Basketball: Newcastle Hunters’ Hannah Young sets sights on WNBL title in rookie season with Canberra Capitals | photos

Hannah Young will return for the Newcastle Hunters in 2019, but first the Women’s National Basketball League player is eyeing off a national title in her rookie season.

The 25-year-old Novocastrian will line-up for the Canberra Capitals against the Adelaide Lightning in the best-of-three grand-final series, starting at the AIS Arena on Saturday (5:30pm). 

The hosts, minor premiers and favourites, find themselves on an 11-game winning streak and Young could barely have written a better debut script up until this point.

“Honestly no [I couldn’t have written a better script],” she told the Newcastle Herald.

“If I win a championship in my rookie season I might have to retire. Just kidding, but it has been amazing.”

Following six months in the nation’s capital, alongside the likes of captain Kelsey Griffin, Leilani Mitchell, Marianna Tolo and Kelly Wilson, she already feels like a “better” player.

“I’m just so happy to be here,” New Lambton-raised Young said.

“As a rookie I don’t expect much, especially playing behind Olympians and WNBA players.

“Even just training with and against these girls has made me better.

“I’m just excited to be part of the team.

“Whether I play one minute or five, it doesn’t matter because I’m just grateful for any opportunity I get to be honest.”

Saturday’s play-off fixture, the first decider between the sides in almost two decades, remains close to selling out.

Capacity at the Canberra facility is 5200, meaning it would be the biggest crowd the former Virginia Tech college student has played in front of.   

“In the first four hours we had 1500 tickets sold and now they’ve sold out one of the sections so there’s only limited seats available,” Young said.

“That’s massive. Even if they jump on the bandwagon that’s fine. The crowd has helped us over the line in a few games this year.” 

In the stands will be Young’s parents, former Harlem Globetrotter father Lewis and mother Louise, and potentially a couple of Hunters teammates. 

Her boyfriend Sharif Watson, who won the state title with the Hunters in 2018, is away visiting family in the US but returns to play for Newcastle later this year.

Young has already knocked back a “few other offers” to stay in her junior club colours for 2019

“I’ll come back to Newcastle and play for the Hunters,” she said. “I’m excited to come home, especially because my boyfriend will be playing for them as well.”

Last year fellow Hunters product and recently retired Suzy Batkovic won the WNBL crown, her fifth, with the Townsville Fire. 

Game two will be played in Adelaide on Wednesday. Game three, if required, returns to Canberra next Saturday.