Prodigious Aussie point guard Shyla Heal is considered one of the best teenage basketballers in the world. But she’s following in hallowed footsteps.
The surname Heal is synonymous with Australian basketball. Shane Heal represented Australia at four Olympic Games from 1992 to 2004, played 440 NBL games across 21 seasons, had two stints in the NBA and famously shirt-fronted Charles Barkley in a pre-Olympic warm up game against the USA’s ‘Dream Team’ in 1996.
Now it’s his 18-year-old daughter, Shyla, who is carrying the family legacy – in some style.
Since making her WNBL debut at just 14-years-old for South East Queensland Stars, the younger Heal has had an emphatic rise to stardom.
There is an estimated 400,000 females playing the game down under, but since the retirement of former Opals captain Lauren Jackson, Australian female basketball has been searching for more high profile role models. With the WNBL finishing its 40th season, Kogarah born Heal is a breath of fresh air.
Heal’s tipped to go early in the 2021 WNBA draft and while she isn't thinking too far ahead, she admits a potential WNBA career gives her plenty of inspiration.
"It definitely motivates me,” she says.
“A good season this year in the WNBL gave me confidence to keep rolling. Wherever I play next year, hopefully I’ll have another big year and be ready for the WNBA."
"There is little doubt the highly skilled point guard will be in huge demand, with the free agent already pursued by clubs in Europe and expected to be a strong target by WNBL clubs for next season once their free agency opens, all keen to sign one of the strongest female basketball prospects since Jackson."
Despite their contrasting positions – 196 centimetre Jackson was a power-forward – the comparisons are coming thick and fast.