When Vicki Mounts first donned the uniform of UC Davis women’s basketball more than 30 years ago, she admits having been blissfully unaware of where her love of the game would take her.
And it’s clear now that neither time nor distance will ever fray the bond between Mounts and the court.
Even at the age of 54, her passion for hoops remains strong. She has been playing and living overseas ever since receiving an offer to join an Australian amateur league in 1982.
“Part of it is there’s a much bigger focus on sports in Australia,” Mounts said. “Once you get out of school, even if you’re not good enough to play in college, there’s a system of city leagues that lets you play until any age.
“I play on a team now with ladies between 50 and 60 years old,” she added. “It’s a really positive, healthy focus — as opposed to being an armchair athlete. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed there; I just love playing.”
But there was a time — back in Davis during the late ’70s — when a young Mounts never even considered playing basketball. Her inspiration to start doing so has a local story, involving her brother Michael’s dominance on Davis High’s squad.
“If you look at archives for that time, he was a phenomenon,” Mounts said. “I went out to watch Michael play one day, and I thought, ‘He’s just my stupid little brother. If he can play that sport, I can, too.’ ”
Consequently, she picked up a basketball for the first time at the age of 19, and earned a place on the Aggies’ varsity roster only two years later. She played in 1980-81 under former UCD head coach Pam Gill-Fisher, who later became the university’s senior associate athletic director.
Between her oceanic departure and present day, Mounts also refereed basketball. In 1988-98, she lent her Davis-bred expertise to Australian leagues, and was one of the only women selected to be a national referee of men’s basketball.
In her last year in the position, she refereed women’s wheelchair basketball for the Paralympics in the Netherlands.
As for her playing career, Mounts refers to the year she spent on Australia women’s national basketball team as a highlight. “It’s like the equivalent of the WNBA,” she said, adding that the U.S. professional league often drafts Australian standouts.
With all due modesty, she explained that she never herself approached the proficiency of America’s WNBA. During her time in Australia, however, she did encounter players who went on to play in the Olympics.
“The level of women’s basketball (in Australia) is really high,” Mounts said. “At least I was competent enough to compete.”
And competing, albeit on a less prestigious scale, is something she plans on doing for as long as she is able: “Until my knees give out,” she stated confidently.
While there’s no question that Mounts’ life is now abroad, she’s still attached to the program that gave birth to her competitive spirit.
As she was interviewed Thursday evening in Davis — a 14-hour and $2,000 flight away from her home in Brisbane — she recited plans to reconnect with her former Aggie coach and teammates.
Saturday found Mounts back in The Pavilion, with some of her aforementioned UCD cohorts, where she watched the local women take on UC Irvine.
“You really have to be a basketball person to know,” she said. “There’s a certain camaraderie to playing a team sport. … Those friendships last.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett