Milly Yates commits her heart to Saint Mary's

Following a scholarship offer from Saint Mary’s over 12 months ago, recent New South Wales Under 20s selection Milly Yates has recently made a verbal commitment to play for the Gaels from 2018.

The Pick and Roll caught up with Yates to gain some insight into her decision.

Yates averaged 8.1 points for NSW Metro at the 2014 Under 16 national championships, and it was following this tournament that the recruiting process started for the Sydneysider. However, it was Yates who made the first contact with schools, rather than the other way around.

“So I’ve always had my heart set on college," explained Yates. "We just happened to email Saint Mary’s after Under 16 nationals. My dad and I were just like ‘Alright, we’ll just email a bunch of schools.’ Because we were rookies in the process, we were just like ‘Alright, we’ll see how we go."

Considering that mindset, Yates certainly struck gold early on in the process. Saint Mary’s were clearly interested in the player who was NSW Metro’s top scorer at the 2015 Under 18 national championships, and in October of that year, Gaels’ coach Paul Thomas officially made Yates a scholarship offer. It was far from Yates’ only offer though, as more and more coaches attempted to lure the dynamic scoring guard to their programs.

“I was getting a little bit of pressure from other schools who had offered me, because obviously they’re needing to know who’s coming in,” Yates revealed.

However, that pressure from other programs only served to help reinforce Yates’ desire to move to Moraga, which in turn led to the recent news of her commitment.

“It was something that I’ve been dwelling on for a while, and I guess the timing was more so about other schools putting pressure on me,” Yates added.

“That made me realise I wanted to go to Saint Mary’s and there was no point waiting around for something else when I knew I had what I wanted.”

Although it may sound like Yates has made her decision with her heart rather than her head, the Gaels’ newest Australian recruit has certainly done her research. As well as taking an unofficial visit to Saint Mary’s following a basketball tour to the US in 2015, Yates has talked with no less than three other Australians who have played at Saint Mary’s, ranging from a current player to Gaels’ stalwarts now playing in the WNBL.

“So I’ve briefly spoken to Jasmine Forcadilla, because obviously she’s over there at the moment. That’s been a bit brief. But Kate Gaze - I had a really good talk to her -especially about Coach Thomas. And also Lauren Nicholson, who just finished,” said Yates. "They all said ‘you’re going to love it’, ‘you’ve made the right decision’, so I’m very happy.”

“Obviously I wanted to go to a good academic school with a great basketball program, but speaking with the coaches and watching the way they played, I could really see myself fitting in with their playing style and with the coaching staff, so that was the main thing for me.”

Yates is clearly enamoured with Saint Mary’s, but remains aware that she is still over 12 months from heading to college. But with the move all but set in stone, Yates is taking the initiative with regards to her preparation to make the leap.

“Under 20s [National Championships] is the biggest thing for me, but that’s a short term thing,” Yates outlined. “Ultimately, it’s just about preparing myself the best way I can, and I’m going to start speaking to Coach Thomas about what I need to be doing to get myself as ready as I can for college.”

Despite her youth, Yates not only has the path from junior basketball to college mapped out, but already has a solid idea of what she wants to achieve in the next four years, and beyond.

“I just want to develop. The dream is obviously going to the NCAA Tournament, doing whatever you can to get the team there, but for me it’s about developing as much as I can generally as a player,” Yates said. “You also want to get an education, so it’s about a great education for me as well.”

“Hopefully I get to come home like Lauren Nicholson has and am able to integrate back into the Australian style of play, and hopefully play professionally here, because that is the goal.”

If Yates is able to have a career at Saint Mary’s that even approaches that of Nicholson’s, she will certainly have more than a fighting chance of playing professionally in Australia. The Saint Mary’s pipeline back to the WNBL features not only Nicholson, but also players such as Kate Gaze and Louella Tomlinson. At this point though, with still over a year for Yates to prepare, it is all about arriving at Saint Mary’s in the best position possible to make an impact from the outset.