By RUSSELL BENNETT
THERE’S one recurring theme when it comes to exciting Dandenong Rangers WNBL forward Sara Blicavs – the simple notion of ‘team’.
It’s not just about playing for the Rangers, but truly being a part of that team unit. She knows that’s what it takes to win, and her biggest support network is her other team … the Blicavs family.
Her parents Andris and Karen both played for Australian national basketball teams and have been involved heavily in the sport, while her oldest brother Kris is a SEABL player and Mark a former gun runner-turned Geelong AFL footballer who won the Carji Greeves Medal this year as the club’s best-and-fairest player.
Now 22, Blicavs is this year embarking on her second stint in Rangers colours. She started her WNBL career with the AIS in 2009/10 before moving to the Rangers the first time around. From there she was called up to the Opals’ tour of China in 2013 before signing on with the Bendigo Spirit, where she won the 2013/14 championship.
A big part of the reason for her return to Dandenong was that notion of ‘team’.
“I don’t want to be a part of a team when we’re just focussed on one player and people are out there to get their stats,” she told the Journal.
“Our team is nothing like that – that’s what’s so good about it. We can have someone who’s not playing well and anyone can step up for us off our bench – Tenaya (Phillips), Jacinta (Kennedy), anyone. We’ve just got so much depth and I think that’s why we’re doing quite well at the moment.”
After four games the Rangers were tied for top spot on the WNBL ladder – a far cry from where many pundits thought they’d be.
“It’s just cool to know we can be there and hold that spot,” Blicavs said.
“We’re so under-rated. I think the WNBL tipped us to come second last, and I absolutely love it when people do that because then you get a chance to prove people wrong.
“No-one will expect us to do well, but to be honest I look at our team and I think we can do very well.”
The Rangers have quickly become known this season for their fast, athletic, up-tempo style of play. And that suits Blicavs perfectly.
And it’s the togetherness of the Rangers that reminds Blicavs of one of the key characteristics of that championship-winning Bendigo team.
“It’s not a team full of stars, it’s a star team,” she said.
“It’s not like we’ve got superstars on our team, but we’ve just got great players and great girls. That’s a very big part of being successful.
“Winning the championship (with Bendigo) has been probably the biggest highlight of my basketball career so far and that feeling is so hard to describe but it’s just amazing.
“Because I know what that’s like, I really want to have it again. If I can bring that attitude and behaviour for the rest of our girls I’ll definitely be doing that because I would love to win a championship with our team at the Rangers.”
Blicavs is thrilled to be able to play alongside, and learn from Jacinta Kennedy who she describes as “one of the best players I’ve ever watched”.
The likes of Steph Cumming and Alex Bunton also have Blicavs excited about what this season could have in store.
Blicavs, like her brothers, started her sporting journey in athletics. She even dreamed of reaching Olympic level.
“I think it was when I hit 13-years-old – which is very young anyway – that I got really nervous at athletics and didn’t enjoy it that much,” she said.
“I think it’s because it’s an individual sport.”
Having started playing domestic basketball as a 10-year-old, it was when Blicavs got to the Melbourne Tigers that her career started to really take off.
And her family was there every step of the way.
“I really look up to both my brothers and anything they say to me I’ll listen to and take in,” Blicavs said.
“You hear it from coaches, and you hear it from players and other people – and even your parents – about what to do but for me it doesn’t really click until my brothers say it to me.
“Mark is brutally honest with me and I’m the same with him. I know nothing about football but I know what should be done and it’s good because we do feed off each other.
“But Chris, in particular, I play a lot of one-on-one and two-on-two with. I shoot around and work out with him and I think he’s quite smart and he really knows what he’s talking about.
“I know it’s cliched but I really respect my parents and what they’ve done in the basketball world. They are a massive influence but really my brothers are too. I absolutely adore and love them. They all ride the highs and lows with me.”