The Australia-Davidson Basketball Pipeline
The men’s basketball international roster is something often talked about by commentators. And while the European pipeline established by former Head Coach Bob McKillop is impressive, the reality is that this year the women’s team has more international players than the men’s.
The women’s team doesn’t have the international diversity of their counterparts. While this year’s men’s Wildcat basketball team has players from Italy, New Zealand, and Switzerland – the Women’s team has four international players. . .all from Australia.
The Wildcats’ first Australian player was Cassidy Gould – who graduated in May 2022. Gould is playing professionally in Europe for the Oakland Wolves in the United Kingdom. Watch this episode of the “WBBL Review” to catch up with the Davidson graduate’s transition to professional basketball.
When Cassidy Gould came to Davidson, she was the only Australian player. She and her teammate, Sarah Donovan, from Canada were the only international players. This year’s “Australian roster” includes: Suzy-Rose “Rosie” Deegan (Senior, Perth); Millie Prior (Sophomore, Sydney); Adelaide Fuller (Senior, Brisbane); and Issy Morgan (Sophomore, Sydney).
Assistant Coach James Jansen definitely has his own influence on the Australian pipeline. Janssen played and coached with the Blackburn Vikings Basketball Club in Melbourne, Australia. His 10-year playing career in the semi-professional BIGV competition culminated in his role as captain in the 2011 BIGV Championship. Throughout his career, the point guard was consistently one of the league’s assist leaders.
As he transitioned into coaching, Janssen coached boys and girls of all ages. In addition to leading a team to the prestigious Australian Club championships, Janssen also coached and led two high school girls’ travel teams on tours of the USA in 2009 and 2012. Janssen also coached at the Basketball Victoria “talent ID camps,” which are responsible for identifying Australia’s top basketball talent.
The Australian native came to the U.S. – specifically to Wake Forest – to work on his Masters Degree in health and exercise science. During that time he started volunteering with the Demon Deacons’ women’s basketball team. He worked closely with then Wake Forest assistant coach – Gayle Fulks. When Fulks came to Davidson, she brought Janssen along. He initially served as one of her assistant coaches, and moved up to associate head coach in 2021. Janssen is completing his PhD in Kinesiology (exercise physiology) from UNC – Greensboro.
You might have thought Janssen was the lone reason Davidson has a handful of players from “down under,” but there is another Australia-Davidson connection.
What is that additional connection? Look no further than the rafters of Belk Arena. The Number 11 jersey hangs in between John Gerdy’s #33 and “Lefty” Driesell’s big red “D” jersey.
Derek Rucker was a Davidson scholar-athlete from 1984-88, and while he might not be as well-known as #30, it is Rucker, not Curry, who holds the highest single season and career 3-point Field Goal Percentage in Wildcat History. Derek went 73-147 in the 1986-87 season, for a .497 shooting percentage. Stephen Curry had a .439 shooting percentage in the 2007-08 season. Rucker’s career percentage was .445, while Curry’s was .412.
All in all, Rucker’s name can be found throughout the Davidson Men’s Basketball records – including:
- #1 highest career 3-point percentage – .445 (Curry – .412)
- #1 most steals in a career – 250
- #1 highest average steals in a career – 2.2 (Curry – #2/2.1)
- #2 highest average steals in a season (1987-88) – 2.5
- #4 highest average steals in a season (1985-86) – 2.2
- #4 career free throw percentage – .834
- #4 highest average minutes played in a career – 34.7
- #5 in free throw percentage in a single season – .888
- #5 in career field goals made – 703
- #7 career field goals attempted – 1394
- #7 highest average steals in a season (1984-85) – 2.1
- #7 is career assists – 436
- Tied #7 for most games started in a career – 111
- #8 highest average steals in a season (1986-87) – 2.0
- Tied #9 for highest Average assists in career – 3.8
- #9 highest average minutes played – 37.0 (1987-88)
Rucker, the son of a professional football player, was a two-time All-American at Davidson. Undrafted in the NBA, Rucker went “down under” and played in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) for 15 seasons. In 1990, while playing for the Brisbane Bullets, he was named the league’s MVP. He was named to the All-NBL first team in 1990, 1997, and 1998. He was inducted into the Davidson Athletic Hall of Fame and his number retired in 1999.
When he retired in 2006, Rucker held several NBL top-10 standings, including: #4 assists, #4 steals, #5 3-pt field goals made, and #7 scoring.
Today, Rucker runs Derek Rucker Basketball (DRB) in Brisbane, Australia. Rucker’s first DRB player to come to Davidson was senior Adelaide Fuller. His next future Wildcat, Katlyn “Katie” Donovan, committed to Davidson in September. She is scheduled to arrive in Davidson after the new year and will play for the Wildcats next season.
So the next time you attend a Davidson Women’s Basketball game and hear someone yell, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,” remember the Australia-Davidson connection(s).