Aussie-loving American on Ipswich mission
AUSSIE-loving American import Markel Walker is keen to return home having played in Israel before joining the Ipswich Force this season.
However, the Philadelphia-based forward has a mission to complete for Ipswich before jetting back to the US.
Having played 13 games for Force in this year's Queensland Basketball League, Walker has settled in well and wants to see what her new team can achieve in the playoffs.
Force need to beat South West Metro at Ipswich stadium on Saturday night to ensure they secure a top eight spot for the finals.
Walker has some of the best individual stats in the QBL. However, she was more intent on strengthening court skills with her Force teammates.
"You always try to improve and do better,'' Walker said preparing for Ipswich's all-important showdown with the Pirates.
"I'm just focusing on helping the team get better as a whole . . . it's like growing together to make it a memorable season.
"We are a special group.''
The versatile basketballer joined Ipswich after the state league season started due to commitments in the competitive Israel league.
After her first QBL campaign was with Gladstone last year, she wanted to return to Queensland, happily accepting coach Brad George's invitation.
Walker has enjoyed getting to know the Ipswich people "on a different team with a different dynamic''.
"I love Australia,'' Walker, 26, said.
"I enjoy being out here.
"The people are very nice and welcoming.
"I've never had a bad experience in Australia.''
In her second year in Australia, she was getting used to the slang.
"It's not like living in a country like Israel or Poland where there is a language barrier,'' she said. "It's completely different.
"Living in Australia is like a breath of fresh air.''
Once her Ipswich commitments are finished, she plans to stay for a week or so before returning to the US. She misses her family having been away so long.
But she has adjusted to the warmer conditions in Queensland.
"Your weather now is like our spring (in Philadelphia),'' she said.
"Our winter is like snow, hat, gloves, scarves . . . you need like two pairs of socks.
"Your winter is like nothing compared to ours.''
The Force women, with nine wins and seven losses, are currently in sixth on the QBL ladder. They need to win Saturday's 5pm match to remain ahead of seventh-placed South West (eight wins, seven losses).
Having taken some time to adjust to her new team environment, Walker has risen to second in the QBL for rebound averages (12.85 per game) and total offensive rebounds (64).
With skilful players like Bree Farley, Rachel Mate and Ipswich's second import Shenita Landry around her, Walker has stepped up in recent weeks after being a late starter in the team.
She feels Force is peaking for its finals' bid.
"This is to see if we really want it (to make the finals),'' she said, looking forward to playing South West Metro with so much on the line.
The Force men wrap up their frustrating season against South West at 7pm.
They are hoping to add a fifth win to their season tally after so many nailbiting defeats.
QBL Saturday: Ipswich Force v South West Metro Pirates at Ipswich stadium. Women's match at 5pm before men's game at 7pm.