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Eilidh Simpson still calls Australia home
At just 23 years old, Eilidh Simpson’s basketball resume already looks like a meeting at the United Nations.
Born and raised in Australia by British parents, she holds dual citizenship, and spent four years in the US college system playing for St. Francis in Brooklyn. Simpson is enjoying her first professional stint playing for CD Zamarat in Spain’s La Liga Femenina, and has since gained international player experience. She represented Great Britain at Eurobasket 2015, and more recently, in the 2017 Eurobasket qualifiers in Manchester, England.
Eilidh Simpson | Credit: zamora24horas.com
A 5’7 shooting guard, Simpson had a stellar college career. She went from a role player as a freshman averaging 3.5 points for a team that went 4-25, and solidified herself as a starter, jumping to 14 points per game by the end of her junior year. In fact, Simpson’s senior year was the most successful season in St. Francis Terriers' history.
The Terriers upset favourites Robert Morris to win the Northeast Conference and qualify for their first ever NCAA tournament. Although they would run into UConn in the first round, Simpson finished the year averaging 11.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and a 1 steal that season.
Simpson’s tenacity and shooting touch caught the eye of more than just Terriers fans.
“At the end of my college career I was approached by a couple of agents and they were saying I had the potential to play professionally in Europe, which had always been a dream of mine”, Simpson shared in speaking with The Pick and Roll.
Simpson signed with Spanish team CD Zamarat, and quickly found herself in a far different world than Brooklyn, or her hometown Melbourne.
“In Zamora, the town I live in, it's very small and majority of the public don't speak any English. So things like ordering food and reading menus, things you take for granted, I guess were no longer an easy option for me,” Simpson further explained.
“At first I really struggled with the transition from college life to pro life. You practice a lot more being a pro, but you also have a lot more free time. You aren't surrounded by hundreds of college students and always having something to do.”
Whatever struggles Simpson faced early on, she has managed to overcome them, and there remains only four games in her rookie season. Just like in Brooklyn, Simpson found a way to work herself into the lineup.
Zamarat is one of three teams hovering in the middle of the table with a 10-12 record, and despite struggling to fully break into the starting lineup, Simpson has proven herself as a legitimate contributor as a pro, averaging 6.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and a 1 steal per game. She is also an elite free throw shooter, only missing once so far this season from 12 attempts.
A closer look at Simpson’ stat line reveals something else - she has only played in 20 of Zamarat’s 22 games this year. Simpson took some time away from Zamarat in February to once again represent Great Britain, flying to Manchester for training camp before playing in two Eurobasket 2017 qualifiers.
“Playing at Eurobasket 2015 was something I will remember forever. It was an amazing experience going up against the best teams in Europe, and even some of the best in the world. We are working hard now to make sure we get back to another."
Eilidh Simpson | Credit: zamora24horas.com00
Hard work paying off is becoming a recurring theme in Simpson’s career.
First approached by Great Britain Basketball at age 18 to try out for their U20s squad, Simpson failed to make the cut. Fast forward five years to 2016, and Simpson is averaging 3.3 points in Eurobasket qualifiers. She saw 13:53 minutes of action in a routing of Albania, scoring 8 points to go with 4 boards and 2 assists, and picked up an assist in 8:21 minutes of action in a nail-biter against Montenegro. Great Britain (2-2) ground out a tense 71-67 win to keep their Eurobasket 2017 dream alive.
“Beating Montenegro is arguably the biggest win in Great Britain's history," Simpson remembers fondly. "It gives us great momentum going into the final two qualifiers in November.”
Unfortunately for Simpson, Great Britain failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Whilst playing in an Olympic Games is no doubt the dream of every athlete, no matter which country’s uniform you wear, Simpson still calls Australia home.
“I'm returning to Australia in my off season to play in the SEABL which I am very excited about. I will be home for 5 months, which is the longest I have spent at home since I was in high school.”
Simpson won’t even need to change out of her orange Zamarat shorts; she is returning to her former club, the Sandringham Sabres. Never one to stop working, hoops fans should expect to see plenty more of Simpson on Australian soil in future years too.
“The next goal of mine is definitely the Commonwealth Games in 2018 in Gold Coast. It would be an unbelievable honour to compete in those games.”
She may play for Great Britain, but Eilidh Simpson’s work ethic and willingness to grind her way from the bottom up makes us proud to call her an Australian player.