Shea Crotty's relentless defence was honed on the backyard basketball court against elder sibling and All Black Ryan Crotty.
The 22-year-old Canterbury point guard is poised to join her bearded brother as a New Zealand representative after being named in the Tall Ferns squad for the first time yesterday.
Crotty will depart for China on Tuesday for a four-nations tournament against a WNBA All Star team, China and Slovenia.
Crotty's love for basketball developed at her family's North New Brighton home 10 years ago, matching up against Ryan and her other brother, Luke.
She was often forced to defend and rebound against her taller, physical brothers, but it only fuelled her competitive desire.
"It toughens you up in a good way. We had an outdoor court. It's definitely where it started. We played around the world, one-on-ones and king of the court. It was a great battle," she said.
Crotty's callup to the Tall Ferns was extra sweet. She trialled for the side last year, but missed out on selection for their Oceania championship series with Australia.
The Canterbury Wildcats captain went away, focused on the areas she needed to improve on, became fitter, and has gained the reward.
She has also had to overcome injury problems. Last year, she was bothered by an ankle complaint, which restricted her play. In 2010, while on exchange at Philadelphia's Springside School in the United States, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament early in the basketball season.
Ryan, who debuted for the All Blacks against Australia last August, was one of the first people Shea messaged when she made the team.
She will be the third Crotty family member to represent her country. Mother Robyn is a former New Zealand water polo representative.
"It was gutting to miss out last year. It was a massive incentive for this year," Shea said.
"I don't even know what to expect [in China]. What an experience."
Ryan, 25, was delighted to hear about Shea's selection in the Tall Ferns.
"I was really proud. I know how hard she's worked to get there. She's trained pretty hard and made all the sacrifices to put her basketball first," he said.
"It will be tough playing against quality opposition, but Shea is a pretty smart cookie. She's pretty good at what she does."
He remembered her combative attitude during backyard basketball games.
"She's a pretty tenacious defender now. Maybe, that's where she gets it from."
Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama was impressed with the way Shea Crotty's game had developed in the past year.
Crotty is one of eight debutantes in the Tall Ferns 12-player squad for China, and Kereama was confident she could handle the rigours of international basketball.
"She's probably one of the toughest kids going around. She's very coachable.
"She has a lot of the characteristics you'd want within a player that has the privilege of representing New Zealand in the Tall Ferns singlet."
At just 1.57m tall, Shea Crotty is easily the shortest player in the Tall Ferns squad.
Throughout her basketball career, she was always the smallest person on court and in representative teams.
Sceptics often questioned her height, but that only strengthened her resolve.
"A lot of people said, 'You'll never make it. Look at the size of you'.
"To me, it's an advantage. No big six-foot person wants a little person running around their feet."
Shea Crotty will be competing with Waikato's Krystal Leger-Walker and Natasha Lenden for minutes at point guard. She was excited about the opportunity to match up against skilful Chinese and American opponents.
"Whatever chances I get, I'm not going to crumble. It's going to be tough, but it's going to be amazing."
- The Press
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