Adelaide Lightning 2017/18 Most Valuable Player Nicole Seekamp named in Opals training camp squad for World Cup

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After spending six years overseas, firstly at South Dakota University in the United States and then playing one season for AZS PWSZ Gorzow Wielkopolski in Poland Nicole Seekamp returned to Australia to play for Adelaide Lightning in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) in 2017/18, her second season for the club and third season overall in the league. In her first two seasons in the WNBL Seekamp was a teenager and played a back-up role for the AIS in 2009/10 and Adelaide in 2010/11. Returning to league at 25 years of age after a decorated college career Seekamp flourished as a guard in the starting line-up for Adelaide in 2017/18 winning the club’s most valuable player award, ranking in the top five of the WNBL for assists and steals per game and in the top 15 for points per game.

Seekamp was part of the Australian Opals team that won the gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Queensland during April, and earlier this month was part of the Opals team at the four-nations tournament in China. Making an unforgettable night even more memorable, shortly after the Australian Opals received their gold medals at the Commonwealth Games Nicole’s boyfriend Cody Havermann proposed to her on the court, although caught by surprise Nicole was overjoyed and quickly said yes. On 1st August Seekamp was named in the Australian Opals squad for a training camp to be held from 10th to 17th August at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence located at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). Seekamp was one of two Adelaide Lightning players named in the squad along with Steph Blicavs, who also represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games and at the four-nations tournament in China. Adelaide Lightning head coach Chris Lucas is one of three Assistant coaches for the Australian Opals working alongside head coach Sandy Brondello.

Below Seekamp’s brilliant 2017/18 WNBL season with the Adelaide Lightning and her tournaments with the Australian Opals earlier this year are comprehensively covered and her career before 2017/18 is summarised.

2017/18 WNBL season with the Adelaide Lightning 

When appearing as a guest host on USA Medco Sports network TV program ‘Benchwarmers’ on 6 July 2017 Seekamp was asked about returning to play in Australia for the Adelaide Lightning in the WNBL. Seekamp commented “I used to live there for a couple of years before I came to college so I am really excited to get back home, it’s been seven years since I have lived back in Australia so it is going to be nice to just be around family and friends for a little bit. I will be living about 5-10 minutes drive from the beach and it will be summer so I am not complaining.”

During the 2016/17 WNBL season Adelaide only had three wins for the entire season and despite having several new recruits for the 2017/18 season including Seekamp, 2014/15 WNBL MVP Abby Bishop, Aimie Clydesdale, American import Natalie Novosel and Canadian import Ruth Hamblin the club quickly gelled together under head coach Chris Lucas and started the 2017/18 season well. Seekamp commented in November 2017 “I think that’s what Chris (Lucas) was looking for when he was recruiting us, he wanted selfless people who played their role and worked well together and that’s what’s been happening. We share the ball, we don’t care who scores, we’re just out there to win.”1 2017/18 was Lucas’ second season in a row as Adelaide’s head coach, having also coached the club for 88 games in the mid 2000’s. In between his two stints as Adelaide head coach Chris was the head coach of the Townsville Fire for five seasons from 2011/12 to 2015/16 with the club winning the WNBL Championship in his last two seasons as head coach.

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Nicole had previously played under Lucas as part of the Jayco Emerging Opals Australian team at the Four Nations tournament in China during 2013. In July 2017 Seekamp commented on Lucas “We had a good relationship in the past. That’s how we came into contact and we continued having conversations. When I went home after this past season ended, I met up with him and it all went forward from there.”2

On recruiting Seekamp for Adelaide’s 2017/18 WNBL season Lucas commented in a press release “I’m really excited to have Nicole as a part of our team this season. She’s an athlete with a great work ethic who is always looking to improve her game. She will bring versatility to the player group, both offensively and defensively. Her personality is exactly what we are looking for in terms of our team culture and chemistry that we are building.”3

Seekamp offered the Adelaide Lightning versatility in 2017/18, having the ability to play as a point guard or a shooting guard on offense and at 178 centimetres tall and having strong defensive skills she could also defend either guard position or even small forwards if required. Aimie Clydesdale was more suited to playing as a point guard and Natalie Novosel is stronger as a shooting guard so Seekamp’s ability to play either guard position provided Adelaide head coach Chris Lucas more options with what line-ups he could put on the floor.

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In Adelaide’s opening game of the 2017/18 WNBL season Seekamp set the tone early, scoring 14 points in the opening quarter without missing a shot to set up an Adelaide 33-19 quarter-time lead  against the reigning champions – Sydney Uni Flames. Seekamp finished the game with 16 points, shooting the ball superbly to make six of her nine field goal attempts for an accuracy of 67% and was even more precise from long range, making all three three-point attempts. Nicole also had three assists, three rebounds and two steals in Adelaide’s 91-80 victory at Titanium Arena.

Seekamp was brilliant in Round 2 against Perth with 13 points, eight rebounds, an equal game-high seven assists along with Perth guard Sami Whitcomb, and an equal game-high four steals to earn selection in the Round 2 WNBL Team of the Week. Seekamp shot the ball proficiently, making five of her nine field goal attempts for an accuracy of 56% and made two of her four three-point attempts in the 89-81, eight point win at Titanium Security Arena. Seekamp’s Adelaide teammate Abby Bishop starred in the Round 2 home win against Perth, scoring 35 points and had rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks to be named the WNBL’s player of the week for Round 2.

After Round 2 Adelaide had a record of two wins and one loss however before Round 3 commenced they had a major setback with their most experienced player, four-time Australian Opals Olympian Laura Hodges expected to miss 12 weeks due to a severely broken finger. Hodges continued being involved with the team, taking on the role of team manager and hoped to make a return as a player late in the season.

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During a Round 9 road game against Sydney at Brydens Stadium Adelaide fought back from a 52-55 three quarter-time deficit to record a 77-74 victory with Seekamp playing a critical role in the victory. In the first five minutes and 35 seconds of the fourth quarter Seekamp dominated, scoring nine points to spark a 13-6 run allowing Adelaide to gain the ascendancy and lead 65-61. Nicole scored 12 points and had two assists in the critical final quarter, finishing the game with a team-high 22 points to set a personal new season-high, also having three rebounds and six assists. Nicole was the most accurate shooter for the game making nine of her 14 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 64% and was faultless from long-range making all three three-point attempts.

In an interview with the Advertiser Newspaper in mid-November 2017 Seekamp spoke about being able to spend time with her family over Christmas and returning to the WNBL, commenting “It’s actually weird because now I feel like a cold Christmas is normal. So it is going to be strange but I am excited to be close to family, we have a day-and-a-half off so I’ll go back for that. It wasn’t a big decision to come home and be around family and the league (WNBL) is so good this year that you’re going to get better playing against such quality athletes around you.”4

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In a two point loss to Melbourne in Round 10 at Titanium Security Arena Natalie Novosel injured her knee and required a reconstruction, further depleting Adelaide’s playing stocks after losing Hodges early in the season. In a game that Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello attended Seekamp scored 16 points, had three rebounds, six assists, and three steals against the Boomers on 9 December, 2017.

Against Bendigo Spirit in Adelaide’s last game of the season on Friday 29 December Seekamp was exceptional with an equal season-high 22 points, four rebounds, six assists and five steals to set game-highs in the latter two categories. Nicole made eight of her 14 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 56% and made two of her three three-point attempts in the 87-74 victory at Titanium Security Arena. Seekamp was named in the WNBL team of the Week for Round 13 – earning her second selection for the season.

Adelaide finished the 2017/18 regular season in fifth position with a record of 11 wins and 10 losses, finishing one win behind the fourth placed Melbourne Boomers who went on to make the Grand Final. The Lightning’s strike rate of winning 52.4% of games in 2017/18 was the club’s best performance since winning 75% of their games in 2012/13 with a record of 18 wins and six losses. Having narrowly missed out on the finals in 2017/18, Adelaide Lightning owner Grant Kelley is confident the club can return to the finals in 2018/19, commenting “What I’d say to everyone is see this year as the first half of a two-year season. I genuinely believe what we build this year will for sure ground us for finals next year and maybe something bigger. As owner, I’m incredibly committed and proud, but also very confident, and I’d just like to thank everyone for their efforts this year. It’s been a magnificent year. Lighting is about to strike so let’s go for it.”5

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Seekamp had at least five assists in 15 games during 2017/18 including 11 of the last 12 games of the season. Highlighting how impressive this feat is, Seekamp was one of only four players that averaged more than 5.0 assists per game during 2017/18 along with Nat Hurst, Belinda Snell and Katie-Rae Ebzery.

During 2017/18 Seekamp earnt selection in the WNBL team of the week twice – Round 2 and Round 13, ranked equal second at Adelaide behind forward/centre Abby Bishop with three TOTW selections. Other Adelaide players to be selected in the team of the week during 2017/18 were Natalie Novosel twice and Colleen Planeta once.

During 2017/18 Seekamp played all 21 games for the Adelaide Lightning, averaging 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.4 steals and 33 minutes and 14 seconds court-time per game. In her first season playing as a starter in the WNBL Seekamp flourished with the responsibility and the opportunity to display her versatility playing as a combo guard to rank third in the WNBL for both assists and steals per game in 2017/18 and of the players that played at least three games for the season also ranked 12th in the league for scoring and fifth for minutes played per game. Nicole led Adelaide for assists and minutes played per game, ranked second in scoring behind Bishop, second for steals behind Novosel and fourth for rebounds.

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Seekamp polled 52 votes in the WNBL 2017/18 MVP award to finish in 10th place, ranked second for Adelaide behind Abby Bishop in equal seventh place on 55 votes, Townsville Fire Centre Suzy Batkovic won her sixth MVP award, polling 117 votes to finish 13 votes ahead of Liz Cambage.  . Seekamp had at least five assists in 15 games during 2017/18 including 11 of the last 12 games of the season. Highlighting how impressive this feat is, Seekamp was one of only four players that averaged more than 5.0 assists per game during 2017/18 along with Nat Hurst, Belinda Snell and Katie-Rae Ebzery.

Representing the Australian Opals in 2018

Although Seekamp missed out on being named in the initial 18 player squad on 1 December 2017 for the Australian Opals training camp 1 in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Queensland she remained in contention to be added to the squad at a later date.

In a special overtime edition of the WNBL show in the second week of December, 2018 co-host Megan Hustwaite was joined by Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello in the studio. Hustwaite said “We spoke about Nicole Seekamp on the WNBL show earlier this week, she would have definitely been in conversations for your latest Opals squad, she’s a player that has come back into the system and doing great things, she had a great game against the Boomers and there’s plenty of players throughout the league that are putting their hands up.” Brondello responded “And they are, that’s what’s great for me, I thought the same thing. I followed Nicole obviously when she was over in America, she went to Poland last year, look she’s right there, I am always honest to everyone, like you are right there, keep working hard cos I know you are knocking on the door. I really like what she did, she’s a versatile guard, she just plays so hard, it’s not just scoring, it’s the way she plays defense and she could fit right in to an Opals squad.”

Later in December Seekamp was one of three players along with fellow Adelaide guard Aimie Clydesdale and Perth Lynx guard Sami Whitcomb added to the Australian Opals squad for the first training camp held in Italy during early February 2018 to prepare for the Commonwealth Games, expanding the squad to 21 players.

Seekamp’s versatility and performances at the training camps contributed to her being selected in the final 12 player Australian Opals team for the Commonwealth Games. Six players from Australia’s 2017 Asia Cup team were selected in the Commonwealth Games team being Steph Blicavs, Tessa Lavey, Belinda Snell, Kelsey Griffen, Katie-Rae Ebzery and Alice Kunek. Seekamp was one of six additions to that team along with Liz Cambage, Steph Talbot, Jenna O’Hea, Cayla George, and 18 year-old Ezi Magbegor who won the WNBL’s 2017/18 Rookie of the Year Award. The Australian Opals 2018 Commonwealth Games team included 11 players that played in the WNBL during 2017/18 with the only exception being Steph Talbot who has signed with the Melbourne Boomers for the 2018/19 WNBL season.

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The top four ranked teams from the Commonwealth were in Pool A with the number one ranked Australians being joined by Canada, England and Mozambique whilst the teams ranked fifth to eighth were in Pool B. At the end of the Pool stage the top two teams from Pool A qualified for the semi finals whilst the last two semi final berths were decided on head to head matches between third from Pool A vs second from Pool B and fourth from Pool A vs first from Pool B. The higher seeded Pool A played their pool games in Townsville whilst Pool B games were played in Cairns.

Australia were very consistent throughout the Pool stage scoring at least 100 points in all three games to win every game with their smallest winning margin being 39 points against Canada. In all three Pool A games played in Townsville all 12 Opals scored and the team averaged a phenomenal 31.7 assists per game with Australia defeating in order Mozambique (113-53), Canada (100-61) and England (118-55). In the Opals opening game against Mozambique Seekamp scored seven points and made three assists, making three of her five field goal attempts.

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After the pool games were completed in Townsville the Australian Opals travelled to the Gold Coast for the medal games. During an interview between Planet Sport and two Opals players – Seekamp and Cayla George on the Gold Coast before the semi final against New Zealand Nicole responded to the question “Being part of Team Australia, how much does that mean to you guys and what has the atmosphere been like?’ by commenting “It means a lot, this is the first time I have ever represented the Opals so this is extremely special for me and it means a lot and especially to be able to do it at home in front of family and friends, it has been amazing, it is just great.” Later in the interview the duo were asked “In terms of your career goals past what we are doing here today what is your ultimate dream or ambition in the sport?” Nicole responded “I mean I would probably say it would be to make the Olympics, that would be my next step. This is one part of the planning, so yeah just keep working on that, definitely to be an Olympian for Australia would be the ultimate goal.” Later in the interview when asked “What is the message that you are trying to send out to young athletes in Australia and around the Commonwealth watching with you play, what message are you trying to send, what do you want people to associate with you as a player and as a person?” Nicole responded “I guess mine would be just to keep working at it, if things don’t work out how you want them to, just keep working at it and keep trying. I am a lot older than some of the girls that have made the team, so I am 25 now, so I took a different route, I think I just stayed persistent with it and its got me to be here, so I can’t complain, so I would say yeah, just keeping working hard.”

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The medal games for the 2018 Commonwealth Games were played on the Gold Coast where Australia’s first assignment was a semi final against New Zealand. The New Zealand team were coached by Melbourne Boomers head coach Guy Molloy and featured several players that played in the WNBL  during 2017/18 – Micaela Cocks (Townsville Fire), Antonia Farnworth (Perth Lynx), Kalani Purcell (Melbourne Boomers) and Chevannah Paalvast (University of Canberra Capitals) as well as players with previous WNBL experience in Natalie Taylor and Jess Bygate. After leading 53-28 at half-time the Opals dominated the third quarter 30-6 and went on to win 109-50. The Opals had 30 assists and for the fourth game in a row all 12 players scored.

In the gold medal game Australia controlled the first quarter to lead 26-10 at quarter-time, the second quarter was tight and eventful with Australia outscoring England 23-21 for the term. Australis’s leading scorer for the tournament, centre Liz Cambage was ejected in the second quarter due to receiving a technical foul as well as an unsportsmanlike foul earlier in the game. Cambage had scored 10 points, making all five of her field goal attempts. Even with Cambage out of the game the Opals dominated in the front-court with another three front-court players scoring at least 10 points – Cayla George and Kelsey Griffen with 16 each and 18 year-old Ezi Magbegor with 11. Australia won the game comfortably, defeating England 99-55. In the Gold Medal game Seekamp scored two points and made three assists – ranked equal fourth for Australia. Seekamp played all five games for the Australian Opals off the bench and played between 11 and 16 minutes court-time in each game with the dominant Opals looking to spread the court-time fairly evenly.

Shortly after the medal ceremony Nicole’s boyfriend of two and a half years Cody Havermann proposed to her on the court and Nicole said yes. In an interview with ABC Radio Adelaide’s Sonya Feldhoff on Monday 16 April, 2018 Nicole spoke about Cody’s proposal, commenting “He had been planning it for a few weeks and he got in contact with my coaches and coaching staff, he basically told them what he wanted to do and they kind of put the rest in motion. I haven’t been told all the exact details but that’s along the lines that I know of, he’s done very well.” To Sonya’s question of how soon after the win did he manage to do that Nicole replied “We won the game, went back into our change-rooms and got changed, then we had the medal ceremony and it was right after the medal ceremony so I would probably say 20, 25 minutes after the game.” Nicole went on to say “When I was waiting for my medal I was looking around because I knew where he was sitting with my dad, I saw my dad sitting there and not Cody. After we had some photos we were doing a victory lap around the court and we had to go shake hands with Kerry Stokes’ chairman, and then I was leading the way and our manager was like ‘yeah just go stand over there’, so I have gone and stood there and Cody’s come up behind me and grabbed my shoulder, I was kind of looking at him confused saying ‘We’re doing our victory lap what are you doing here?’ pretty much kicking him off the court almost, and then he starts talking, and I’m like ‘oh god it’s happening’ and I was a little bit shocked and nervous and I don’t think I really heard everything that he was saying cos I was so nervous everyone was there watching. He got down on one knee and it all went from there. I should thank that he did it on such a public stage and that channel 7 were there so I might be able to get all the footage of what he actually said.”

When Sonya asked “So what are your plans, have you had a chance to talk about it, will you be staying here, will you be going elsewhere because he is American isn’t he?” Nicole replied “Yes he is, for the time being we will be staying in Australia because I will be playing up in Brisbane for the QBL (Queensland Basketball League) and then going back to Adelaide for another season.” Sonya asked “So what’s the Cody Havermann story, how did you two meet?“ Nicole replied “I went to college in South Dakota and played basketball there and in my very last year there he actually transferred to my school and we met playing basketball against each other at the local gym, I asked him to be on our scout team, he said ‘yep’ and then it kind of just was history from there.” Nicole spoke about the night she won a Gold medal with the Opals and also got engaged, saying “Having my family there was obviously huge, it’s not very often I get the whole family together and to have it when I am playing basketball on such a big stage was amazing. Saturday night in general was just incredible, one I will never forget anyway.”

In July 2018 Nicole represented the Australian Opals in a four nations tournament in China. The Opals played three nations twice each, host nation China, Argentina and Serbia. Four changes were made to the team from the Commonwealth games with Belinda Snell retiring and a trio of players being unavailable due to WNBA commitments – Liz Cambage and Cayla George who are both playing for the Dallas Wings and Steph Talbot who is playing for the Phoenix Mercury under Opals head coach Sandy Brondello. The four inclusions to the Opals squad were Tess Madgen, Lauren Mansfield, Darcee Garbin and Tahlia Tupaea. The Australian Opals won their first five game of the tournament – defeating Argentina and Serbia twice each and China once. Winning each of these games by at least 10 points, with an average winning margin of 15 points. In Australia’s final game of the tournament China dominated in the second half with the Opals losing the game 49-70.

On Wednesday 1 August 2018 Seekamp was named in a 20 player Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals squad for a training camp in the lead up to the 2018 World Cup to be held in Spain in late September. 15 of the 16 players that represented the Opals at the Commonwealth Games and/or the four nations tournament in China were named in the Opals squad with the only exception being the retired Snell. The five players added to the Opals Squad for training camp 1 to be held at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport from 10th to 17th August were Alanna Smith, Alex Bunton and WNBA players Leilani Mitchell, Rebecca Allen and Sami Whitcomb.

After the training camp squad was named Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello commented “After a successful 6 game tour of China, we enter the last Chemist Warehouse Opals camp before the World Cup team will be selected. With the World Cup less than two months away, every training session is vital in order to be in our best shape and improve on areas at both ends of the floor. The coaches have highlighted a number of things to work on from the China tour and this selection camp gives us a great opportunity to do so”.6

 Early career

Nicole was born on 26 April 1992 in Renmark which is in South Australia about 255 kilometres north-east of Adelaide. Nicole grew up in a basketball family with parents, dad Alan (Frosty), mum Charmaine and some siblings. When Nicole was in her early years at high school her family travelled to Adelaide on weekends to enable her to train and play with a basketball team. Nicole’s family were influential in Nicole starting to play basketball and later on deciding to attend college in the United States. Nicole comments “I used to play another sport called netball when I was young but decided basketball just because I could experience the world more, go out and represent my country in the Olympics if I wanted to do that or go overseas like I have. And my family all played basketball so that was a big influence as well. My oldest brother was almost going to come to America when he was growing up and chose not to so when I was thinking about it I wasn’t really sure that this is what I wanted but he told me I should try it and if I didn’t like it I could always leave. I decided to try it and it was a good decision.”7

Nicole moved away from home to live with her aunty and uncle in Adelaide when she was 14 years old, enabling her to attend Brighton Secondary School and play basketball with Sturt. Seekamp made her WNBL debut at 17 years of age in 2009/10 for the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), playing 18 games for the season. Nicole represented the Australian Gems at the 2010 FIBA Oceania Under-18 Championships in Palmerston, New Zealand.

During the 2010/11 WNBL season Nicole played 13 games for Adelaide, averaging 5.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. In February 2011 Seekamp captained South Australia in the Under 20 National Championships, averaging 12.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game.

College career with South Dakota Coyotes from 2011/12 to 2015/16

It was a bold move by Seekamp to attend South Dakota University given that she had never been to South Dakota before and knew little about the area, a key reason in making the move was relationships she had built. Despite it being far colder in South Dakota than she expected and being unable to play any games in her first year at the University it was an environment and a program that Seekamp thrived in and when her time at South Dakota came to end she had made an indelible mark on the history books and had one of the greatest women’s basketball careers in the history of the school.

Ryan Larsen who at the time was an assistant at South Dakota under Ryun Williams played a key role in recruiting Seekamp, even visiting her in Australia during the recruiting campaign. On her decision to attend South Dakota and her discussions with Larsen Seekamp commented “We talked for a couple of years, I didn’t really want to come over for the first year because I wanted to go home for a little bit since I had already lived away from home. But then I decided to come over here based on the fact that I forged a good relationship with him and I thought the people were really kind. I actually didn’t look at South Dakota and didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But when I got over here I didn’t mind it because I’m from a small town about the size of Vermillion so it was an easy transition from that standpoint. But the cold was definitely the worst thing I’d experienced.”8

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ruled that Seekamp had to sit out her freshman  2011/12 season with South Dakota to meet eligibility requirements due to her prior amateur experience in Australia.

Amy Williams was appointed as head coach of South Dakota before the 2012/13 season and had over a decade’s experience coaching US College women’s basketball team’s first of all as an assistant coach at a couple of college’s followed by five seasons as head coach at Rogers State University.

Seekamp started all 35 games for South Dakota in 2012/13, leading the team in scoring and steals, ranked fifth for rebounds, second for assists and third for minutes played. South Dakota had a record of 19 wins and 16 losses.  Nicole was named to the Summit League All-Newcomer team and was named the Summit League Tournament MVP, averaging 20.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Due to a foot injury Seekamp missed five games during 2013-14 and came off the bench in another three games – the only time during her career at South Dakota that she didn’t start. Seekamp ranked in the top 10 of the Summit League in three main statistical categories – fifth for scoring, sixth for steals and eighth for assists. South Dakota won the 2014 Summit League Tournament.

Due to 2011/12 being a red-shirt season it was thought that 2014/15 would be Seekamp’s final season of college basketball. South Dakota had appealed the NCAA’s decision on several occasions in an attempt for Seekamp to gain another year of eligibility but had been unsuccessful. Seekamp won the 2014/15 Summit League Tournament MVP, becoming just the third player in league history to win this award twice. Nicole led South Dakota in scoring, assists and steals and played a pivotal role University winning its first ever Summit League regular season championship. After winning 19 games in both 2012/13 and 2013/14 the Coyotes had 26 wins and eight losses in 2014/15 including a phenomenal 15-0 home record. South Dakota made the Summit League Tournament final for the third year in a row but like in 2013 and they were defeated in the 2015 title game.

University of South Dakota head coach Amy Williams commented on Nicole “What people don’t see and what has continued to amaze me throughout her career is watching her behind the scenes and practice and the way she puts her arms around our freshmen and talks and teaches and allows me as a head coach to be able to move forward, move on to the next drill, continue with practice because she’s going to take care of cleaning up some of the teaching points that need to be made. It is just such an incredible treat for our coaching staff to have that fifth coach out there helping us develop the younger classmen.”

On South Dakota’s 2014/15 season Nicole commented “I was a little disappointed, we did have a great year and everyone did say that went 26 and eight which is a really good record but I think we knew we were a much better team than we finished that year out like and everyone felt like we could have done better.” From before her college career started Nicole thought that 2014/15 was going to be her final season at college, however the NCAA granted her a fourth year of eligibility in 2015/16. Nicole recalls “I just remember that I had a deep breath of relief and I was just like phewf, finally I know what I am going to be doing.” Seekamp had to miss the first two games but was then eligible to play the remainder of the 2015/16 season. Nicole comments “Two games is nothing, that’s what I thought then at that point, I was thinking that 10 games would be nothing. I am thankful that that wasn’t the end for me or my teammates and I think that kind of was a motivator for this year when I did find out that I got my year back, I think we are all a little bit re-focussed and we didn’t want that to happen again.” South Dakota had a very strong group of seniors on their team. Seekamp led the Coyotes to a 15-1 conference record and a second straight summit league title with the team reaching the tournament championship game for the fourth straight year and set a program record 16 game winning streak. On Saturday April 2 South Dakota were the first summit league team in any sport to win a national tournament, winning the WNIT title. During the tournament Seekamp played six games, averaging 14 points, eight assists and five rebounds, being named the tournament’s most valuable player. Nicole comments on South Dakota winning the title, “Once the buzzer went off we were like wow we actually did it. Our whole season this is what its come to and we managed to finish it successfully and I think everyone felt that kind of pride in USD and with the women’s basketball team. It’s just something that I am definitely going to remember for the rest of my life, just to look back on that in a few years is going to be amazing.”

Amy Williams comments on Seekamp “She is the most selfless superstar that you’ve ever had, you hear it all the time about you need your best players to be the hardest workers, you need your best players to be the best team-mates and she truly epitomises that, she just sacrificed her own personal accolades and what she is capable of to maintain team chemistry and balance in our program, and I am just so grateful of all she’s done to establish the healthy culture that we now have in Coyotes women’s basketball.”

Seekamp graduated from South Dakota in 2016 ranked second on the university’s all-time list for points scored (2,056), assists (628) and steals (265). Seekamp was exceptional in her final season for the South Dakota Coyotes in 2015/16, being named the Summit Player of the Year and played a critical role in the Coyotes winning their first national postseason title, enabling South Dakota to progress to the NCAA tournament. During 2015/16 Nicole averaged 15.9 points, 6.4 assists, 2.4 steals and 30.0 minutes per game whilst also providing great leadership, brought her teammates into the play and was a superb defender. During her four seasons at South Dakota from 2012/13 to 2015/16 Seekamp played 133 games including a South Dakota record 130 games as a starter, averaging 15.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.0 steals and 29.8 minutes per game during her college career.

Seekamp had a decorated college career, twice being name the Summit League Tournament MVP – 2012/13 and 2014/15 and was named in the first-team of the All-Summit league in 2014/15 and 2015/16, being named the Summit League Player of the Year in the latter year. Seekamp graduated from college with a major in Psychology and a minor in Coaching.

On her time at South Dakota Univesity Seekamp commented “I couldn’t have chosen a better place. I’m so glad I’ve gotten to experience this and the five years here were awesome, I met so many great people and the coaches and teammates were the best I could ever have imagined. I’m going to miss it a lot.”9

2016/17 season with AZS PWSZ in Poland

Nicole appeared as a feature guest on the Medco Sports network program ‘Benchwarmers’ on 6 July 2017, Nicole was asked “What was the experience like playing professionally in Poland?” Nicole responded “It was different. I was in a town of about 140 thousand people, because it was winter my vision of it is just grey, the buildings are really old, there’s like no sunshine. Getting around was kind of tough because not a lot of people spoke English, only about 30% of the people spoke English there.”

Nicole commented “The basketball side of it there, competition, yeah the league was pretty good, its just different, their style of coaching and all that kind of stuff. It was definitely an experience for my rookie year, I kind of felt like I had an inconsistent year personally, still wasn’t terrible, but I think just going from four years of college where you like have a family to going somewhere where I don’t know anyone, can’t speak the language.” On the different language Nicole commented “The coach is initially from Russia but he can speak Polish and Russian and then a little bit of English. He could speak English terms for basketball but sometimes what he thought he was trying to say wasn’t really what it meant in English, so I was like ‘alright I’ll pick up on it eventually’. We had one teammate who spoke really good English so I could have a conversation normally with her but then she wouldn’t get some of the slang terms that I would use.”

One of Seekamp’s teammates at AZS PWSZ in Poland for the 2016/17 season was fellow South Australian Steph Talbot who represented Australia at the 2016 Olympic Games. In a game that Talbot missed late in the season Seekamp thrived, having 16 points, 12 assists and five rebounds in a two point loss to Artego Blyd.

2018 Queensland Basketball League (QBL) season with the South West Metro Pirates

During the 2018 Queensland Basketball League (QBL) season Seekamp has played for the South West Metro Pirates however she has missed several games due to Australian Opals commitments.

On Friday 27th July in her first game for the South West Metro Pirates after the Opals four-nations Tournament in China Seekamp scored 28 points, had 12 assists, seven steals and seven rebounds to set game-highs in the first three categories during the Round 14, 81-79 victory against the Gold Coast Rollers. Seekamp was named the Queensland Basketball league women’s Player of the Week for Round 14, the second time that she had received the award this season, having previously been named the Round 9 POTW.

Seekamp played 12 games for the South West Metro Pirates in the QBL during the 2018 regular season, averaging 21.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 4.5 steals per game. During the regular season Seekamp ranked fourth in the QBL for assists per game behind Mikhaela Donnelly, Nat Hurst and Abby Bishop, led the league in steals per game and ranked equal sixth for points per game.  Seekamp scored at least 25 points in six of her 12 games and despite missing a third of the season ranked fourth for total steals with 54, only six behind the leader.

The South West Metro Pirates finished the 2018 regular season third on the ladder in the 15 team league with a record of 15 wins and three losses, level with Southern District Spartans, one win behind the Townsville Flames and Ipswich Force. Sunshine Coast Phoenix finished fifth with 12 wins, three games behind the Pirates. In semi final 1 next weekend the South West Metro Pirates play the Southern District Spartans with the winner to progress to the preliminary final and the loser to be eliminated.

Upcoming 2018/19 WNBL season with the Adelaide Lightning

After signing with the Adelaide Lightning in mid-June 2018 for the 2018/19 WNBL season Seekamp commented “It feels great to re-sign with the Lightning. I think we have some unfinished business from last season, and I think with the team Chris has put together we can accomplish big things. I’m hoping to bring the leadership and energy on the defensive end of the floor.”10

The Adelaide Lightning have signed 10 players to date for the 2018/19 season, these players are listed below in categories based on their height and whether they are returning or are new recruits.

Adelaide Lightning roster to date for 2018/19 WNBL season:

Players 184 cm and under

Returning                                                            New

Nicole Seekamp 178 cm                                Steph Blicavs 179 cm

Aimie Clydesdale 176 cm                              Kate Gaze 178 cm

Lauren Nicholson 183 cm

Players 185cm and over

Returning                                                            New

Colleen Planeta 188 cm                                 Kayla Alexander 193 cm

Chelsea Brook 189 cm                                    Nia Coffey 185 cm

Penina Davidson 191 cm

Four of the seven players that averaged more than 7.5 points per game for Adelaide in 2017/18 have been confirmed as returning to the club for the 2018/19 season, with Seekamp being joined by forward Colleen Planeta (10.1 points per game), guard Aimie Clydesdale (9.9) and Lauren Nicholson (8.0). Nicholson has excelled playing as a forward/guard for the Launceston Tornadoes during the 2018 SEABL season, winning the league’s most valuable player award after averaging a league-leading 24.9 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game and is shooting the ball at 56.2% from the field during the regular season. During the off-season Adelaide further strengthened their back-court by signing shooting guard Steph Blicavs (nee Cumming) who has over 250 games WNBL experience, played on two championships with the Jayco Rangers (2011/12) and Townsville Fire (2014/15). During 2018 Blicavs and Seekamp were both members of the Australian Opals team that won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games played in Queensland during April, and earlier this month were part of the Opals team for the four-nations tournament in China. Seekamp and Blicavs both finished in the top 10 of the 2017/18 WNBL Most Valuable Player Award with Blicavs recording her third consecutive top-10 finish, having played for the Jayco Rangers in all three seasons. The SEABL Preliminary finals will be played on Saturday 11 August with Nicholson’s Launceston Tornadoes hosting the Nunawading Spirit and Blicavs’ Kilsyth Cobras hosting the Bendigo Lady Braves. Blicavs won the SEABL MVP award in 2015 and 2016 so between them Blicavs and Nicholson have won the MVP award for this league in three of the past four seasons.

Abby Bishop and Ruth Hamblin will be playing in Europe for French team Tarbes and German team Castors Braine respectively which will result in Adelaide having a new look front-court. The Lightning have signed two American imports to play in the frontcourt being 193 centimetre centre Kayla Alexander and 185 centimetre forward Nia Coffey. The duo were both selected in the top 10 at the WNBA draft by the  San Antonio Stars with Alexander being the number eight selection in 2013 and Coffey being selected with pick five in 2017. Alexander has over 175 games WNBA experience, having played five seasons for the Stars before being traded to the Indiana Fever in February 2018, she has played 24 games for the Fever this season, averaging 2.9 points, 2.1 rebounds and 8.9 minutes per game. The Stars moved location and changed their name to the Las Vegas Aces between the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Coffey has played 50 games for the club including 11 as a starter and has played 23 games for the Aces in 2018, averaging 6.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 15.4 minutes per game. Alexander and Coffey already have experience as team-mates, having both played for the San Antonio Stars in 2017.

Of the 10 players signed by Adelaide Lightning five of them are returning from the 2017/18 season and five of them are new recruits. Crucially head coach Chris Lucas has a high degree of familiarity with two of these new recruits, having coached both Steph Blicavs and Kate Gaze when he was head coach of the Townsville Fire whilst the club’s two American import front-court recruits, Kayla Alexander and Nia Coffey were team-mates at WNBA CLUB San Antonio Spurs (now Las Vegas Aces) in 2017. During the two-game 2015 FIBA Oceania Women’s Championship between Australia and New Zealand new recruit Penina Davidson averaged a series-high 10.5 rebounds per game for New Zealand. Adelaide’s three front-court recruits in Alexander, Coffey and Davidson have all played college basketball in the United States. 20 year forward/centre Chelsea Brook who will be returning for her third season with the Adelaide Lightning in 2018/19 won the medal for best player under 21 years of age in the South Australian Premier League in 2018.

Adelaide head-coach Chris Lucas is delighted that the club’s 2017/18 MVP has signed for 2018/19, commenting on Seekamp “She’s a terrific athlete, hardworking and obviously we’re pretty excited to have her back in the program. I think she’ll be looking to take her game to another level and I think the expectations will be on the team are going to rise and she’ll rise to the occasion. I’m really happy to have her back.”11

During the 2018/19 WNBL season depth and versatility are bound to key factors in determining how successful each club is and the Adelaide Lightning fare strongly in both areas. Of the seven players that played in the WNBL last season six of them average more than seven points per game comprised of five players under 185 centimetres tall and 188 centimetre forward Planeta. Adelaide have also been able to recruit two WNBA front-court players and New Zealand Tall Ferns player Penina Davidson meaning they have depth in the front-court as well as the back-court and can be flexible with their line-up throughout 2018/19 as they attempt to return to the WNBL finals for the first time since 2012/13.

Epilogue

After playing club basketball for Sturt, an outstanding career representing South Australia at various age groups and a couple of seasons playing in the WNBL as a teenager Seekamp spent six years living overseas, where she had mixed experiences.

Seekamp was forced to sit-out her first season at South Dakota University in 2011/12 to meet eligibility requirements. Whilst several people at South Dakota were concerned that Seekamp might leave after her red-shirt freshman season she returned and went on to have a decorated career at the University, quickly cementing herself in the starting line-up and being named the Summit League Tournament MVP in both 2012/13 and 2014/15. At the end of the 2014/15 season Seekamp playe what she thought was her final game for South Dakota, however after several appeals from the University the NCAA granted her a fourth year of eligibility enabling her to play the remainder of the 2015/16 season after missing the first two games. Whilst the start might have been a nightmare Seekamp had a dream conclusion to her college career in 2015/16 with South Dakota becoming the first summit league team in any sport to win a national tournament, winning the WNIT title, to top it off Seekamp won the award as Tournament MVP and was also named the Summit League Player of the Year. During her career at South Dakota Seekamp set a new record with 130 starts, and also finished her career ranked second on the university’s all-time list for points scored (2,056), assists (628) and steals (265).

Whilst Seekamp’s first season as a professional playing in Poland didn’t go as smoothly as she would have liked with some things being lost in translation due to the language barrier she did have some strong games and was able to gain some valuable experience.

Since arriving back in Adelaide on 21 July 2017 Seekamp has had a whirlwind 12 and a half months. Despite an absence of six seasons Seekamp had no trouble adapting in her return to the WNBL with the Adelaide Lightning in 2017/18, with her strengths being her reading of the play, quick hands to generate steals, ability to bring team-mates into the game with her passing, versatility and leadership. Spending time playing at both guard positions – point guard and shooting guard Nicole ranked third in the WNBL for both scoring and assists and also ranked 12th for scoring. Seekamp was rewarded for her brilliant form and wide-ranging skill-set with the Adelaide Lightning Most Valuable Player Award, a top 10 finish in the league’s MVP award and selection in the Australian Opals team for the Commonwealth Games.

Seekamp has long harboured ambitions to represent Australia at senior level and she broke through to make her first appearance for the Opals in a home Commonwealth Games in Townsville and the Gold Coast in April this year. The last night of competition was as Nicole said “Just incredible, one I will never forget anyway” with the Opals winning the Gold Medal game against England and then Nicole getting engaged to Cody less than half an hour later on the basketball court.

At 26 years of age Nicole Seekamp has already experienced a great deal in her basketball career, achieving several significant milestones whilst also overcoming setbacks along the way. In her return to the WNBL in 2017/18 Nicole Seekamp was a worthy winner of the Adelaide Lightning’s Most Valuable Player Award, ranking in the top handful of players in the league for assists and steals, playing with a term-first mentality whilst also providing versatility and leadership. Whilst it may have been a longer road than some other players her outstanding  WNBL form along with her persistence was rewarded with selection in the Australian Opals team.

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

 

1 https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/sport/basketball/riverland-star-nicole-seekamp-travels-the-world-and-returns-home-to-lead-lightning-wnbl-resurgence/news-story/8328316a911f12aa0f67a229dc69572d

2 https://goyotes.com/news/2017/7/6/womens-basketball-catching-up-with-nicole-seekamp.aspx

3 https://goyotes.com/news/2017/7/6/womens-basketball-catching-up-with-nicole-seekamp.aspx

4 https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/sport/basketball/riverland-star-nicole-seekamp-travels-the-world-and-returns-home-to-lead-lightning-wnbl-resurgence/news-story/8328316a911f12aa0f67a229dc69572d

5 http://wnbl.com.au/adelaide/news/seekamp-wins-mac-adelaide-lightning-mvp/

6 http://basketball.net.au/basketball-australia-announce-20-player-chemist-warehouse-australian-opals-world-cup-squad-for-selection-camp/

7 https://siouxcityjournal.com/sports/basketball/college/usd/seekamp-set-for-dakotadome-curtain-call/article_8c2439de-36c6-58fd-b978-932e162c0443.html

8 https://siouxcityjournal.com/sports/basketball/college/usd/seekamp-set-for-dakotadome-curtain-call/article_8c2439de-36c6-58fd-b978-932e162c0443.html

9 https://siouxcityjournal.com/sports/basketball/college/usd/seekamp-set-for-dakotadome-curtain-call/article_8c2439de-36c6-58fd-b978-932e162c0443.html

10 http://wnbl.com.au/adelaide/news/golden-girl-returns-to-adelaide-ready-to-strike/

11 http://wnbl.com.au/adelaide/news/golden-girl-returns-to-adelaide-ready-to-strike/

 

Milestones and misses

In early December 2015 Milestones and misses was set up to publish articles celebrating sportsmen and sportswomen achieving milestones.

Most of the articles on Milestones and misses either:

1)      comprehensively cover a players entire career to mark a player reaching a milestone of 100 games or more, or

2)      celebrate a player winning an award such as a best and fairest or MVP, these articles comprehensively cover the player’s award winning season and summarise the rest of the player’s career.

So far articles published on Milestones and misses have predominantly been on players from two leagues:

·         Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and

 

·         Australian Football League (AFL)

 

The Milestone games articles have focused predominantly on two clubs – the Jayco Rangers in the WNBL and the St Kilda Football Club in the AFL. A broader approach has been taken regarding the articles celebrating players winning awards, with articles being published on the WNBL MVP winner, Rangers MVP winner, AFL Brownlow Medallist, St Kilda best and fairest winner and the winner of the medal for best on ground in the AFLW Grand Final.

Below is a link to the Milestones and misses home page.

https://milestonesandmisses.com/

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