Nick Kay’s dream of representing his country took him from the basketball courts of Tamworth all the way to the US. Now the 25-year old is living his dream and on Friday begins his campaign for Commonwealth Games gold.
Nick Kay’s basketball journey – one that started as a young Tamworth schoolboy – will reach new heights on the Gold Coast this week.
Less than 12 months after first realising his dream of representing his country, the Tamworth native shoots for Commonwealth Games glory as part of the Australian men’s side.
The Boomers are favourites to defend the gold medal they won at Melbourne in 2006.
“It’s going to be a fun time and hopefully we can go up there and show what we’ve been working on for the last year,” Kay said.
“Thankfully we’ve got a similar group that have been working together since July last year and a lot of camps and stuff have been done together so we all know the system and have seen what we are going to be doing and running and stuff, so the transition and fluidity of the guys involved has been great and hopefully that will help us transition to the Games.”
The Boomers will be based in Cairns for the preliminary rounds and begin their campaign on Friday against Canada.
They back up the next day against Trans-Tasman rivals in New Zealand in what will be their biggest test.
It’s the first time basketball has featured at the Games since Melbourne in 2006, and speaking after the squad was announced, Kay couldn’t wait to be part of it.
“Comm Games is pretty special so to be involved in that is awesome,” the 25-year old said.
The prestige of competing at a home Commonwealth Games, and the prospect of golden glory is a long way from Kay’s representative debut.
As his mother Terrie recalled after watching her son play for the Boomers for the first time on home soil late last year, his Tamworth under-12s side was beaten by Coffs Harbour about 120-6.
Kay was nine at the time.
Despite his early ascension into the local representative ranks, Terrie said he was a “very late bloomer”.
“He played rep for Tamworth from the under 12s but he didn’t make the state team until he was top age 18s,” she said.
He’d make the possibles and probables but never that final team.
But he never gave up and just continued to work harder, his elevation to the national side a testament to the value or hard work and persistence.
Natural talent has of course played a big part too.
Kay’s success hasn’t come without sacrifice either. Newly-turned 17, he left behind all that he knew and moved down to Sydney to finish his schooling at Newington College.
It was, Terrie said, one of the best decisions they ever made.
Under the tutorledge of Rex Nottage, Kay’s game blossomed and in his final year of high school he was a member of the Australian under 19s team.
From there he went to the US where over four seasons with the Metropolitan State University of Denver he further honed his craft.
Returning to Australia, he signed with the Townsville Crocodiles in the National Basketball League, and after leading all rookies in scoring and rebounding, was the competition’s Rookie of the Year for the 2015-2016 season.
Joining the Illawarra Hawks the following season his career has continued to flourish.
Through it all Kay has never forgotten his Tamworth roots and acknowledges the role the local association has played in getting him to where he his.
After receiving the International Achiever award at last year’s Tamworth Regional Sports Awards, Kay posted on the Tamworth Basketball Association Facebook that he was “very grateful to be able to represent Tamworth in the green and gold this year”.
He said it was hard to pinpoint exactly when the dream of wearing the green and gold became more than just a boyhood fantasy.
“It’s one of those things you’re always hoping you get to do,” he said.
But to actually feel like you have the opportunity to do it is a different thing, and something that Kay hadn’t really thought about – yet anyway. Even when he was initially selected it wasn’t until he actually pulled the singlet on for the first time “that it sunk in”.