Bendigo Braves guard Ahlise Hurst is off to college. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

FOR as long as she can remember, Ahlise Hurst has been immersed in the sport of basketball.

Some of her earliest memories are sitting courtside watching her father Joe play, long before she stepped onto court herself.

But the 18-year-old Bendigo Braves guard has forged her own path through the sport, a journey which is about to take her across the other side of the world for four years.

After her ambition of simply wanting to follow in her father’s footsteps and play the game came a long-held ambition to go to college in the US.

A fortnight ago that became a reality, with Hurst signing with the University of New Mexico on a scholarship.

While her departure date isn’t set – she hopes it will allow her to play as much for the Bendigo Braves women’s team as possible – the former Mildura junior can’t wait to join the Lobos program in Albuquerque.

“It’s really exciting, I was there two weeks ago and I can’t wait to go and play there later in the year,” Hurst said this week.

“I’ve always wanted to play college and it’s a great school so I’m really lucky.”

Basketball runs in the Hurst family, her father Joe played four years at Northwest Missouri State University before coming to Australia to play with Hobart in the NBL in the 1990s.

So good was “Jumping Joe” that he won the 1988 NBL MVP award and played two further seasons with Hobart along with campaigns in Europe.

“I don’t really remember watching him play because I was too young, but I’ve heard lots of stories about his career,” Ahlise said.

The junior Hurst has always been a highly-regarded prospect  through under-age ranks, but in recent years her star has risen further.

Straight after her trip to the US, she flew to a training camp with the Australian Gems under-19 team, in which she was selected earlier this year.

“To get the opportunity it work with those coaches and players is really good, you learn so much but it was definitely a step up,” she said.

The point guard will likely not return for Bendigo this week as the team plays the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence at home on Friday and Dandenong on Sunday.

Instead she’ll watch on as Kelly Wilson and Nadeen Payne lead the undefeated Braves into battle.

The team will also be without centre Gabe Richards.

She has no doubt that playing senior basketball, and working with the likes of Wilson, a three-time WNBL champion, has had a big impact on her game.

“Being able to play with and lean from someone like Kelly every day is so helpful, she is so experienced and you just learn from watching the way she plays and controls the game,” Hurst said.

And she hopes to be part of many more wins in Braves colours this season.

“I think we’re playing great already, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve,” she said.

“We’re working to be better and make sure that every time we step onto the court we’re at our best.”

@joelbpeterson