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Photo Credit: John Peterson

Isabelle Bourne’s Pro Career in Australia Off to Fast Start

July 13, 2023

Months later, Isabelle Bourne still can’t say she’s fully sure of her decision. 

In late March, she announced that her accomplished college career with Nebraska women’s basketball would come to a close. The forward decided to forgo a fifth year of eligibility, opting to return home to Australia and start her professional career instead. 

Of course, it wasn’t an easy choice to make. Bourne spent four years with the Huskers, being a three-time captain, three-time all-conference honorable mention and scoring over 1,200 points. She started 82 total games over the past three years, with the Huskers making either the WNIT or NCAA Tournament each season. Staying for one more year certainly would’ve had its positives, but she went with her heart in the end. 

“There will always be one side that I feel like maybe I could have stayed,” Bourne said. “So I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% sure that it was the right decision for me. But I think just at the end of the day, I felt in my heart that I was ready to come home and start playing basketball in Australia again.”

As one might expect, she had the full support of the team in making this decision, and even received help preparing for the transition. The NBL1 — a semi-professional league in Australia — started its season before Nebraska’s came to a close, and Bourne still had to graduate. In the time after the season and before she could leave, she said assistant coach Jessica Keller helped her so she was ready to jump back into games. 

Upon arriving in Australia, Bourne joined the Canberra Nationals, playing her first game in late May. Some adjustments were easier than expected, such as having a 24-second shot clock, but the biggest thing has just been getting used to a style of play she says is less structured than the college game.

“It’s a lot more free play and you just get to play basketball,” she said. “So just doing that again, and kind of pushing my limits and dribbling more and shooting a lot more I think has just been fun for me to get back to seeing what I can do on the basketball court.”

For the most part, she’s been successful in doing so. Bourne has played eight games, scoring double-digit points in seven (the exception being a game in which she saw the floor for just 10 minutes). In her second game, she scored 24 points, then followed it up with a 30-point game and a 40-point game. The 9-10 Nationals are 6-2 with Bourne in the lineup.

She said she wants to improve in just about every aspect of her game, but consistency and efficiency are some of her main current focuses. She’s shooting 46.7% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc right now. Bourne’s performances have been more than enough to impress Nationals head coach Nat Hurst, who also leads the Adelaide Lightning in the WNBL — Australia’s professional league.

Bourne signed a two-year deal with the Lightning, who will start their regular season in November. She said she’s excited to start what will hopefully be a long pro career. Her biggest goal is to eventually represent the Opals, the Australian national team, and play in the Olympics. Other than that, she’s looking forward to seeing wherever basketball takes her.

Through her journey so far, she’s already ran into some Husker connections. Bourne’s aforementioned 24-point game came against Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence on May 30, where incoming Nebraska freshman Jessica Petrie was playing.

The two were matched up against each other for significant portions of the contest, both putting together strong games. Bourne added eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal with her scoring. Petrie had 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal. The outgoing Husker praised the incoming forward’s passing, shooting and basketball IQ, and was glad to have the matchup.

“It was almost like a full circle moment, because I remember the days that I was on that team and about to enter college too,” Bourne said. “But it was cool and I’m so excited for her. She’s going to be awesome for Nebraska, just a great person and a great player. So I’m really excited for her to watch her grow there.”

Bourne surely will have eyes from Nebraska watching her professional career as well, which she appreciates. She’s had fun so far back in Australia, especially with her family having the opportunity to come to her games often. Through all of that, the connection she made with her college program will remain.

“I loved Nebraska and everything about it and it was really, really hard not to come back,” Bourne said. “I’m going to miss it, definitely.”

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