Hannah Phillips grew up with a dream of playing professional basketball. That dream was centered on playing in the WNBA. Phillips has altered her destination, but is still going to live the dream of playing professional basketball. But instead of playing in a large city in the United States Phillips is heading for Australia where she will play for the Wynyard Wild Cats in the North-West Basketball Union. Since graduation in May of 2013 she has continued to work out while also working as a court clerk and helping as an assistant coach for girls’ basketball on the varsity and junior varsity level at Brentwood Academy. She gives Lipscomb coach Greg Brown much of the credit in helping her become a part of a team in Australia. She arrives Feb. 4 and will play in her first game Feb. 8. She took some of her time after a workout in Allen Arena to talk about the next level of her basketball career.
How did the opportunity to play professional basketball in Australia develop for you?
"Playing professional basketball is something I have always wanted to do. I asked coach Brown before my senior season began if he thought I could do it. I told him I was not really sure about it. I asked him if it was possible. He said, `oh yeah, you can do this’.
Coach Brown contacted an Australian team for me. Coach Brown was great in helping me. I am so in awe and humbled by what he did for me.
“But coach Brown’s job is to coach the women’s basketball team. So I also have an agent. He told me, `I have a bite here and I am going to work on it’.
“I wanted to go overseas as soon as I graduated but there was nothing available. I had given up a little bit on the idea of playing pro basketball. I think God opened up this doo for me. For some reason God waited for nine months to do it.
“I am getting kind of nervous about it. When I told my close friends and my mother it was like, `congratulations, this is something you have always wanted to do so don’t you feel at peace with this?’ I said, no, I feel like I am jumping off a cliff. But I am also ready for a new adventure. I can’t wait. It will be awesome.”
Give us some background on your team and what your life will be like over there?
“Australia is definitely a good place to go. Through Lipscomb I have been there before on a mission trip to Brisbane but this time I will be in Tasmania (northwest coast). I’ve got a lot of contacts over there from my mission trip and other friends.
“I will be playing for the Wynyard Wild Cats in the city of Wynyard in the North-West Basketball Union. I have no idea what the quality of basketball is over there.
"They have asked me to play a point guard plus the No. 2 guard. They know I am a No. 3 or No. 4 forward. But I will handle the ball. I can handle the ball getting it from point A to point B. That is what I had to learn last year, driving the ball. I will do whatever they need me to do.
”Basketball is a part of who I am. I am passionate about basketball. I want to bring that passion to my team.
“I have a 24-week contract. I get there Feb. 4. My first game is Feb. 8. I furnish a car. They have an apartment for me and a weekly salary. I will have a part-time job helping coach a younger club teams.
“It is going to be summer when I get there but it will be winter when I leave in July. They have told me to pack warm clothes.
“I want to be friends with my teammates. That is what I miss the most is having those friendships. I want to be competitive. I have won a lot and I have lost a lot. That’s okay. I miss the competition. I want to do well.”
What years did you play basketball at Lipscomb? Who were your coaches?
“I came to Lipscomb in 2009. I played three years with coach Frank Bennett. I played my last year for coach Greg Brown.
“I came to Lipscomb to play NCAA Division I basketball. I had played against Jenna Bartsokas in high school so I knew something about the team. This was the best opportunity to help me become the best player possible.”
What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?
My senior year we lost to (then No. 16) Vanderbilt 62-45. I had 21 points. I grew up down the street from Vanderbilt. I was a ball girl for them. They were like my idols growing up.
“To get to play them and do well against them was awesome. We are a Division I team and they are too but they are in the Southeastern Conference. We had to forget about that and play.
“Anything can happen on any given night. We snuck my Dad (Tim) out of the hospital to see the Vanderbilt game. If I had gone somewhere else to play basketball my Dad wouldn’t have been able to see me play.”
You mentioned your father. He passed away during your senior season. Talk about the emotional impact of your senior year.
“My senior year was the most emotional ride. It was tough. My father died (age 51). I reached 1,000 points for my career. We were only one win away from making it to the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
“There were games when I would go up to Alex Banks or somebody else and say, `I can’t do this. I am not mentally tough enough to do this on my own’.
“But my teammates built me up so much. I was always at the hospital and then I was back at practice. Practice was a place for me to forget. It was a place to get all of that pent up energy and anger out. And I could go back to the hospital and tell my Dad about it.
“He wanted us to live our lives. I missed one practice and one game my senior year. He didn’t want me to miss practices or games because he was sick.
“His death was definitely a huge part of my life. It still is.”
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?
“It depends. There were different stages in my growth.
“Beth Stark played here and she helped me get recruited to come here. She was definitely an influence in me getting here.
“Coach Bennett turned me into the player I was through my junior year. I was raw athletically when I came to Lipscomb.
“Coach Bennett was more mental. I was immature in learning and adapting to college. As a player you think you know everything. Coach Bennett was the coach and I had to mature and learn to respect that. It is because of him I am able to deal with tough bosses and cranky employees. He taught me how to deal with people. I have such gratitude for him in teaching me that. He probably doesn’t even know he did that.
“Coach Brown’s was more from the physical side of basketball. I fell right into it. I fit right into his motion offense. I had the energy and the passion for it. I loved every minute of it. I loved everything he said, even if he was hard on us. He was just trying to inspire us. He pushed me even harder.
“I was the player that got singled out by the other teams. I got beat up. But that toughened me up.”
What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?
“My best friends are from Lipscomb. My freshmen year players from both the men’s and women’s teams would come over to our house on Sundays and my mother would cook. We were a little rat pack. We hung together. My mother loved having people over.
“I miss the most being on a team. I miss having the camaraderie and trust.”
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?
“We didn’t have the best seasons. When you are winning you are the best and you learn so much, but losing taught me a lot. I am able to handle adverse situations. I can look at things more positively than some other people because of those losses.
“Classes were hard. I also was dealing with my Dad being sick. It broke me down and built me back up and not just on the court.
“I am not sure if it was the institution of Lipscomb or the time and the place of me being here and the people that God put into my life but everything is working out for me. I played in Division I. I am going to play professional basketball. I had this huge dream. I am going to get to do it. It is crazy how things have worked in my life.”
Who was your favorite professor? Why?
“I was in the Honors College. I never had him as a classroom teach but I appreciate Dr. Paul Prill and how flexible he was with my schedule and the honors class schedule. He was wonderful. He was every helpful. I was able to get into all of the classes I needed.
“I was a psychology major. Dr. Paul Turner was very kind and very informative. He joked with us. It was back-and-forth in class with him. He has a lot of conversations with us. He was a very helpful and motivating person. He helped set me up with an internship. I appreciated his classes.”
Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?
“I am a court clerk for the Davidson County Chancery Court. I have taken the LSAT. I also have been coaching at Brentwood Academy helping out with the high school and junior varsity basketball teams.
“I knew I wanted to play pro basketball and I wanted to get another degree. I think law school will fit my study habits and interests.
“I haven’t applied to law school yet. That will give me something to do while I am in Australia.”