The Opals fell just short in the series decider against a quick and athletic Japan squad on Tuesday night but that hasn’t stopped Frankston Blues junior Steph Reid from smiling ear to ear.

Steph was named in the Opals squad in mid-April and after plenty of early morning trainings and building chemistry with the national team, she took the floor in two out of the three games.

“It was surreal, I had dreamt of doing that for a very long time, about 20 years now,” Steph said.

“To know that I was able to put on the green and gold jersey and go out and play in Sydney in front of our home fans was unreal, something I couldn’t even describe.”

“As one of the fastest, most athletic teams in the world (Japan), it definitely was a big adjustment compared to the WNBL.”

One of the highlights of Steph’s early Opals career didn’t come during gameplay, getting a huge shock when she walked into training last week.

Her childhood idol and Australia’s former star point guard, Michele Timms was there to greet her on the hardwood.

“It was insane, unimaginable,” she said.

“Walking into shootaround and seeing her there was unreal and for her to come up to me before shootaround and say, ‘Hey mate, how you doing?’ That in itself shocked me to death.”

“I could not believe when we got in the circle that she was the one to present my first ever Opals jersey to me, I was in shock and that was a big starstruck moment, I could barely even think.”

It wasn’t the first occasion Steph got the chance to meet her hero, the first time being 14 years earlier.

“I would have been playing for the Blues at that point, I would have been bottom age 12’s.”

“She ran a Michele Timms camp at MSAC, and we all got a photo with her and got it signed and it’s still on my bedside table to this day.”

It’s been a rollercoaster of a career for Steph, being told numerous times that she’s too small to be taken seriously at the next level.

“No state teams, no national teams, no AIS. I only got to college because I went on a trip with Simon (Mitchell) and the Frankston Blues in the U/18s team to the USA. Simon put me in conversation with the Buffalo coaches, without that, I wouldn’t have been in college and college is where it all started for me.”

“I’m extremely grateful for the pathway that Frankston gave me because without it I would be nowhere near where I am today.”

Steph and the Opals will have a training camp at the end of June, followed by a New York camp in July before the World Cup tips off on September 22nd.

by Dylan Smith for Frankston Basketball