“Nothing is ever given to you; you must always work harder.”
If anyone knows the true meaning of hard work, it’s Victorian rising star guard Jaz Shelley.
The country–turned–international point guard has racked up an impressive basketball resume in her time in basketball.
Memorable matches with Moe Meteors began an incredible journey for Shelley that now sees her playing on the collegiate stage for University of Oregon, and her sporting passions have driven her to get even better.
Known by some as one of the best up-and-coming guards, anyone from her time in the Victorian Country system was privileged enough to know of Jaz’s amazing work.
She’s won some incredible accolades over her junior career so far. An Under-17 World Championships gold medal, national titles with Victoria Country and Victoria as well as winning the Betty Watson Award as the WNBL’s 2019 Rookie of the Year, but Jaz’s success didn’t come overnight.
The Victorian–born athlete worked her way up the ranks of competitive basketball from a young age. Long training sessions, persistence and the unwavering desire to wear the green and gold all contributed to where Jaz would one day end up.
“Country Champs were a huge highlight in my life,” Shelley said. “These tournaments were, and still are, the best way to showcase your skills at a state level and compete against the best country athletes in Victoria.
“I really think they were the turning point in my basketball career, because it inspired me to get further involved in the country high performance system.”
Jaz spent her early days in basketball shooting hoops at Moe and she still sees this time as the foundation for her career as she helped take the Meteors to championship success and a national Club Championships’ berth.
“Representing Moe motivated me to work towards representing Australia one day,” she said.
“My favourite Moe memory is playing for at the U/12 and U/14 Country Championships – but my all-time highlight was in the U/14s though when we won the Championship Division for the first time ever.
“We were lucky enough to then attend the National Junior Classic and the Australian Junior Club Championships, which was a huge milestone for our association.”
Country Championships and the Australian Junior Club Championships only scratched the surface for the elite levels of basketball Jaz would partake in. Her talents soon reached the state level, with her efforts in the Big V with Southern Peninsula Sharks elevated to representing Victoria in the navy and white.
“I was fortunate enough to represent Victoria Country on several occasions in my junior career and that will always be something I cherish,” Shelley said. “Any chance you get to represent your state is an honour.
“I was very fortunate to work with people who wanted every athlete in the program to develop and succeed.
“The high-performance program was paramount in my dreams becoming a reality.”
In 2015, Jaz’s dream to represent her nation came true after being selected to compete in the FIBA Oceania Under-16 Championship for Women. She earned her accolades in FIBA competitions. She represented the junior Australian sides for the next four years and took on a notable leadership role with the U/19 Australian Gems in 2019.
“Looking back on my entire junior career, I would say that representing Australia was one of my biggest highlights,” Shelley said. “For all the teams I have played for, there is no bigger accomplishment than putting on the green and gold.”
“So many people dream for the opportunity and I am so thankful to have experienced this. It is such an indescribable feeling that I wish everyone could experience.
“I will never be a part of a more selfless, hardworking and united team. This will forever be my greatest memory in junior basketball.”
Jaz still treasures her favourite memory with Australia as the time she and her team took down USA at the Under-17 World Championships. Little did Jaz know she would soon be competing in the very country she took pride in having bested.
In the spring of 2018 Jaz announced her big USA move. She was set to pursue a basketball scholarship at the University of Oregon. Since Jaz made that fateful leap, joining the Ducks and she confidently admitted she’s never looked back.
“The shift to America and starting my college career was hard moving away from my family and creating a new life in another country,” Shelley said. “However, it has been the best thing I have ever done!”
“I am competing against the best players in the world every day and being exposed to things I’d never thought were possible.
“From beating the United States Olympic team, being ranked the number one team in the country, meeting Kobe Bryant and travelling all over the country.
“All these remarkable experiences are exciting for me and helping me get closer to my goals of playing for the Australian Opals and being drafted to the WNBA.”
While Jaz looks towards the future to realise, what she believes is, her full potential as an athlete, she reminisced on the lessons that have guided her so far and into the future.
She hopes her story can help guide the next generation of young country basketballers – whether they’re from Moe or other parts of country Victoria – to follow their basketball dreams.
“My advice to the newest generation of players heading off to Country Champs and getting into high performance basketball is to never take an opportunity lightly,” Shelley said. “Embrace every chance you get as you never know where it could take you.
“Never forget your roots and where you come from. I will never forget Moe Meteors and the country high performance program and where it has got me to today.”