A latecomer to basketball, Australian big man Jock Landale has soared to success with the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Summer League. By Donna Walker-Mitchell.

Credit: Melissa Majchrzak / NBAE via Getty Images

In the zone: Jock Landale, 22, basketballer

Growing up in Victoria, my life was almost entirely unrelated to basketball. I did a camp here and there and played on a Saturday in the local competition. I actually tried out for the Waverley Falcons and I didn’t even make the cut. I was 11 or 12 years old. Then I didn’t play for about three years until at Timbertop [Geelong Grammar] in high school and I decided to give it another crack. In Year 10, it all just took off. I found I had this raging passion for it and decided to put a lot of work in.

I probably didn’t start to have a strong belief in my abilities until after I joined St Mary’s [College of California]. After that, I thought I may actually have a chance of going pro. Until then, I wouldn’t say I had no aspirations, but there wasn’t this belief in me that a lot of other guys have where they think, “You know, I’m actually pretty good at this sport.” I wasn’t like that.

When I was growing up, I played AFL for years. My dad loved AFL and was pretty keen on me having a career in that; Mum always just wanted me to do well in whatever I decided to go with. In the end, I think they’re pretty stoked I found a career in basketball. Mum especially because she hates contact sports. I’m still her little boy.

My parents are so proud of me. Sometimes I just wake up to a random text from Mum and she’ll be like, “I’m sitting here crying about how proud I am of you and how much you have accomplished.” She’s a very supportive mum. Dad, he’s always like, “Nope, you haven’t done enough yet. You’ve got more to do.” He’s kind of the one who strives for me to be better every day.

If things aren’t going well, I know I have a really good support network around me. I’m a pretty tough critic of myself. I don’t like to settle for too much less than perfect. My parents have been massive for me. I also had a really good support network at St Mary’s for the past two years.

[St Mary’s coach] Marty Clarke has been huge for me. He’s always harped on the fact it’s a long season, you play 37 games and you’re not going to have a perfect night every night, but at the end of the day you just have to go out there and give it your best. If things don’t go your way, well, there’ll be another game a couple of days later. You’ve got to learn to forget about it.

Having so many Aussies on the team at St Mary’s really helped me, for sure. It’s just something you’ve immediately got in common with someone as soon as you get to America. You’ve got that Australian connection. What is always intriguing to St Mary’s and all of the athletes back home is that they have such strong Australian ties. Two out of three of their successful NBA players are Australian so obviously they’re doing something right.

I miss everything about Australia. I really miss hanging out with my mates back home because they are just really genuine people. I also miss being around my family a lot.

I’ve been in America for four years now and I want to move back to Australia once my career wraps up. America is interesting. It’s a fair bit different to Australia and the culture is fairly different, but I really enjoy how much avid support there is for basketball. It just makes everything so much more fun when you have crazy crowds every night when you play. You have such loyal supporters and it really excites you and it makes an impact on you every time you step on the court. It’s what I love so much about college basketball over here.

I don’t have an off switch to be honest. It’s really tough for me to relax. I’m sure my family and all of my friends will tell you I get out of training and head straight to, “What’s next? How can I get better?” I’m not saying that to try to sound like a hero. I really do have a tough time switching off and relaxing.

I got off social media at the start of the season last year and it was good. There’s a lot of shit-talking that goes on out there. If you’re going to be good at something, someone is always going to try to bring you down. I’ve heard just about every insult in the book … but at the end of the day those people are pretty irrelevant to me. You need to focus on people who are bringing you up rather than paying attention to those who are trying to bring you down.

The best advice I’ve ever been given is to control what you can control. Control how hard you work, control what kind of person and team member you are. You can’t worry about things that are out of your hands.

This week’s highlights…

• AFL: Richmond v Collingwood

Saturday, 1.45pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground

• Netball: Magpies Netball v Giants Netball

Sunday, 3pm (AEST), Hisense Arena, Melbourne

• NRL: Sydney Roosters v St George Illawarra Dragons

Sunday, 4.10pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Cycling: Tour de France – final stage

Sunday, 10.15pm (AEST), Houilles to Paris Champs-Élysées

• Motorsport: Hungarian F1 Grand Prix

Sunday, 11.10pm (AEST), Hungaroring, Mogyoród, Hungary

Soccer: Tournament of Nations – Matildas v USA

Monday, 9am (AEST), Pratt & Whitney Stadium, East Hartford, Connecticut

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 28, 2018 as "In the zone".

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Donna Walker-Mitchell is an Australian journalist based in Los Angeles.

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