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More Aussies than ever are suiting up as Aggies

By Jensie Bahr

A quarter-century relationship between the Utah State University women’s basketball program and the nation of Australia has reached an all-time high.

Four Aussies will put on Aggie uniforms this season, the most ever for a program that has had at least one Australian on the roster for close to 25 years.

“We enjoy recruiting international players and utilizing the diversity they bring to the team,” assistant coach Ben Finkbeiner said. “We’ve had great success recruiting foreign players for our basketball program. The system that the Australians in particular come out of make them a good fit for us.”

Australians don’t have basketball teams in high school. They play on club teams that play against high-level competition – sometimes going up against veteran players with years of experience.

“This makes them very good fundamentalists and well-rounded players – they’re not one dimensional,” Finkbeiner said.

Olivia West, a freshmen guard for the Aggies, is one of four Australian natives on the team this year. West’s fellow Aussie teammates include Eliza West, who is of no relation, Shannon Dufficy and Rachel Brewster.

All four players knew each other prior to signing with the Aggies.

“We’re all from Melbourne,” West said. “Shannon was on my club team so I used to see her every day – we played against Eliza on our club team, and the year before we played against Rachel too.”   

West said knowing other players on the Utah State basketball team made her move to the United States easier.

“Having other Aussies on the team helped me make my decision to come here,” West said. “Moving across the world, if you’ve got something familiar then it’s gonna be easier to adjust.”

Before coming to Utah State, West played basketball for two years at Templestowe College in Melbourne, Australia. West said she never imagined she’d play basketball collegiately in the United States. 

“I thought I’d stay in Australia due to circumstances with my family,” West said. “At the national championships in Australia, I had a good tournament and coach hit me up. That’s when I reconsidered and changed my mind to come to college in the U.S.”    

West said playing basketball has helped her to make friends at the university, which was something she initially worried about.

“It’s good being on athletics because you instantly connect with the girls,” she said. “I think Utah is a good place to be because it’s not too hectic – it’s nice to be in a quiet university town.”