Saunders completes first season abroad
After traveling more than 10,000 miles in 24 hours, Brea Saunders stepped off an airplane and headed straight to Hilliard’s gym, ready to coach volleyball.
“I love them so much. I always want to help,” she said. She’s assisted the volleyball and basketball teams since 2017.
She recently began developing her own foundation to help young athletes. “Believe N Succeed” was developed utilizing the initials of her full name – Brianti Nakyra Saunders.
“Throughout the time of training kids, or just coaching kids in general, I realized that you really can’t be successful if you don’t believe in yourself, and I noticed that there’s a lot of kids struggling with their confidence, and therefore it dictated how well they did in sports. And that’s one of the biggest things that you can’t really teach a kid. You can help them, but you can’t teach them. … You have to believe in yourself in order to go far in anything. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re not going to be good.”
She aims to develop youth sports camps and work to instill confidence. She wants them to realize that “Even when it gets hard, I can’t quit.”
Saunders, 24, never quit, even with a two-year delay between graduating from Stetson University and joining her first professional basketball team.
She returned home from Adelaide, Australia July 24. She just completed her first season of playing professional basketball abroad for the South Adelaide Basketball Club in the Premier League.
She also coached five teams within the club, serving as head coach of three and assistant for two teams. The club has different levels, including the Premier League, then the reserves, district and domestic leagues. Saunders coached boys and girls ages 16 and under, competing at the district and domestic levels. She gained fans while honing their skills.
“I built relationships with them, therefore they came to the games,” Saunders said.
Basketball parent Kelly Evans is thankful for Saunders’ influence on her son.
“I cannot thank you enough for everything you taught Sebi and the confidence you gave him,” she told Saunders on social media. “We were sad when you left, but I know how much you missed home. … We wish you all the best with whatever your next big adventure is. Sebi asked if you could come back. We were blessed to have met such a beautiful person and had some good laughs.”
While focusing on her own games with the South Adelaide Panthers, Saunders averaged 18.63 points, 5.84 rebounds and 2.42 assists per game. Her free throw percentage was 44.64, which was statistically the highest average in the league.
The Panthers are a newer team and had winless records in the two seasons prior to Saunders’ arrival. This season the team went 5-15.
“Really to us, what we did was really good because we were all new and we weren’t together for a long period of time. For us to build that chemistry in a short amount of time to win those five games, going from zero to five, to me was good. As a team you hate losing, but we competed. They did not compete those two years. … This year we were a shock to everyone because we were competing. When we got to the end of the season, that’s more what we were looking at is the fact that we improved so much from where we started.”
During her time Down Under, Saunders visited Hallett Cove, Australia, walking a path over rocks and caves, viewing the ocean. She also explored a wildlife park, feeding a kangaroo and viewing koala bears.
“When I first got there, it was all so different because of the driving on the different side of the road. The food was different,” Saunders noted. “The terminology and the language that they used was different. Of course, they spoke English, but it was just certain things that they said that I didn’t really understand, so it took me awhile to actually adjust to it, but then it became part of my language. It was actually quite funny how I just started using their terms as I went on. I just thought it was so cool because I actually didn’t mean to use the terms, but they were just coming out. I was like wow, I’m Australian now.”
While the basketball is the same
overseas, the game itself is slightly different.
“Americans play a lot faster and they’re a lot more physical, versus over there it’s a little more finessed. The game’s more slow-paced. It’s just a little bit different as far as the physicality and the speed of the game.”
She returned home with a slight accent and a plethora of memories. Now she will put together fresh highlight film and wait to learn of her next destination. Although a return to Adelaide is a possibility, she wants to keep her options open.
“I wouldn’t mind going back there. The people were lovely. But if I’m going to travel and play basketball, I want to try different things and go different places,” Saunders said. “I feel like I want to venture out and do something different.”
In the meantime, she will substitute teach at HMSHS and Hilliard Elementary and assist student-athletes.
“I coach because I just like helping others succeed,” Saunders said. “I really don’t do it for any other reason. I feel like if I have knowledge about it and I was good at it and I can pass it on to somebody else, I’m going to want to coach it no matter what it is.”
She inherited that drive to develop athletes from her parents, Myron and Wanda Saunders.
“I get a lot of my ideas from my dad,” Saunders noted. “He’s so passionate about teaching people and I love that. I love watching how people get so close to him because he can take somebody who’s never played before and just literally do a 360 with them. I just love how my dad doesn’t care what time of day it is, how tired he is, what he’s doing; he’s in here and he’s giving you 110 percent.”
She noted that her mom keeps the family organized.
“My mom is like the glue between me and my dad. I’m really close to my dad and he’s my number one fan, but it’s like we’re all connected. I’m connected to my dad and we’re nothing without my mom.”