Jessie Rennie - winner of 2017 State Schools Victoria Basketball

June 20, 2019

For this Bendigo Senior Secondary College alumna and WNBL basketball player, the world is about to get a whole lot bigger...

By John Holten

Jessie Rennie is a life-long basketball fan. She lives and breathes the game. So her recent signing with the University of Tennessee Vols is a dream come true. For this Bendigo Senior Secondary College alumna, it's all the sweeter for the challenges she's faced to get there.

After the thrill of winning the State Schools Victoria Basketball title in 2017 alongside her BSSC team-mates, she tore her ACL and MCL while representing the college in the Australian School Championships later that year. It was a bitter blow for Jessie, who had been in the Bendigo Braves system since Under-14 level and was in her third year as a WNBL development player.

"When I received the news that I needed a full knee reconstruction, it wasn't just the thought of being out of the game for over 12 months that affected me," Jessie remembers. "I really lost the motivation for my school work as well. "After a couple of months I realised that as much as the injury was extremely disappointing, it was also a really good chance for me to knuckle down and focus on my schooling to achieve the ATAR score I was after."

That's exactly what Jessie did; an achievement she hopes will lead to a career in exercise science or nutrition, post basketball. "I'm fascinated by how the body functions to perform at an elite level," she says, "and how important it is to fuel the body for the best possible performance." For Jessie, nutrition is a vital part of her preparation, given that she has been living with Type 1 Diabetes since the age of five. Despite the seriousness of the condition, it's not something she dwells on. "I've never seen it as a barrier or something negative," she says. "It's like any other challenge, I've just got to deal with it. It's not going to go away… it's just a part of who I am."

It certainly won't be on her mind when she takes to the court with the University of Tennessee Vols.

"Moving to Knoxville in the United States by myself as a 19-year-old, to live for four years… it's going to be a massive learning curve," Jessie says. "I'm really looking forward to training and playing with some of the best basketball players in the country. I know it's going to improve my game dramatically." Jessie is no stranger to playing with some of the superstars of the game. While captaining her Bendigo Senior Secondary College team in 2017, she was also playing alongside the likes of Kelly Wilson, Gabe Richards and Kelsey Griffin in the WNBL. "To be part of a team with players of that calibre was just amazing," Jessie says. "They obviously know the game inside-out and are constantly giving you tips. Having them as team-mates made me really proud.

"But I was equally proud to represent my school. They gave me an opportunity to work on my leadership skills, and I know that's something I'll draw on in the future." Jessie says her recruitment would not have been possible without the help and support of Samantha Tomlinson, Director of Aussie Basketball USA, the organisation responsible for connecting Australian female athletes with scholarship opportunities in the USA. She also praised the role of her parents, Dave and Sharon, and her previous two Braves coaches, current leader and 2018 championship coach Megan Moody, and Jonathan Goodman, who guided the club to a grand final in 2017.

"My mum and dad have been an incredible support," she says. "They've driven me everywhere over the years for my basketball junior career and they're just as excited as I am about the next chapter. They made the trip with me to Knoxville in May for introductions. It was an absolute head turner! "Megan Moody has been there through this whole experience and I've been grateful for everything she has done. And (Jono) Goodman — even though I haven't seen him in a while —helped me make a video, which started off the whole process."

And while it's a long way from the University of Tennessee to Bendigo's old school on the hill, Jessie is grateful for her time at BSSC. "If you want to achieve something great, Bendigo Senior gives you the opportunities and the endless support to do it," she says. "The Specialist Sports Program at the college gave me the chance to train and work on my game during school hours with extremely good coaches. "I'm proud that I was able to balance my VCE and my sport to get to this point.

"Obviously it's been a long haul, but the knee is good, I'm back in full training, and I can't wait to get started."

As published in Bendigo Magazine.

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