November 29, 2021

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‘I’ve never been more motivated’: Shyla Heal’s inspiring message after devastating WNBA axing

Shyla Heal put the basketball world on notice when she was drafted to the WNBA in April this year.

Taken at pick number eight, there was so much hype around what the daughter of Australian basketball legend Shane would achieve with the Chicago Sky in the best women’s basketball competition in the world.

Chicago described her as ‘”dynamite” and anticipated the 19-year-old would make an impact as big as fellow Aussies Liz Cambage or Lauren Jackson.

But the point guard never got the chance to reach those heights, after a devastating and unexpected axing.

“I was boarding my flight to my first road trip and got told that I got traded to Dallas, and that they cut me, so it was a real big shock to me,” Heal said.

The teenager was shattered, without a contract, and stranded in the US during the pandemic.

WNBA player dribbling the ball with a teammate running beside herWNBA player dribbling the ball with a teammate running beside her
Shyla Heal played four matches with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky before being traded to the Dallas Wings in June.(Getty: Gary Dineen)

“As a dad, it’s devastating seeing your daughter so upset,” Shane said.

“We had to support her, just to get her through it, get her home, through her quarantine.”

Having lived through the highs and lows of the NBA and NBL over his 20-year playing career, Shane was the perfect person to help Shyla bounce back.

“It took about a month for her to shake it off, then we got back on court,” Shane said.

“We were in lockdown, so we were out in the parks and shooting, and now she’s great, and she’ll use that as fuel to be even better again.

Shyla Heal turns her focus to playing the best she can in the upcoming WNBL.Shyla Heal turns her focus to playing the best she can in the upcoming WNBL.
Shyla Heal turns her focus to playing the best she can in the upcoming WNBL.

“I had to help her understand these things happen to everybody, you have these setbacks and it’s how you handle those setbacks.”

While Shyla’s WNBA dream was on hold, she made her father’s dream a reality.

In his first year as head coach of the WNBL’s Sydney Uni Flames, he made the decision to sign his daughter to his squad.

“She was the first player I wanted to bring on when I got the job,” he said.

“She’s a star of the future and this is the perfect person to lead this team.”

The father-daughter duo have brought a lot of interest to the Flames, but for the Heals, it’s business as usual.

WNBL coach in a huddle with his teamWNBL coach in a huddle with his team
The Sydney Uni Flames appointed Shane Heal the head coach in March this year, on a three-year deal.(Supplied: Sydney Uni Flames)

“He’s coached me all the way, when I was growing up until now, so it’s nothing really new for me and I love being coached by him, I learn something every time he trains me, so I love it,” she said.

And Shane is pleased to have her home off the court too.

“We love it. I have three daughters. We are a close family, so she is home most weekends — it’s nice seeing her every day and also trying to help her and mentor her as well,” he said.

Carrying the Heal name carries a lot of expectation, but Shyla enjoys the pressure.

“My Dad is my role model. I am following in his footsteps, obviously. I want to make a name for myself but obviously want to continue on the legacy that he had too,” she said.

Two WNBL players posing for a photo after trainingTwo WNBL players posing for a photo after training
Shyla Heal and US import teammate Steph Watts add a boost for the Flames’ upcoming WNBL season.   (Supplied: Sydney Uni Flames)

And that includes making it in the United States.

“I’ve never been more motivated [to get back to the WNBA], and I am feeling really good. I am really excited,” she said.

“I am not too rushed [to get back into WNBA]. I am still four years younger than everyone else [who] was there, so I’ve got so much time, I just want to keep getting better and be the best I can.”

Shyla also has her eyes on the Opals and earning selection for the 2022 Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney next September.

“I would love to be playing for the Opals and to make the World Cup team next year, so that’s the first goal I have to tick off,” she said.

“But my main goal right now is to just to get better every day.”

With the 2021–22 WNBL season starting on December 2, the Sydney Flames first challenge will be the UC Capitals on December 5.

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