Horsham Lady Hornets youngster Nekaela Butler found out she would be in the starting line-up for the first time just moments before last week’s Country Basketball League match against the Geelong Supercats.
In the absence of several key players, Butler was given the unexpected opportunity.
“I probably found out about three minutes before the game,” she said.
“I just got told to sit on the bench, which is where the starting five sit before the game. When (coach) Damien told me I was like, ‘Oh no, here we go. I’ll probably stuff this up’.”
But Butler performed well beyond her expectations. She starred in the contest, scoring eight points and displaying an impressive ability to take care of the basketball under pressure.
“It was a really good feeling,” Butler said. “I didn’t ever think I was going to get the chance to start. I didn’t turn it over as much as I thought I would’ve either.”
Butler has been a terrific junior player in Horsham, but the step into the seniors has provided challenges for the point guard.
“It’s pretty scary as I’m not a very tall player,” she said.
“It’s a lot different to the juniors. They are a lot bigger and stronger than me.
“I just try and run the ball as much as I can, try to use my speed to my advantage.”
She has not had too many opportunities with the Lady Hornets so far this season, often travelling with the team and trying to learn from the sidelines.
But after last week’s performance, coach Damien Kilpatrick said she could be in for a boost in minutes.
“She played an absolute blinder – she showed to us that she is ready to play minutes for our team,” Killpatrick said after the match.
Butler hopes to be in contention for game time this weekend as the Lady Hornets play a double-header at home. They play the Warnambool Mermaids, who have only won one game this season, on Saturday night before taking on the sixth-placed Bellarine Storm on Sunday.
“Hopefully I can keep playing a bit,” Butler said.
“There are so many guns at the club and some great teachers. Bec McIntyre has always encouraged me to keep playing basketball
“I’ve never played CBL before so it’s been a great experience.”