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10 Years of The Pick and Roll: Hayley Wildes
It’s funny thinking back how a seemingly nonchalant decision turns into something that changes your life. For me, it was buying a SLAM Magazine back in 2011. Before getting my hands on that magazine, I had an interest in basketball and the NBA, but after reading every page front to back, I knew I wanted to write about sport, and more specifically basketball.
I was 14 at the time and it fuelled what became an obsession with everything NBA and the Boston Celtics, and almost 100 issues later I still get every SLAM issue delivered and read it religiously. While I didn’t have an outlet yet to write about basketball at that time, it was in 2012 when I started writing with the blog US Sports Down Under and that led to a connection with Kein, who at the time started a blog covering the Celtics, Celtics Down Under.
That connection with Kein through Celtics Down Under led to me joining The Pick and Roll when it all began in 2013. It’s been a wild ride since then and it’s led to incredible opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless work of Kein and Damian.
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I remember when The Pick and Roll first started, it was much more about churning out content, which at the time made sense because there was a void in the Australian media landscape for NBA and general basketball news. As basketball began to rise back into prominence in Australia, The Pick and Roll had to pivot as far more resourced outlets started to cover the day-to-day basketball news.
That pivot —to focus on high-quality analysis and storytelling behind a paywall, instead of news and fluff— was a gutsy move by Kein and Damian. It’s fair to say it’s paid off and is the only way The Pick and Roll is able to celebrate 10 years of existence.
It’s amazing to have been a part of The Pick and Roll from the beginning and seeing it become what it is today.
When I first joined the team I was writing about Aussies in the NBA. At that time we didn’t have the superstars that we are blessed with today, but the passion of our writing group was second to none. We had a great team of dedicated writers and editors, many of whom were fantastic people to learn off as I developed my own writing skills.
In 2017, through The Pick and Roll, I was able to gain media credentials for NBA games, including Ben Simmons’ first game in Philadelphia, which also happened to be Aron Baynes’ first start as a Boston Celtic. I was able to catch up with Baynes postgame later that week back in Boston and published the below story.
The Pick and Roll has opened doors for me to work with so many different and amazing outlets; such as Basketball Victoria, Star News Group, Melbourne United and ABC Sport. What I’m most grateful for though, is the fact that The Pick and Roll welcomed me back in 2020 after I realised a full-time desk job in sports media wasn’t for me.
Having the combination of an active, outdoor job and then sports writing on the side has allowed me to find the right balance in my life. After covering mostly Aussies in the NBA and the NBL in my first stint with The Pick and Roll, when Damian asked me to cover women’s hoops upon my return, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
And I’ve loved every second since!
Delving into Australian women’s basketball has been a joy, and I continue to take so much pride in highlighting the incredible stories of Australian women players all over the globe. From college, to the WNBL, WNBA and the Opals, it’s been such a fantastic journey to be on as women’s basketball in this country endeavours to forge ahead and create real momentum surrounding the sport.
Having the opportunity to cover (for both The Pick and Roll and ABC Sport) a home World Cup last year was unbelievable and sitting there in Qudos Bank Arena watching Lauren Jackson dismantle Canada in the bronze medal game will be a moment I’ll cherish for a very long time. I remember talking with fellow team writer Lachy France after the game just trying to make sense of what we’d just witnessed!
Lachy and I in Sydney before the Opals’ bronze medal game.
Seeing fans turn up in droves to watch the Opals was just incredible, and you could sense as the team gained momentum and chalked up important wins, there was just more and more noise surrounding the team. That’s what it’s all about for me: telling the stories of these fantastic athletes and playing a very small role in helping them get the recognition they deserve.
A few of my favourite stories over the last couple of years covering women’s basketball would have to be Georgia Amoore’s meteoric rise to becoming one of the best point guards in American college basketball, Bec Allen’s long journey back from World Cup injury, catching up with Team USA’s Kelsey Plum fresh off a World Cup Gold medal in Sydney, Liz Mills’ journey to becoming one of the best coaches in Africa, and the legendary Tom Maher sharing his insights on the Opals’ road to becoming an international powerhouse.
One of the most memorable moments for me over the last 10 years is that glorious night in 2021 when the Boomers finally broke through to medal at the Olympics for the first time ever. After the pain of Rio 2016 and watching the core group grow together over an extended period of time, Patty Mills going nuclear in the bronze medal game and lifting Australia to Rose Gold was emotional to say the least.
When I think of the growth in Australian basketball over the past decade, it’s amazing to know The Pick and Roll has covered all of it, from juniors to the Opals and Boomers - it’s a time capsule of Australian basketball since 2013.
Finally, I would like to thank Kein and Damian for all of their support over the years, they’ve both made me a far better writer. Whether it’s helping to organise interviews, logistics or just offering words of wisdom, they’ve built The Pick and Roll from the ground up and have greatly impacted basketball media in this country.