by Al Stover
Julie Page, a 2006 Eastern graduate and captain of the Standard Life GB basketball team of Great Britain, was named the 2011 British Basketball Player of the Year after leading her team to the second round of the EuroBasket Women 2011 basketball tournament.
During her time at Eastern, Page earned accolades such as 2004 Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year, 2005 All-Big Sky honorable mention and All-Big Sky first-team in 2006.
In addition to being named the British Basketball Player of the Year, Page will be competing for Great Britain in the London 2012 Summer Olympics in front of her fellow countrymen.
The Easterner: When did you first start playing basketball?
Julie Page: I first started playing basketball when I was 16 years old, so I’ve been playing for 12 years now. I attended a community center with my [mother] where they held an organized amateur league.
TE: What were some of the factors that led you to join the sport? Did you have any family or close friends who played?
JP: The main reason was to spend quality time with my Mum. It was something fun and active for her and I to do together after the passing of my grandmother. When I went to my first game, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew the basics of the game, but that was pretty much it. I didn’t have any friends or family that played the game previously, but that obviously didn’t inhibit my enthusiasm. I found I had a natural talent for the game, which gave me a sense of uniqueness and individuality. As I started taking it more seriously, I became an advocate for getting more people participating and I encouraged my brother to come with me to training sessions. He even gave up football to play basketball.
TE: What do you like most about basketball?
JP: The competitive element of the game and the constant challenges that you’re faced with every time you step out on the court. I just think its great fun competing. There’s always something new to learn and an opportunity to develop both in terms of skill sets and mental fortitude.
TE: Who are some of the people who have impacted you in your life?
JP: My biggest influences are my family.
My parents have always offered unconditional love and support to help me pursue the things I love and for that, I will be eternally grateful to them.
My brother and I support each other in a different way; our stories are similar, so we can learn from and support each other as our journeys take us on similar paths.
I know without them in my life, I would not be the person or the player I am today.
TE: How was the transition coming from Europe to coming to the United States?
JP: Coming over to the United States was a difficult transition. I was really far from my family, so far that the eight-hour time difference didn’t allow me to talk to them very often. I just stayed strong-willed and stuck it out.
TE: What do you feel was the most important lesson you learned while playing at Eastern Washington?
JP: The most important thing that I learned from my time at Eastern was that the application of my work ethic was essential to me being successful. Similarly, that my work ethic had to be unyielding and that no matter what, it is unacceptable to give less than 100 percent or to throw in the towel. I’m by no stretch of the imagination the most talented player or the most athletic. However, I learned that none of that really matters. If you want it more than the next person and are willing put in the hours in the gym, or in the weight room, or by diving for loose balls or chasing rebounds, then it doesn’t matter how many people tell you, “You can’t do it” or “You’re not good enough.” The only person who can determine your success is you, and for some people, that prospect is too scary to embrace.
TE: What led you to playing professionally in Europe after graduating at EWU?
JP: It was my dream to get paid for doing something that I love. I think that’s a dream shared by millions all over the world, whatever their passion is. I was just fortunate that on the day my college career was over, I got a call from an agent asking me if I was interested in playing professionally and obviously, my answer was yes.
TE: What was the transition like going from college basketball to professional basketball?
JP: Surprisingly, the transition was very smooth. European basketball is a lot different than American Collegiate basketball.
My game and style is much more complementary to the European model. Coming back to play in Europe was an exciting prospect and transitionally quite enjoyable.
Off court was a little bit more difficult and the biggest barrier was definitely the language. To feel as though you are unable to communicate and express your thoughts and feelings accurately was a very frustrating feeling. As a result, I was very persistent in trying to learn different languages, cultures, customs, and traditions. I knew that in order to be successful living abroad and to be fully understood and acceptedI had to completely embrace my environment and the people around me. In truth, that has become one of the favorite parts of my job. Travelling and experiencing the world from different vantages.
TE: What are some of the things you do to get your teams pumped up before and during a game?
JP: I learned over the years that different players prepare in different ways. It’s not always the best to try and pump people up because they know what works best for them and maybe that’s not someone in their face screaming crazily. I try to firstly lead by example. I make sure no one on the court ever puts in more effort than I do. That is one thing that is always within my control whether I’m making shots or grabbing rebounds, I can always control my effort levels. In terms of helping my team mates perform, I try to observe every individual and adapt to their needs to do whatever it takes to help them be successful within the team.
TE: What goes through your mind as you are playing on the court during the game? How about while you’re getting ready to make a shot?
JP: While I’m playing, lots of things go through my head. When I’m on offense, I have dozens of different thought processes all computing at the same time. Things like, “Where’s my defender?” “Where are the openings going to be?” “What move can I make?” There really are so many things. When I’m taking a shot, my mind is clear. I just focus completely on the basket with no thoughts in my mind.
TE: What were some of the challenges you have faced and overcome in your career? How were you able to overcome these challenges?
JP: The biggest challenge I have overcome was a near fatal car crash three years ago in Italy. I don’t remember much of the accident, but it left me hospitalized and nobody could believe I survived when they saw the state of the car after the accident. Thankfully, I underwent successful surgery, stayed positive and healed quickly. With the help and support of a lot of good people in Italy, [I] stepped back onto the court after a difficult three-month recovery. Since then, I’ve had trouble getting back into optimum condition, but with the help of the Great Britain National team support staff, I’m feeling better and better, working hard for London 2012.
TE: What are some of the things you feel that you still need to work on as a player and how do you plan on working on those techniques?
JP: Everyone can always work on their shot. Nobody makes every single one, so there is always room for improvement. Beyond that, I’m working hard on improving different components of fitness following the instructions from the GB support staff; aiming to get faster, quicker, stronger, and increasing my endurance.
TE: What advice would you have for a college basketball player who is going through a hard time with balancing school and athletics?
JP: My advice to anyone who is going through a hard time is to stay focused, don’t be afraid to ask for extra help if you need it and most of all, work as hard in the classroom as you do on the basketball court because you’re playing career is a drop in the ocean compared to the rest of your life.
TE: What is it like knowing you will be competing in the 2012 Olympics in your home country?
JP: It’s really exciting to imagine playing in the arena next summer in front of my home crowd. It’s going to be the most breathtaking experience of my life so far. I get butterflies and goose pimples just thinking about it. It’s the biggest honor for an athlete and a privilege to be on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
TE: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you, maybe something you thought I should have asked?
JP: I would like to say ‘Thank you’ to coach [Wendy] Schuller. Before I came to EWU, I really didn’t understand what hard work was. I had an instilled work ethic, but I didn’t know how to apply it to basketball. I always thought I was working hard, but looking back, I laugh because I wasn’t. Coach Schuller taught me how to run until you throw up. How to push your mind and body to levels I never thought possible. There were times that I thought I would collapse, [but] thankfully I never did. As time went by, I learned that these feelings are normal if you want to say, “I worked hard today and pushed myself.” Without this application of work ethic, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the player I am today.