IT was a link to a fellow star on a Women’s SBL championship contending team that piqued Makailah Dyer’s interest in coming to the league and now the Perth Redbacks guard is focused on helping the club to a first title since 2000.
The Redbacks underwent a great transition coming into 2018 with Charles Nix appointed the new head coach and then Dyer arrived following her college career alongside Perth Lynx WNBL pair Kayla Standish and Mikayla Pirini.
The result has been the Redbacks sitting in second position on the table with one game to go, against the East Perth Eagles in the final round following a bye this weekend, and they are in a strong position to make a genuine run at the 2018 championship.
NIX TAKES NEXT STEP AS COACH BUT REDBACKS SUCCESS HIS FOCUS
Dyer was coming off a tremendously successful college career at the University of North Dakota where she played in two championships, was a captain and in her senior year named to the All-Big Sky Conference First Team.
It was one of her teammates at college, Lakeside Lightning centre Sam Roscoe, who got Dyer interested in the first place in playing in the SBL once she finished at UND.
Then just as luck would have it, Roscoe’s first game back for 2018 was the Lightning’s only loss of the season to the Redbacks. Dyer is hopeful that at least one of them ends up with the championship come the first weekend of September.
“I was actually a college teammate of Sam Roscoe and she would always talk about playing in the SBL and saying I had to try and get out here,” Dyer said.
“That really piqued my interest about coming to Australia and then having a conversation with my agent, who is based out of Western Australia, helped to play into me getting to Perth.
“Her first game back from England actually was against us and we were able to get win so it was a bit of an awkward car ride home. But it’s all good fun. We just go back and forward with som/e banter and we are hoping that we can be the two teams in the Grand Final. That would be really exciting.”
Dyer is averaging 13.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in her 19 appearances with the Redbacks this season.
She did miss a couple of games before returning on Saturday in a loss to the Rockingham Flames at Belmont Oasis, but she was glad to get back before the playoffs and with how the Redbacks have positioned themselves with two rounds of the regular season remaining.
“Obviously, we’ve done a really good job to put ourselves in a good position for a top two finish so that’s really exciting,” Dyer said.
“But at the same time we’ve had the same goals throughout the whole season and at this point we just have to dig down for the rest of the regular season by staying focused and playing our style of basketball.
“I’m excited to get playing and it’s really good that the team was still able to get some wins while I was out. But I want to be out there so I’m glad to be back now and I’m looking forward to being there for the rest of the season now.
“Obviously the playoffs will be a whole new level of competitiveness so just being able to get back during the regular season was really good for me just to get warmed up for that.”
The trip to play with the Redbacks in the SBL has been Dyer’s first experience post her college career at North Dakota and she couldn’t be enjoying it any more.
She’s been impressed with the standard of the league and it has taken some adjusting from what she was used to in college with the 10-minute quarters, 24 second shot clock, eight second half-court rule and so on.
But she is happy with how she has settled and now would love nothing more than to play a key role in the Redbacks’ attempt to win a first Women’s SBL championship in 18 years.
“The competition has been really strong. I think the SBL is a really good league in Western Australia,” he said.
“And as far as my game, it’s been a tough adjustment as far as picking up the pace goes just with the shot clock and faster paced game than college. But I feel like I’ve been settling in alright and it’s been really good, and I’ve enjoyed playing in the league.
“It would just mean so much to help the returning group of players and coaches get to that because they have worked so hard and they are such good people.
“Just being able to be one of the new pieces to play a part in getting that championship would be amazing. Being able to win two championships in college, I want to be able to bring that mentality to this club and I think we have some opportunity to do that this season.”
Playing in Australia was something that had sounded good to Dyer the more she heard about it during her senior year in college. Having an Australian teammate and then an Australian agent, and Women’s SBL championship coach Vlad Alava, things all came together nicely.
Once she had decided to come to WA, everything about the Redbacks felt like a perfect fit for Dyer from the teammates to the new coach and the new vision the club had moving forward.
Everything has well and truly lived up to what she expected, except for the lack of kangaroos hopping down the streets.
“I think as an American we all kind of have a dream to get out here and play in Australia so that was definitely my No. 1 choice after college to get out here,” she said.
“I had heard good things about Perth and just with the club I think they did a really good job with Nixy being in his first year of bringing in really good players along with the good core group they already had.
“It was big knowing I’d be around good people so I thought coming here I’d be around a good coach and players. Then when I got here everyone is so welcoming that it didn’t take me much to settle in.
“I was scared about the bugs and the poisonous animals, and all that stuff but I really haven’t had too many interactions with anything like that. I was excited about the kangaroos although I haven’t seen any outside the zoo so that was a bit of a surprise. I thought they would just be walking down the street.
“But it has been really good especially coming from North Dakota where I where I went to college, we’d had eight or 10 inches of snow at this point of winter. So just being here and 10 minutes from the beach has been awesome. This weather is not what I’d call winter. I can walk around in shorts and a tank top and it feels good, it’s not cold. I wouldn’t consider this winter.”
As for the future, Dyer hasn’t yet thought about anything beyond finishing this season at the Redbacks and then getting back home for some time back with family and friends.
But she sees no reason why she wouldn’t be open to a return in 2019.
“Obviously at first you don’t know if you will be homesick or anything like that, but just being with these girls and this group of people has allowed me to settle in and it feels like a second home to me,” Dyer said.
“If I was able to come back and could play for Perth again, I’d love to do that.”