Meet Marena Whittle

SFA has joined forces Marena Whittle, WNBL + FIBA 3x3 + NCAA D1 basketball star..

We got the chance to sit down with Marena and ask her a huge load of questions about her career, challenges and motivations. It's really hard not to fall in love with her

Marena is on another level

Meet Marena Whittle, a star in the Women's National Basketball League WNBL after spending 4 years playing NCAA division 1 college basketball for North Dakota State University.

Marena was named in the All-Summit League First Team, played and started in 28 of 29 games for North Dakota State University, averaged 16.8 points per game and led the team and Summit League with 10.3 rebounds per game.

  “Marena is known as one of the hardest workers both on and off the floor. Her versatility makes her a nightmare match up and her exciting scoring ability has drawn a crowd wherever she plays..” - Head Coach Zoe Carr 

In the 2019 – 2020 WNBL season, Marina had her career best season with the Perth Lynx and was awarded the Most Improved Player for the season

Representing Australia in the in the FIBA 3x3 Marena absolutely took control of the competition which sees national teams from all over the world stage the stage in a 3 x 3 format instead of the full court 5 x 5.

Marena helped Australians the Women’s team progress to the 2020 Olympic qualifying tournament to be held India, which has now been postponed to 2021 due to COVID 19

A recent signing takes her to the Adelaide Lightening for next season in 2020-2021

Was basketball love at first sight?

Absolutely! Whether it was love, or just absolute obsession I have no idea, I touched a basketball and we had a hoop out the front of the house, and I was hooked! We’re talking hours and hours out the front. 

How did you find the transition in competitiveness in SEABL to NCAA D1 to the WNBL?

Every step is bigger than the last, college was so much faster and organised, girls are stronger because everyone is in the gym, it’s just so intense and rigorous. WNBL is a whole other world! You have to be accountable and responsible for your work ethic. There are only 8 teams in Australia, so if you don’t show up or don’t take care of yourself properly; there are plenty of other women ready to take your spot.

What was the best part about playing the NCAA D1?

Traveling all over America and experiencing a different way of life – I even saw Alaska, not many people even in America get to Alaska. 

What’s better Australian Basketball or American Basketball?

It’s so different, but I have a big soft sport for American ball.

FIBA 3 x 3 - Not everyone gets to play on the international stage for their country and compete against the world’s best players, meaning you are a part of the world best. How does that feel ?

It’s a pretty awesome feeling, I’ve worked really hard to get my body to where it is and it perfectly suits 3X3. Australia has really only been focusing on 3X3 for the last 3 or 4 years and have become one of the best 3X3 countries in the world. So to be on a team that’s already so established in such a short time is a great accomplishment.

FIBA 3 x 3 is an intense form of basketball, what do you prefer 5x5 or 3x3?

I love full court play, but 3X3 is so much fun and perfectly suits my style, so 3X3.  

Due to COVID 19 , the Olympic qualifying tournament been postponed, as an athlete how do you deal with mentally?

There’s two ways to look at everything, and I took it in stride. Mentally, I was able to lean on my family, partner and the girls on the squad, we all stayed pretty close and when we were able to, went on walks together and stayed in each others bubble.

How do you maintain the motivation to continue your basketball off season training?

Some days are a lot easier than others; you wake up and just are not in it, but I’ve maintained motivation by having a checklist of things I need to do every day and every week. I also try to start every day by stretching in the mornings, it gives me time for myself and to centre myself, whilst also waking my body up.

You are in pre season training for the WNBL and FIBA 3x3 does that you training twice as much?

It doesn’t mean training twice as much, it means that I have to constantly be doing something, active rest days are so important, and my aerobic fitness is a HUGE part of my preseason this year. Because 3X3 compliments my WNBL game, it means that I can do a 3X3 on court session for 45 minutes and then finish with a few full court drills to keep my legs turning over. 

Your ideal pick up game would be with which players?

That’s hard, pick up is fun no matter who’s on the court – and right now I’d take anyone as long as we can play. So anyone haha

Who do you want to challenge One on One? Who would win?

I’d love to go up against some of the WNBA girls, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird or Arike.
But also against Lebron, I know he’d drop buckets on me, but I think that would just be an unreal moment.

Is there heaps of trash talk in the WNBL? Are you the one trash talking?

WNBL is full of trash talking and greasy looks. Everyone’s pretty familiar with each other, so I’ve learnt how to get under peoples skin, and its not the trash talking, it’s the distract talking. Making jokes, and overall annoying them, it throws them off and when it’s done well, the girls hate it. .

Did you have role model growing up?

I was a big big fan of Candace Parker, loved her game. I also grew up playing for Nunawading which has an incredible hall of fame and community: Jenna O’Hea, Bec Allen, Caitlin Cunningham, Bec Cole. All of those girls were above me and watching them compete was very inspiring.

What are you listening to on game day?

J Cole and Chris Brown always make an appearance, and old school hip hop. As well as sometimes depending on the mood some rock music.

What are your top 5 songs?

Right now?
Go Crazy, WAP, Wolf, Hallucinogenics, any Stevie Nicks

How often do you train and for how long?

I’m on court for an hour and a half 3 times a week.
Usually lifting 3-4 times a week for about an hour, hour and a half.
But now I’m doing home workouts aimed at every day for an hour in the morning, with cardio beforehand.

What is your daily diet like?

I like to say I’m a pescatarian, moving towards being vegetarian. I like red meat, but aim to only have it once a month if I have it at all.

I’ll wake up with yoghurt and a cup of tea, normally with a banana and piece of fruit.

Lunch is normally a big salad with eggs and vegetables – I get protein with a shake.

Dinner is either fish or tempeh/tofu with satay vegetables and rice.
My daily snacks are made up of wheats and grains, as well as fruit, nuts and sandwiches. I am trying to kick coffee but during iso it has become a staple drink haha.

How has incorporating protein supplementation helped your performance?

My body has always responded well to protein supplements, my muscles recover quicker and I feel more energised than times when I don’t use supplements. It also helps my body go for longer and faster. Its hard to explain because every body is different, but I’ve always responded really well.

How do you feel about being a role model for women and for women in sport?

I love it, I would love every young woman to feel as confident as I did growing up, no one could stand in my way, and I knew I could achieve whatever I put my mind to. Helping our juniors understand that the struggles that the struggles they go through are things we all go through and they are not alone. It’s the best part of being a professional athlete, being able to get involved with the community.

What’s your favourite treat?

Bakers Delight coffee scrolls.

What’s next for Marena?

After this WNBL season, I’ve got my eyes on WNBA training camps and making a roster spot.