BY ANDREW LUCAS
“It’s been pretty special”- How one moment made the career and the life of Sydney Kings point guard Kevin Lisch?
From the cool depths of Illinois to the heat of outback Perth, Kevin Lisch made more than just a Basketball career down under.
He also made a family.
Born in Belleville, Illinois, Lisch grew up shooting hoops with his brother and two sisters in his backyard, all with a distant dream to play in the NBA.
He was a star at Saint Louis University and became the sixth-highest scorer ever.
It’s no surprise many backed Lisch to have a big future in the sport.
In reality, Lisch never thought he’d make it to the NBA with thousands of teenagers around the world all pursuing the same dream.
That’s despite the likes of coach Andrew Gaze and former NBA star Steve Blake publicly saying the 31-year-old was good enough.
After missing out on the NBA draft in 2009, Lisch continued to go about his work in his usual quiet manner before he received a phone call that changed his life forever.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get drafted, I had a good idea to go to Europe, you get yourself an agent and then I got the call to play in Australia,” Lisch said.
A connection between Lisch’s assistant coach in college Chris Harriman and then Perth Wildcats coach and now close friend Rob Beveridge made that happen.
“I landed in Perth, pretty much the furthest I could go in the world from where I grew up,” Lisch said.
“It was pretty daunting at the time, but the rest is history.
“It was pretty daunting.”
“When I first came up as a young naive person out of college, he (Beveridge) took me under his wing and looked out for me.”
Lisch debuted in 2010 for the championship winning Wildcats and struggled early on but it didn’t take long for him to reach his strides as he won the 2010 NBL Grand Final MVP award.
A noted three-point shooter and one of the best defensive players in the league, Lisch won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award two years later.
A lazy 17,555km away from home, the move began to pay dividends for Lisch both on and off the court.
“He was a coach and a matchmaker at the same time,” Lisch said.
“Rob was a great person for me away from home, we definitely have more than a basketball relationship, his whole family has been great to our family.
“He knew Rachel growing up, he introduced us and he’s stayed in touch and been apart of our lives.”
Lisch met Rachel Watman while watching her play Basketball for the West Coast Waves before Beveridge introduced the pair to each other.
As Lisch’s career began to take flight in Perth, so did his love for the city and his soon to be wife in a relationship which also yielded four children down the track.
A star of the competition, Lisch became a key cog in the Wildcats line-up and soon became a fan favourite.
“It’s been pretty special,” Lisch said.
“Perth is a beautiful place, I’ve met so many nice people out here, I think that what’s attracted me the most.
“The great relationships you make, the fans out there are amazing and really passionate about their basketball, unbelievable first experience in the NBL.”
“Rob was a great person for me away from home, we definitely have more than a basketball relationship.”
The guard had set the league on fire with his devastating ability to force turnovers and then capitalise by knocking down clutch shots from beyond the arc to win games for his team.
It meant greater opportunities began to open up for the NBL star.
Lisch signed a short-term deal in Puerto Rico alongside Wildcats teammate Shawn Redhage in 2013, helping the side to win the competition.
He then travelled to Europe to pursue further opportunities in France and Spain.
Lisch was ably supported by his wife Rachel who followed the athlete around the world as he pursued his career ambitions.
“My wife has been unbelievably supportive,” Lisch said.
“We found out in Perth that we were pregnant, I had this crazy idea to try and play in Europe, she said sure, ‘I’ll have this baby in Paris,’ we go to Spain, ‘sure I’ll have this baby in Spain.’
“She’s been a really brave one throughout even with four kids at home, she’s been amazing.”
The American then declined a contract renewal and returned to Australia, reuniting with former coach Rob Beveridge at the Illawarra Hawks, but he had yet another dream to pursue.
“The next step is to get my citizenship and I wanted to go about it in the right way,” Lisch said.
“The first thing that made me want to become an Aussie was my family.
“My wife is Australian, all four of my kids are Australian, it was more of a personal lifestyle decision that this is home to us as well.
“The real motivating factor was my family and the lifestyle.
“I call Australia home.”
“I call Australia home.”
Becoming an Australian citizen meant Lisch was eligible to represent Australia at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
He was selected after his relationship with Beveridge took off from where it first began on the back of an outstanding 2016 season where he won another MVP crown and was named the League’s best defensive player.
“There was the bonus of representing your country at the Olympics,” Lisch said.
“It was an unbelievable experience, I didn’t know a lot of those guys coming in but they welcomed me in with open arms.
“We talk about how close we were and that stands out but the comradery and relationships you form throughout the process stands out just as much for me.”
Having built a family of four children and a wife on top of forging a successful career in the sport he loved back home in Illinois it was clear Australia was Lisch’s new home.
If you told a 23-year-old Lisch this is how his career would have panned out, he probably would have laughed at you.
“I’ve been adopting to the culture for nine or ten years now, I feel I’m pretty well assimilated,” Lisch said.
“At first everything was slang, I could barely understand a word, Bevo gave me a slang dictionary… probably as a joke.
“I like how the Aussies always make fun of each other in a light-hearted way and just the lifestyle, the people here are wonderful and down to earth.
“This is where my wife’s family is from as well, I’m surrounded by great people and obviously I really miss my family from back home, it’s been wonderful.
“I guess it’s surreal if you sit back and reflect on that, these days I have little time to reflect, I sort of take it as it comes, but it’s been a crazy ride.”
“It’s been a crazy ride.”
Lisch has spent the last two seasons captaining the Sydney Kings and is contracted for next season’s NBL competition with the club.