EWU basketball alumna Ashli Payne continues hoops career abroad


EWU basketball alumna Ashli Payne prepares for the layup against an Atomeromu KSC Szekszard defender while she played for GDESSA of Portugal. Payne is currently playing professionally in Australia after spending the winter playing in Portugal. | Photo courtesy of Ashli Payne

By Taylor Newquist, Reporter

Former EWU basketball player Ashli Payne is headed back to Australia to play out her third professional contract, this time in Perth with the Willetton Tigers in the Australia-State Basketball League.

Payne graduated in 2017 after two seasons with the Eagles before signing her first contract with the Gold Coast Rollers in the Queensland Basketball League, a semi-professional league in Australia. She played nine games for the Rollers, averaging 16.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

Payne then signed with GDESSA in Portugal for a full 24-game season where she averaged 15.0 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. GDESSA finished third in the Liga Feminina with a 17-5 record, and Payne made the all-star team.

“I liked Portugal a lot,” Payne told The Easterner in an email interview. “The people were very friendly and the country is beautiful. It’s simple living at its finest and I’m grateful that I got to experience their culture first hand.”

Shortly after GDESSA was eliminated from the playoff quarterfinals on March 31, Payne joined the Willetton Tigers.

“Playing in the Gold Coast last summer is probably how Willetton knew about me,” said Payne. “I was able to just come in and continue playing right away. It all kind of worked out smoothly and I’m really grateful that I have the opportunity to play this much basketball so early in my career.”

Payne’s season with the Tigers started on April 25. She has played three games for a record of 3-1, is the team’s starting small-forward and is averaging 12.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. On the season, the Tigers are currently No. 4 out of 12 teams with a record of 6-2.

“Playing SBL in Australia is really just the most laid-back thing ever,” said Payne. “I have all the time in the world to work on my game, or go to the gym and lift considering we only train twice a week and play games on the weekends. I’m also going to start training some of the junior girls individually on top of that so it’s awesome, being able to develop my game in different ways while making money doing it.”

Payne said that after experiencing the high demand of a college athlete, having days where her only obligation is practice has been a breath of fresh air.

“Sometimes it feels like I don’t deserve this lifestyle,” said Payne. “But then I remind myself how hard I’ve worked my whole life to get here.”

Payne played two seasons with EWU, scoring 742 points and grabbing 489 rebounds. Prior to EWU, she graduated from Olympic High School in Bremerton and played two years at Umpqua Community College.   

“It’s very awesome to see her continue her career,” EWU women’s head basketball coach Wendy Schuller told The Easterner. “You don’t have players who you see who really, really love the game all the time, and Ashli is one of those few kids who we could not keep out of the gym. It’s deserved, and it’s exciting to see her get the chance to keep playing. And I know she’ll keep playing for a long time, no matter how her body feels.”

Payne hopes to continue her professional career as long as she can. She wants to continue building her knowledge of the game to be able to coach or train in her hometown of Bremerton. Ideally, Payne would like to help people from her hometown use basketball to obtain a college education.

“I’m playing basketball until the wheels fall off,” said Payne. “I feel like I’ve gotten so much wiser in just the past year and I just want to spread my knowledge to those that will listen. Even though I can’t really imagine my life without basketball, I do know for sure that it’s bigger than basketball. I want to inspire people to follow their dreams.”