SYDNEY Flames pocket rocket Leilani Mitchell has spent the past six months travelling up and down the freeway from Newcastle for training and games.
Mitchell and partner Mikaela Dombkins, an AIS graduate and former guard at the Flames, bought a house in Hamilton in April and split their time between Newcastle and Sydney .
“I don’t know how many kilometres my little Toyota has done?. A lot,” Mitchell said.
The next time the point guard returns up the MI she hopes to have a Women’s National Basketball League Championship medal with her.
The Flames, who also includes Newcastle born Susi Walmsley and Cassidy McLean, can seal the best-of-three finals series 2-0 with a win over Dandenong in Victoria on Friday night.
Mitchell scored 15 points to go with six assists and three steals in an all-action series opener which the Flames won 91-82.
“We played really well offensively in game one,” Mitchell said. “Defensively there is a lot of room for improvement. I’m sure they will be a lot more aggressive with us because we did score 91 points.”
Mitchell, who was born in the US but has dual citizenship, commutes to Sydney at least three times a week.
“It is a pretty easy drive – two hours on the freeway,” she said. “Mikaela is playing netball for GWS in the NSW Premier League so I have company for the drive. We bought a house in Newcastle to be closer to Mikaela’s family. I like big cities but Newcastle is relaxing. It’s a good compromise.”
And with plans afoot for Newcastle to enter a team in the WNBL in 2018-19 season, Mitchell is keen to represent her new home town.
“I would love to play for Newcastle,” she said. “I live in Hamilton so I could probably walk down to training. The goal is to have a team not this season coming, but the next. I would love to be a part of that and am looking forward to it.”
A globe-trotting professional basketballer, Mitchell, 31, will head to Phoenix next month where she will play for the Mercury in the WNBA.
It will be her ninth season in the premier women’s league in the world after making her debut for New York Liberty in 2008.
“Training camp starts April 23rd,” she said. “We finish with the Flames this weekend and then I will have about a month off which will be nice.”