers, Warren and Ralph, played for the Tall Blacks and another brother Sid, plays in the New Zealand National League. Her half sister Valerie is a dual Olympic gold medalist in shot put.
“I went over to the US with Sid and his partner to surprise Steven for Christmas in 2016,” Adams-Gavet said. “It is so cool to watch how far he has come from when he was drafted in 2013. He is playing awesome and is getting better and better.
“I have been meaning to flick him a message to say I am playing competitively again.”
Apart from Adams-Gavet, Cassidy McLean (Bendigo), Lara McSpadden (Sydney) and Hannah Young (Canberra) are returning after breakout seasons in the National Women’s Basketball League.
“When Shannon told me about the girls in the squad, I was like holy heck,” Adams-Gavet said.
“That is why I am nervous to play at this level again. Man, I am amping. I can’t wait to play alongside all the girls. They are an awesome bunch and have been so welcoming.”
The Hunters kick off their season at home against Norths on March 9.
James Gavet has also made an instant impact at the Knights and shapes as a key man in the middle.
“The move here has been a blessing,” Adams-Gavet said. “James came over first and when I arrived I said: ‘how did I not know about this place’. Everybody talks about Gold Coast and Brisbane for holiday spots, I am like whoa. We love it here. It has been amazing. Nothing here is far away. Newcastle locals say, everything is 10 minutes away. They are not lying.”