As a teenager, Nyree Taylor went from beginner basketballer to national Argentinian champion in the space of a year. She shares her story with BRIANNA PIAZZA
WHEN Warrandyte’s Nyree Taylor boarded her plan to Argentina about 20 years ago she was a 16-year-old netballer who couldn’t speak a word of Spanish.
Yet one year later she returned home with a national basketball championship title and a fluent Spanish tongue.
Always a netballer in Australia, it wasn’t until Nyree moved to Argentina that she discovered her true passion for basketball.
Nyree spent one year in Argentina as an exchange student, living with a regular South American family, getting up early to go to morning school and spending countless hours in the afternoons training with her basketball team. “Basketball wasn’t as popular over there like it is here, especially for women so it was quite hard for me to find a basketball team,” Nyree said. “I ended up having to travel out of my suburb to play, and I think the team from Cordoba were thrilled when they met me and saw how tall I was.”
As a beginner basketballer, Nyree not only had to learn the game, but also the key basketball language in Spanish.
“I had to learn Spanish, but then I also had to learn how to communicate on a basketball court – like what’s dribbling and passing and how do you call out to say that you’re free,” she said. “You also need to be able to understand how your team plays and be able to understand the plays. People always think there’s one star, but it actually takes a whole team to win a game.”
During Nyree’s year in Argentina, she played one of her best games when Cordoba won the 1991 Formosa Competition – a national competition where Nyree and her team represented their state.
“It was a really high standard competition, and the girls playing were really passionate about it because they wanted more opportunities for women.
“We had been through so much together over there as a team and it was such a unique position for us to be in that we were female basketballers. We were certainly a minority over there, and so representing Cordoba and winning the championships was very special for us.”
Nyree told the Diary her basketball team became a second family, helping her get through her year living away from home.
“I think basketball was the thing that just helped me through the year – sometimes I would get really homesick and I’d come to training and my coach, Alejandro, knew us all quite well. He would always know when I was sad or something was wrong, so I could talk to him.
“He also used to take me aside and explain all the accepted cultural things in Argentina. Then the girls were really funny – they were like sisters to me. I have so many great memories with the team.”
Nyree enjoyed her year in Argentina so much that when she returned to Melbourne she stayed on the plane as long as she could because she didn’t want to go home.
But come home she did, armed with plenty of memories.
“The team used to drink coke on the sideline instead of water, and anyone who got a cramp during the game would come off court, have a teaspoon of brown sugar and they were back on the court again. Surprisingly, it worked!”
“Another interesting thing was we played on concrete. Only the really elite courts were wooden, because at that stage there weren’t enough courts for the men’s and women’s competitions, but since then basketball has really grown in Argentina.”
Nyree continued to play basketball after she returned to Australia and has recently coached a couple of Warrandyte girls’ teams.
Now a mother of two young boys, Hayden (9) and Brodie (6), Nyree hopes her passion for sport will be passed on.
She only stopped playing this year because she injured both ankles. Next year, however, it’s back to business. Ole!
Published in the Warrandyte Diary, December 2012