Two years out of College and you can take the boy out of St Mary’s, but you can’t take St Mary’s out of the boy.
“Yeah once a Gael always a Gael mate,” Clint Steindl says down the phone line when the call came through to have a chat for this story.
“I’m watching it online. Just keeping an eye on the how the boys are going. I followed it a lot last year in particular. There are a lot of loyal boys go to St Mary’s.”
Steindl is one of a long line of Australians to make the trek to the popular basketball school in the San Francisco Bay area.
“Yeah well it started with Adam Caporn and then Daniel Kickert followed. I think one year we had six Australians there on the roster. There is a good tradition of Aussies playing. There’s no reason not to go there,” he said.
“I think it is just the connection that St Mary’s previously had with Australians and then they have developed a relationship with the AIS in Canberra. So they were recruiting us guys pretty heavily.”
“So then when you narrow it down to three or four Colleges that you wouldn’t mind going to it ends up being a no-brainer to pick St Mary’s. And if you get homesick there are always five or six other Aussies you can go and hang out with anyway.”
Four years in the system were kind to the kid from Mackay who did his high school years at Brisbane’s “Churchie” Grammar.
“I guess with all College rosters you look at it and it seems hard with 15 or so guys. And then you narrow it down to those who are available to play and factor in the coach’s four-year plan. It’s designed to have you at your best in your senior year,” he said.
By the time he’d finished, a starting role with the Cairns Taipans was waiting for him. His rookie season was eye-opening around the League.
“I remember early on there was a game against Adelaide and I had a pretty good start. I had three threes in the first four minutes or so and my now teammate Stevie Weigh came on and got stuck into me to try and put me off my rhythm,” he said.
“I think I won that though. I hit two more threes and that was that. Since then I’ve seen that trick he tried to pull on me used a few more times and learnt how it’s done!”
Steindl has been exposed to two of Australia’s best through the College environment. Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova are Gaels royalty during Steindl’s time on campus.
“Patty’s freshman year there weren’t too many who knew of him and then he hit something like 37 and then all of a sudden he was on everyone’s radar. Then he went to the Olympics and things went crazy,” he said.
“Because it’s such a small community everyone knew who those guys were before they became Olympians or big time guys in the College competition.”
“Everyone wanted to know Patty’s story when he went to the Olympics. The interviews and the amount of press he did was huge but he never missed a beat with his workouts and getting done what he needed to do.”
“He pretty much became a professional in an amateur league but he didn’t let it get to him. Didn’t get caught up in the moment. I don’t think you could find better role models in that regard.”
“Delly was like that too. Both of them were a good example of how to handle yourself when attention starts to come your way. They didn’t get caught up in the hype. They learnt how to control that headspace while fulfilling all the extra media attention. I certainly took note of that.”
They have been handy life lessons for Steindl as his second season as a professional basketballer draws to a close.
“The main thing has been that realisation that this is what I do for a living,” he said.
“Whatever you do, whether you’re a professional athlete or sit behind a desk, you have to do your homework. For me I have to do my scouting and be ready to play. That is when I get tested, during games.”
“I feel like I’ve had a good start to my career. I think the thing I have going for me is my shot. I can definitely open up a game or bring back a lead. Teams are fearful of that.”
It’s what the Gaels missed today too. They lost by 11 against the San Francisco Dons.
“I think they’re in a good place right now. Okay maybe they could have used Patty or Delly. Who wouldn’t. But I don’t think they need me.”
Today, they did.