Rocci hoping to learn off the best

Maddi Rocci with the Southside Flyers (AAP Image/Morgan Hancock)

Harper Sercombe

Australian Opal and two-time Women’s National Basketball League champion Maddy Rocci has returned back to her home of the west for the upcoming National Basketball League 1 South season.

Rocci landed at Keilor following the club’s announcement of Australian basketballing royalty Kristi Harrower coming on board as coach.

The Thunder announced that the Southside Flyers’ point guard and Opals’ squad member would be joining the new-look Thunder side in early February.

As Harrower also played as guard, Rocci said she can’t wait to learn off one of the best Australians to ever do it.

“I’m really excited to be coached by Kristi Harrower, everyone knows that she’s a legend of the game,” she said. “To be able to learn off her and pick her brains is something that I’m super excited about.

“When I played in the Asia Cup in Sydney I had a little bit of time with her and I met with her after games and discussed some things. I really enjoyed what she had to say and I think it definitely helped me so to have her for a full season in my off season is only going to make me better.

“I think the point guard position is one that you need to have a very high IQ for and I think she definitely had that when she played. For me, I’m always willing to learn and grow.”

Harrower said she shared the delight of Rocci to be at the Thunder. With the coach expecting her to make an immediate impact on the team.

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Maddy to the Keilor Thunder family. Maddy’s skill set, leadership, and competitive spirit align perfectly with our team’s values,” she said.

“We believe her presence on the court will not only enhance our performance but also inspire our players to reach new heights.”

Another driving force behind Rocci’s decision to head to Keilor for the 2024 season, is returning closer to her home in Werribee.

“I’ve had a lot of time away from the NBL1 South playing in Queensland, so to come back and to play on the west, which is my side of town, is super exciting” she said.

“With my family all being in Werribee and Keilor being pretty close, it was an easy decision for me.”

Before the season at the Thunder starts, Rocci still has matches to come for her Melbourne-based WNBL club the Southside Flyers. The Flyers are currently second on the ladder, with three home and away games to come.

This season with the Flyers, she’s averaging 10.4 points, 4.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Should the Flyers make it to the grand final series, her season with the club would finish on March 18, with the Thunder season starting under two weeks later on April 5.

“It’s hard mentally to go from season to season, I’ve finally kind of got used to it now,” she said.

“Going off the back of a WNBL season coming off the back of a championship, I would hope, and then to Keilor doesn’t really bother me not having that little break.

“I’m just keen to go from one club to the other and get stuck into things.”

While things are going nicely for Rocci at the Flyers, she was overlooked for the Opals Olympic qualifying tournament in Brazil, which kicked off on Friday.

Rocci was originally named in the 20-player squad that was cut down to 12 for the three game tour.

With the July’s Paris Olympics just around the corner, Rocci said she is desperate to get herself back into the Opals outfit.

“Obviously, there was some major disappointment when I missed out on the tournament they’ve gone off to play in Brazil,” she said.

“But it’s only going to make me stronger and better as a player and I think as much as that disappointment hurts there’s still that goal to go to Paris and will do everything possible [to get there].

“To have Kristi now in that little season before Paris is picked, will definitely help me as well I think.”

Joining Rocci at the Thunder for the upcoming season is rising Adelaide Lightning star Isabelle Bourne who is making the move across to Victoria.

“I actually went to the AIS [Australian Institute of Sport] with Izzy which was a little while ago now, but you can just see that her game’s developed so much playing against her in the WNBL this year,” Rocci said.

“I’m super excited to play with a big who has a lot of talent and hopefully we can do really well in the NBL1 season this year.”

Thunder junior and Melbourne Boomers development player Grace Graham is also part of the squad.

The Thunder are set to kick off the season against the Frankston Blues on April 5.