5 Aug 2021
Meet the Merridan girl who played in the WNBA, has a Olympic silver medal and won a World Championship
Women In Sport WA chats with Tully Bevilaqua
By: Kayla Hussey
August 5, 2021
Editors note Make sure you check out the photos :)
Aussie native, Tully Bevilaqua, has a decorated athletic career as a FIBA World Champion, WNBA Champion, and Olympic Silver Medalist (just to name a few!). Women In Sport WA had a chance to catch up with the basketball legend to reflect on growing up in WA, playing basketball around the globe, and how women’s basketball continues to evolve.
Bevilaqua grew up in the country town of Merredin, WA, around three hours east of Perth on the way to Kalgoorlie. Daughter of Jane and Lloyd Crook both who were sports people in their own right. Jane played field hockey and Lloyd played country footy. While she played many sports growing up around her two older brothers, basketball would end up being the ultimate pathway to her long standing athletic career. Travelling from Merredin to Perth for tournaments could be cumbersome with long drives ( 6 hours round trip) and expenses built up.
Bevilaqua is so grateful for the support of her farming family and the town of Merredin who rallied to assist with costs by holding cake stalls and raffles.
"Mum and Dad allowed me to do all the sporting things I wanted and got me to where I needed to go, without their encouragement none of this would of been possible" Tully added
For Bevilaqua, one of the early pivotal moments that shaped her basketball experience was during a tournament in Perth when she was representing WA Country U16s and one of her team managers went to the office for all-star scouts and selection committee members of the tournament and demanded that they come to watch one of their games to see Bevilaqua play.
Tully recalls about her team manager Doris Williamson,
"It took someone to get the attention of the administration to come watch me, that was a pivotal moment for me and my pathway as a country girl"
Which they did and that particular year, Bevilaqua was selected for the all-star team and started to receive more attention for her basketball skills. She ended up receiving a basketball scholarship grant from the West Australian Institute of Sport that offset costs for her parents and says that was so important for the family. From there her basketball journey progressed.
Bevilaqua stated that an athlete she always looked up to was fellow Aussie basketballer, Michele Timms, so it was a full circle moment when Bevilaqua played alongside Timms for the Perth Breakers in the early 90s. It was during that time that Bevilaqua stated she learned much from Timms during trainings about work ethic and commitment, which helped Bevilaqua form into the player she would become. The pair of teammates would later end up competing against each other in the WNBA.
Bevilaqua noted that she was constantly fighting for spots on teams and continued to prove herself. While many Aussie superstar athletes come up through the Australian Institute of Sport, Bevilaqua did not. In fact, she was not drafted for the WNBA, but rather signed as a free agent. The grittiness and determination to get to the elite and professional level is also the type of player she was on-court as a scrappy defender who played smart within her role on various teams.
Bevilaqua credits her ability to fit within various team dynamics to her early sport days, stating,
“Australia does a great job of instilling great fundamentals in players at a very early age, understanding the game, and so I think that I couldn’t match players for athleticism, that’s just the reality of it. But what I could do is I could use my smarts and use my reading of the game to counter (other players) strengths and think that’s where I was able to maintain my ability to have an extended career in the WNBA...”
While Bevilaqua has racked up many accolades, among some of her favourite moments during her basketball career include representing Australia at the Olympics, as well as winning a WNBA championship in 2006 held in Brazil with her Seattle Storm teammate and best-friend, Lauren Jackson. Bevilaqua noted that every championship is quite special, and she also has a few WNBL championships and a Hungarian National Championship!
Sport continues to grow and become increasingly connected on a global scale. The number of Australians playing internationally (e.g., playing intercollegiate sport in USA, international professional leagues) is becoming more and more. Bevilaqua is no stranger to the international athlete lifestyle and offers some advice for those travelling overseas for their sport career. She states that keeping connected to friends and family back home is incredibly important. She has a podcast with former teammate Lauren Jackson called ' Laid Back with LJ and Tully'. She says she keeps an eye on what the Perth Lynx are up to too.
Bevilaqua also mentioned that in each new environment, she made an effort to learn about the other cultures and also incorporated her Aussie culture to into her team.
" I have always have my vegimite with me though 99% of my teammates didn't like it.... There are groups of Aussies in the States and we catch up on Australia Day and Anzac Day making pavlova and meat pies" Tully said
She also said she can't wait to get her Women In Sport WA t-shirt as it is something she can wear to connect her with sport at home. :)
While Bevilaqua’s professional basketball career has ended, she remains an athlete and has a major presence in the sport community. Upon retirement from hoops, Bevilaqua and her wife opened up a bootcamp style exercise facility. She also does basketball commentary for the Indiana Fever (WNBA) and is dabbling in real estate.
She left with one piece of advice for any young girls playing basketball,
"I'd have fun first and foremost and at the end of the day bring your best of you everytime whether its practice or game"
You can find Tully on Twitter (@Bevilaqua41).
Cheers for the chat, Tully!
Photos from Tully
Keep an eye out for more in the EXPAT WA series with Kayla.