Wilson reflects ahead of history-making milestone

14 February 2024 | Bendigo Spirit news

As she prepares to become the first player in Women’s National Basketball League history to reach 450 games, Kelly Wilson pinpointed the trait helped get her there – work ethic.

The Bendigo Spirit veteran and WNBL games-record holder will venture into unchartered territory in Thursday’s clash against Canberra in the ACT.

When asked about the key to her longevity, the 40-year-old’s answer was simple.

“As a young kid, I definitely didn’t have the ideal prototype body for a basketballer,” an open-and-honest Wilson told SEN’s Andy and Gazey.

“I wasn’t that tall, long, lean, athletic physique, so I knew early on that I had to work really hard and find something in myself that separated me from other players.

“I think just always kind of having to prove myself and have the work ethic that is probably better than a lot of my competitors is kind of what set me up for my career.”

Spirit head coach Kennedy Kereama echoed Wilson’s sentiment.

“That’s incredibly accurate. Work ethic, determination, focus, commitment, selflessness and dedication all come to mind,” Kereama said.

“There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe her. She’s been an incredible servant to the game.”

Wilson, in her 20th season in the WNBL, will fittingly reach her milestone against Canberra, where she won two of her four titles.

The other two she won as a Spirit player.

“I’ve spent the bulk of my career in Bendigo and that’s home to me,” Wilson said.

“But I’ve definitely had a few stints elsewhere.”

A school teacher by trade, Wilson has done it all in the WNBL.

She won the competition’s Rookie of the Year award back in 2003, broke Jess Bibby’s record of 394 games a few seasons ago before getting to a historic 400 games.

But she’s still enjoying the game as much as ever.

“I love the sport of basketball, I love playing and I still can, so why not?,” Wilson explained.

As for what the future holds? Wilson hinted that the door was still ajar to play on next season.

“I don’t have any long-term goals at this stage of my career,” Wilson said.

“I go from week to week and if I feel good at the end of the season, I might play again the next season.”

The match also coincides with Wilson’s close friend and long-term teammate Kelsey Griffin’s 150th game as a Spirit player.

The Spirit will be looking for a fourth win on the trot to keep their finals hopes alive, but Kereama knows the Capitals won’t be easy to topple on their home court.

“Any team can beat any team,” he said.

“They’ve knocked off teams that we haven’t beaten.

“They’ve got a WNBA rising star in Jade Melbourne. Alex Sharp is another quality player on their roster.

“They play at a high tempo and are a tough team with nothing to lose.

“But in saying that, I’m confident in our preparation over the last couple of weeks and our form has been excellent.”

The Spirit will be without centre Ruth Davis (personal reasons) and youngster McKenna Dale (stress fractures).


Spirit v Capitals

Southern Cross Stadium, Tuggeranong

Thursday, February 15

Tip-off at 7pm EDT

Live on ESPN