MORAGA, Calif. – Former Saint Mary’s women’s basketball star Louella Tomlinson recently took time to chat about her experiences playing professional basketball and what it means to be in Moraga again. Tomlinson was most recently named the Eurobasket.com Italian A2 Player of the Year, playing for Napoli S. Dike in Italy. She averaged 14.7 ppg, 12.9 rpg and 3.4 blocks per game.
-What have you been up to this off-season?
TOMLINSON: I’m in town because I needed to get my Saint Mary’s fix. I get to see a lot of my friends and everyone at graduation. Very happy to see Gazey graduate. After my two weeks in Moraga, I’m headed to Australia… I’m playing in Mackay, which is where Clint (Steindl) is from… Kayla Standish is playing on my team.
-Do you feel you’ve paved the way for Aussie women’s basketball Gaels?
TOMLINSON: Definitely, I take a lot of pride in that I was the first girl from Australia that the program has ever had. I was getting sick of being at SMC with five boys from the mbb team and encouraged coach Thomas to get some girls over here. Seeing Aussies continuing to have success at SMC is something I’m very proud of. They’ve done very well here and they are nice girls, the type of people coach Thomas wants in his program. I’m very happy they came and can continue to carry the Aussie flag at SMC.
-How did Saint Mary’s prepare you for where you are at now? Both hoops wise and life?
TOMLINSON: While I was playing for the Gaels, it was amazing, there’s nothing like it. Now that I look back on my college years, that feeling is cemented in me, there is nothing like it.
Playing pro I get to visit new places, see new things, winning two championships has been the highlight. I had great teammates at Saint Mary’s, always felt like I had sisters around me, being so far away from family.
When I went back home, it was a lot like that… girls coming from different places and I got to meet new people. In Italy it was a bit harder because of the language barrier. Most of the girls on my team are from Naples, so they have their families, lives, friends, etc. A big challenge.
I chatted with Mickey (McConnell) when I went to watch him play in Italy, we both went through the same things, we sat there for an hour and chatted about what big changes he went through and compared what I was going through.
-What is Italy like?
TOMLINSON: Italy is full of tradition/culture, every city is so different. Off the court, I’ve travelled to some of the most amazing places. Just hop on the train and explore… such an eye opener.
I still have a coach who yells and screams so that is similar to SMC haha, but I’ve heard coach Thomas is mellowing, maybe it’s him getting older.
In terms of basketball, it’s a totally different style of game in Europe, especially in Italy. The referees are different, the coaching, the way games are structured… living in Naples isn’t easy, petty crimes are big, but I’m adjusting. I guess that’s part of growing up and rolling with the punches… but I’ll never give Italy back for anything, I’ve had a great year there and I’ve learned a lot about myself… not just in terms of basketball but a lot of things.
Jasmine (Smith) is in Greece, in Athens, we chat throughout the year… I’m happy for her… she’s a great basketball player and I enjoyed playing with her… she’s enjoying it in Athens…It was a big step for her, to leave the country and play in another country. She came to SMC from Oregon State and was always close to home. She went through some of the things I went through, in terms of the language barrier and such.
Also Serena (Benevente) in Germany, I’ve spoken with her and she loves it there.
Do you watch the Gaels while you are in Italy?
TOMLINSON: Yes, recently I caught all of the WNIT games… sometimes I’d be skyping with Maija (Lahde) and we’d watch together or she’d give me score updates while we were chatting. It was very exciting seeing how far they advanced in the WNIT this year… I still felt a part of the team, there are still girls on the team I played and trained with… definitely still feel like part of the Gael family.