2022 co-host of The Only Sports Show, Jo Healy, is in the United States right now. She caught up with another Australian over there kicking goals. This is the story of Jade Melbourne, so far.
Jade Melbourne is a name you’re not going to want to forget.
She’s a gun Aussie baller, who just so happens to be the youngest player in the WNBA. Melbourne won’t turn 21 years old until August… therefore is still not even old enough to have a celebratory drink.
She’s yet another Aussie over in the States making the most of their elite basketballing prowess, following the likes of Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Josh Giddey.
And while there’s still a lot of Melbourne’s story yet to be written, her story is still one worth getting up to speed on. So let’s dive in.
Who is Jade Melbourne?
Age: 20 (18 Aug 2002)
Jade Melbourne, who happens to also be from the Victorian capital, is a rising star basketball talent that’s already achieved a lot for someone that’s only very recently reached her 20s.
Sport runs deep through Jade’s veins; she in fact grew up playing footy. One of Melbourne’e feats was in fact winning a football Best & Fairest award in the Under-10’s boys competition.
Jade Melbourne: The youngest player in the WNBA
Jade Melbourne was a third round pick for the Seattle Storm in the 2022 WNBA Draft; the WNBA, of course, being the premier women’s basketball league in the world.
But instead of jumping straight in the deep end as a 19-year-old, she opted to spend one more year in Australia with the WNBL, honing her skills with the UC Capitals. The Melbourne native (we love the irony too!) had a standout individual season, averaging 13 points and six rebounds; including an impressive 19-12-14 triple double — just the third triple-double in the WNBL in the last 10years.
And being the WNBA’s youngest player was certainly not front-of-mind for the Storm rookie.
“I actually didn’t know until I was watching the first game back and they mentioned it on the commentary,” she told Only Sports.
“It’s pretty cool, being the youngest player. But age is just a number to me, I feel like I belong here so I try not to let it get in the way. It’s cool though. I must be doing something right!”
Feeling ready to prove that she belongs in the WNBA, Melbourne made the move to join fellow Aussies Sammy Whitcomb and Ezi Magbegor in Seattle for the 2023 season. In particular, veteran guard Whitcomb, 34, has been a great support for her compatriots; hosting family dinners to helping with life admin, like setting up sim cards.
Melbourne is known for her toughness on the court, but admits the WNBA is on another level in terms of physicality and pace. Luckily for the 20-year-old, her speed, elite passing, and ability to create opportunities in the paint have her in good stead to carve out a successful career in the US.
But that’s not to say that she hasn’t had some ‘pinch me’ moments so far on the journey.
“In a pre-season game I ended up guarding Diana Taurasi* and thought to myself, how is this even happening?!
*Jade was a 1yr-old baby when Trauasi was drafted in 2004!
“But it’s been a great challenge so far, matching up against the likes of Courntney Vandersloot, Kelsey Plumb and Chelsea Gray. I’m feeling more and more comfortable all the time.”
Along with Taurasi, who is the WNBA’s leading scorer of all time, Melbourne’s favourite player growing up happens to be a Seattle Storm legend — four-time WNBA champion and 13x All-Star, Sue Bird.
“Being at the team that she (Bird) spent her career with, and having had the chance to meet her early in the season, is pretty cool.
“And to also see Lauren Jackson’s jersey up in the rafters every time we’re at Climate Pledge Arena, that’s special.”
Seattle Storm season outlook
Melbourne’s Storm (that irony’s not lost on us either!) had a tough start to the season, opening up against the league’s two ‘super teams’, the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty.
Hoping to build towards a fifth franchise championship, the Storm will need to dig themselves out of an early season hole. Let’s see how quickly Melbourne can adjust to the rigours and take on increased responsibility.
The WNBA season
The premier women’s basketball competition on the globe, the WNBA, tipped off on May 20.
The regular season will run through to mid-September, before the playoffs get going.
How to watch the WNBA in Australia
WNBA regular season games are available on Hulu, or potentially through the league’s official social media handles on Twitter and Facebook, pending your VPN expertise.