Why we love Desi

Desiree Kelley is a well-loved and respected member of the Willetton Tigers community.

She has been playing for the club since she was five-years-old, and recently stepped up as captain midway through last year.

As we celebrate the achievements of our WSBL team for the SBL Women’s Round, it seemed fitting that we learn more about their captain who is so highly regarded.

Her teammate and friend of 10 years, Emma Gandini, pens a letter explaining why Desiree is so special.

The first time me and Des played in a team together was back in 2009 in under 16s at Willetton when I was top age and Des was bottom age. Following that, we played a year in under 18s together, a few years at D-league and this year it will be coming up to seven years of SBL together.

It didn’t take long for me and Des to establish a great friendship off the basketball court and we have maintained that strong friendship to today. Even during times when one of us was injured or not able to play for some reason, we still maintained a strong friendship off the court which I will always cherish! 

Watching Des develop over the years from a young age has been a privilege. Desi has a massive heart which has always shown off the court (and I know everyone who knows her will vouch for that), but what makes her so special in basketball and to our team is her love she shares for her team and the game.

She is always there for anyone who is down or having a bad day, and she is always there to help celebrate when something exciting happens. I think this is one of the things which makes Des such a good leader and captain of our team – her genuine care and generosity for the team.

Although I am a year older than Desi, I have always looked up to her as a basketball player. She is one of the most committed athletes I know, always looking to put in extra work or looking for ways she can get better. Her commitment, dedication and passion for the game is a very unique aspect Des has. Her motivation to always put in the extra work to achieve her best has made her the great player she is today.

From her many years of experience Des has also grown into an all-round leader and role model, especially for the younger girls in the team.

I asked a few of the girls to describe Des and why she makes a great captain:

“A captain, a friend, a mentor, a teammate. Whatever title you give her, Desi will always have your back, inspire you to do better and be a more confident version of yourself”

“Super approachable and kind”

“She leads by example on and off the court and makes everyone feel included”

“Great positive energy”

“Relatable, has experience both as a bench player and starter so can give advice on most aspects of basketball”

“A great role model”

“Dedicated to what she does in all aspects of life – especially work and basketball – puts in the time and effort”

“Genuinely interested in our lives outside of basketball – checks in on us as people not just players”

Playing with Desi over the last couple of years has been a great chapter in my life, I have learnt so much from Des as a player and as a person and am very grateful for it. I look forward to creating more memories on and off the basketball court over the next decade.


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