In her senior year of high school, Brisbane, Australia native Georgia Woolley drove over an hour each day just to attend basketball practice.
Woolley, a freshman guard on UB’s women’s basketball team, is one of two Australian athletes on the women’s squad — Melbourne native Casey Valenti-Paea being the other — and one of six international athletes in the program. Head coach Felisha Legette-Jack says she knew early on in the recruiting process the impact Woolley could have on her team, thanks to her 6-foot frame, pure drive and love for the game.
“We’re very fortunate to have this young lady in our program,” Legette-Jack said. “She’s what you call a cerebral player. She can analyze the game in her head and the game moves in slow motion for her. She can play three different positions, whether that’s the two, three or four, and she’s just a smart lady on both the court and in the classroom.”
Despite Woolley’s dominance on the court, Legette-Jack says her foosball — otherwise known as table football, around the world — skills aren’t nearly as impressive.
“I think the main thing she struggles with is beating me in foosball,” Legette-Jack said. “She tries so hard and I do feel bad because I don’t let anybody beat me. I don’t know if they don’t have Foosball in Australia or something but she played me and it just didn’t work out well for her.”
Although Legette-Jack’s success over her 10-year coaching career at UB is surely alluring to incoming recruits, Woolley chose the Queen City school because of her passion for the game and her belief that she could become the best version of herself under Legette-Jack’s guidance.
“All I heard was that Coach Jack was passionate about everything,” Woolley said. “And that was the main thing that really made me want to come here. She was passionate about the game and her program and I just really wanted to be a part of it.”
The basketball scene in Australia has grown larger and more competitive over the last few years, which naturally creates stronger and more talented athletes in the process.
During her senior year tournament, Woolley proved why she deserved to be playing Division-I basketball, as she averaged 43.1 points, 19.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 3.3 steals and 3.3 blocks per game.
Despite posting those impressive numbers at just 18 years old, Woolley credited her teammates’ talent for the reason for her success.
“I didn’t go to a big school or anything like that but everyone on my team was just really athletic,” Woolley said. “Everyone played their roles so well and we really worked well as a team both offensively and defensively. They just made scoring so easy for me.”
It was not only Jack who influenced Woolley’s decision to come to UB, but former star athlete Stephanie Reid, as well. Reid, a Melbourne native, was one of the program’s most impactful Australian athletes. Reid graduated in 2018 as the program’s record-holder in career assists and was the catalyst for the team’s Sweet Sixteen run.
Woolley’s connection with Reid influenced Legette-Jack to reach out and begin the recruitment process. Reid and Woolley played against each other in an Australian pro-league game and Reid was blown away by her skills.
“Steph and I played against each other in one of our pro-league games and after the game she reached out to Coach Jack about me,” Woolley said. “She said, ‘Oh, you need to recruit this girl. She scored heaps of points on me.’ And that’s how it all started. I worked out with Steph individually a couple times before coming to Buffalo and she’s the reason I learned so much about Coach Jack and her passion in the first place.”
When Woolley first arrived on campus, it was summertime and there were only two other teammates there to welcome her. Making the move from Brisbane to Buffalo can be a daunting experience because of the time zone and cultural differences.
But also — and especially — the weather.
The lowest recorded temperature in Brisbane last year was 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
The lowest recorded temperature in Buffalo last year was 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is Woolley ready for the snow?
“No,” she immediately said.
“I saw snow after our first game and there was only a little bit,” Woolley said. “I do think it’s really cool and I like it but once it starts getting really cold, I’m not going to enjoy it. It doesn’t get that cold in Australia.”
Woolley’s already made an indelible impression on the coaching staff and the rest of the team, scoring 11 points and grabbing three steals in the Bulls’ home opener against Canisius. Woolley is a lock to see regular minutes in the rotation as a freshman and has high expectations for her team this season.
“There is no ceiling for this team,” Woolley said. “We want to get past the Sweet-16 like we have in the past with Stephanie [Reid]. We want to win the MAC and I want to bring what I got like my three-point shooting and length. Learning things from the seniors like Summer [Hemphill] and gaining her experience and knowledge.”
Hunter Skoczylas is a sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @HunterSkoczylas
Hunter Skoczylas is the sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found looking up random sports statistics, jamming to Fleetwood Mac and dedicating his Sunday afternoons to watching the Buffalo Bills.