Freshman Spotlight: Bree Whatman
Freshman guard from Australia adjusts to life as a Bison
Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 09:02
From the land down under to the frozen tundra of the northern plains, not many would say they would commit to such a leap. But if that leap meant that one could play basketball, then 7,500 miles away from home and a dramatic temperature drop in weather would be nothing compared to a 10-foot-high basketball rim.
NDSU freshman guard Bree Whatman, an Australian native from Beaconsfield, Victoria, made that leap back in August.
Beginning basketball at the ripe age of nine, Whatman started out playing little kids games and eventually fell in love with the game.
Today, Whatman plays for the Bison women’s basketball team. A year before arriving at NDSU, Whatman began communicating with assistant coach Tom Goehle, who recruited her to the team.
“The coaching staff is awesome,” Whatman said. “They make it very easy for me to adjust here and make it feel like home. All the girls are like my family.”
Adjusting to the culture in America is a little different for Whatman, but everything is generally the same. Having arrived in the summer, she was able to experience Fargo with beautiful trees before they disappeared. With freezing wind chills now in place, things could be a bit different.
“I’ve never been in weather this cold before,” Whatman said, “so I’m trying to adjust to it right now.”
But, with basketball and school keeping her busy, Whatman doesn’t have time to think about adjusting. In fact, she doesn’t have much free time at all. When she does, she can normally be found either hanging out with teammates or studying for her classes. And, like many teenagers, she enjoys reading fantasy novels such as the “Harry Potter” series or “The Hunger Games.”
Whatman can also be found walking wherever she goes or riding along with her teammates. When she does get off campus, Whatman usually ends up at Target or Scheels.
In Australia, Whatman would normally be found at one of the many little cafes having coffee and hanging out with her friends. With Australia being more city-based, Whatman can feel the size difference between there and Fargo.
“Fargo is kind of small compared to where I live,” Whatman said. “There’s not really much to do around here.”
With not much to do, Whatman can still possibly expect to hear a comment about her native accent.
“I think everyone here is just surprised I’m from Australia,” Whatman said.
When hanging in the dining center, Whatman has had people approach her and ask if she is the Australian. Others, like her teammates, joke around about her accent and the way she pronounces the letter “r.” Not only does she deal with the accent, but also with the challenge of being far away from family. Back home, Whatman left behind her parents, older sister and Jack Russell terrier, all of whom she contacts through Skype when she can. With basketball taking place over winter break, she was not able to fly home, but will be able to in May.
With four years of college studies and basketball ahead to keep her busy, the distance from her family may not be an issue. As a basketball player, she hopes to play professionally in Europe and travel around as well.
“It’s like a professional league over there,” Whatman said, “so once I’m done with my four years here, I can go play over there.”
As a journalism major, Whatman hopes to become a sports journalist and return home to work in Australia.
For now, Whatman is simply enjoying the time she spends with the Bison women’s basketball team. When asked about her opinions on traveling, Whatman said it’s tiring but enjoyable.
“We usually fly back on Sundays at 4 o’clock in the morning, which kind of drains you but makes it fun,” Whatman said.
And, as a member of a young team, there’s still a lot that can be learned.
“We are a very young team,” Whatman said. “In a couple year’s time, we’ll be pretty experienced, which is good.”
Whatman is not the only international player on the young team, either. Other international players on the Bison women’s basketball team are fellow Australian Marena Whittle (Vermont South, Victoria) and Brittany Wiebe (Brandon, Manitoba).
So, with quite a busy schedule and a bright future ahead, Whatman has much to look forward to. And, with the team and coaches feeling like family, and Skype to help her out, 7,500 miles away from her real family may not seem like a far distance at all.