After all, with Canberra, Australia more than 9,000 miles away from Waleska, she would barely have time to fly into the Australian capital before being forced to turn around and come back for class Monday morning.
Being such a long way from home is a decision that Hay decided to make when she realized that she wanted to play professional basketball, and that her best route to do so was to come to the United States.
“In Australia, we don’t really have college sports,” said the senior point guard. “Even in high school, we just have club teams that usually practice only once a week. A lot of athletes come over (to the United States), especially basketball players. It was a goal of mine to make it here.”
Just before the start of her junior year of high school, Hay did just that when she moved to Marshalltown, Iowa, to play for a local high school basketball team and begin what would be her first of six years in America.
“It was a difficult first year,” she said. “I was pretty young and missing my family. It was especially hard around the holidays being away from home. It still is.”
Despite the unfamiliar change of scenery, Hay stuck it out, and after two years in Marshalltown, she decided that, for college, a move further south was in order.
“I like the heat, not the cold,” Hay said.
After spending three years at Southern Poly in Marietta, Hay transferred to Reinhardt, and is now only one of two players on Reinhardt’s roster not from Georgia — and the only one from outside the country.
As unlikely as Hay’s journey from Australia to Reinhardt may have been, Lady Eagles coach Lindsey Huffman is thrilled to have her on the team.
“She is one of the most intense and emotional players that I have ever seen and been fortunate enough to coach,” Huffman said of Hay, who leads the team with 15 points and 5.3 assists per game. “She loves the game and wants to win very badly. It shows in her emotion and work ethic on the court.”
On Friday, Hay scored a game-high 23 points, went 10-for-12 from the free-throw line and added five assists and five steals in Reinhardt’s upset of NCAA Division I Jacksonville State — an exhibition game for the Lady Eagles.
After she completes her senior year, Hay plans on returning to Australia to play what is the equivalent of semi-pro basketball for the Canberra Capital’s Academy.
Hay hopes doing that will open the door for her to play in the Women’s National Basketball League, the premier professional league of Australia.
When asked if she felt the six years spent away from her family and her home in the United States had been worth it, Hay answered with an emphatic yes.
“Definitely, I’ve had a great time here,” she said. “I’ve grown not just as a player, but as a person. I’m thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had.”
As for Hay’s chances of playing in the WNBL, Huffman seemed sure that Hay would succeed in achieving her goal.
“She has the ability, the work ethic and the determination to do it,” Huffman said. “I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t be successful.”