Emma Duinker says she feels “very blessed” to have the opportunity to achieve her long-time goal of playing basketball professionally.
“To do something I love and get paid to do it is really great,” she said.
Duinker recently wrapped up her second year playing professionally in Division 2 in Germany. She played the 2012-2013 season in Speyer before transferring this past season to the Bad Aibling Fireballs.
Bad Aibling played this past year in Division 2 and won the championship.
“Since we won, we’ll get to play in the First Division next year,” Duinker added.
“Hopefully, I’ll be back with Bad Aibling next year. There are a couple of things that need to change for that to happen, but I’m confident those changes will be made.”
It’s “very rare” for a female to get the opportunity to play professional basketball.
“There are a lot of talented athletes, even at Acadia and certainly in AUS, but only a very small percentage get to play professionally,” said Duinker, who played for the Acadia women’s hoops team for five years, until she graduated in 2012.
“There are more opportunities overseas today than there used to be, but for whatever reason, most people don’t choose to take them.”
Duinker, however, knew for a long time that she wanted to play more basketball after finishing her university career.
“It was a matter of where I would do it,” she said.
“I first started to believe I could play pro when I was still at Acadia. It had always been a dream of mine, even since junior high.”
After starting in minor basketball, Duinker played four years at Horton, followed by five years at Acadia.
Growing up, Lindsay LaMorre was one of Duinker’s idles.
“Lindsay LaMorre is the one that really stands out. I met her at a basketball camp at EMS. I saw her as an elite player, hard-working, someone I could model myself after,” she said.
Duinker is now a role model for another generation of young basketball players, something she is “completely comfortable with,” she said.
“A big part of being an athlete is giving back to your sport and to your community for what they have given you. It’s part of the job.”
Since her return to Nova Scotia, she has been a regular attendee at Coach Bev Greenlaw’s spring basketball league for girls.
After graduating from Acadia, she got an agent in Germany, Iska Waterloh, who found Duinker a place to play.
The season just past was “very different than the year before,” and not just because Bad Aibling had more success.
“In Speyer, the club wasn’t as dedicated to moving upward. A lot of things weren’t as precise as I would have liked,” Duinker said.
Nonetheless, she had a good experience with Speyer.
“It was a good ‘first time’ team to be part of. Speyer would have had me back, but I chose a different direction. We still have a good relationship.”
Duinker played all but four regular season games this past season, missing time due to an injury, but was able to come back for the playoffs. She averaged about 15 points and eight rebounds a game, playing on the wing.
“I did well, but I struggled a bit at finding a place on the team due to their style of play and knowing what the coaches wanted,” she said.
Asked what role the coaching she received growing up and at Acadia played in where she is today, Duinker said, “it played a huge role. The coaching I received when I was younger was, in my opinion, some of the best quality in Canada. It’s the reason I’m where I am today, and what I’ve learned helps me a lot playing overseas.”
Professional athletes get paid to play, she said, “so how motivated you are is up to you. Once you get to this level, there are different levels of ‘professionalism’, but you don’t always get a lot of technical coaching.”
Duinker said coaches, older athletes and institutions like Acadia can do a lot to facilitate more opportunities for women and girls to continue in sport.
“I think a lot of it has to do with raising awareness of the opportunities that are out there,” she said.
“People like me, who have had the experience, have to serve as role models.”
Duinker’s younger sister Abbey, now graduated from Acadia as well, is also looking to pursue professional basketball opportunities overseas.
Even at Acadia, Duinker added, there are some great programs available for female athletes.
“It’s important for girls that are interested to know more about these opportunities,” she said.