Luke Rosendale: The Path Less Travelled
Dan Woods for NBL.com.au
Regional Victoria has long been a hotbed of athletic talent within the wider Australian sporting landscape, and it’s no different for basketball. With Horsham’s Mitch Creek and Maryborough’s Matthew Dellavedova leading the charge of burgeoning regional stars within the NBL, the gap between the metropolitan facilities and the regional up-and-comers has never been closer.
But that gap remains, and South East Melbourne development player Luke Rosendale is one of the latest players to have made that jump over the early stages of his career.
The recently turned 23-year-old is currently in the last throes of his first season in the NBL following an extreme rise through the ranks at the Bendigo Braves. The 2023 NBL1 South Youth Player of the Year has experienced a breakout few weeks in the midst of the Phoenix’s late-season injury crisis, and has continued to show that he can chop it with the best in the highest standard of domestic basketball Australia has to offer.
This is nothing new for Rosendale though. The Echuca-born guard has been putting himself in sink or swim situations since he was a high school kid who decided to go all-in on his basketball dream.
“I’m an Echuca boy and was playing basketball there. I basically played all my juniors there, but I started playing for the Eltham Wildcats in the VJBL while living in Echuca from top age under 16s,” Rosendale told NBL Media.
“I wanted to try and give it all I had with basketball, so I made the decision to quit footy and I was lucky my parents were right there beside me with my dreams and goals, and they were able to drive me all that way every Friday. I made that jump and then in year 10 I moved to Rowville Secondary’s Sporting School in Melbourne.
"That’s where I became a little fish in a big pond, and I got punched in the face in seeing I probably wasn’t as good as I thought I was, but I was lucky to have some really good coaches at Rowville who gave me some great advice and some great teachings throughout my time there which boosted me up some more.
(Luke Rosendale representing the Bendigo Braves via Ian Knight Photography)
“Then I moved to play for Bendigo in 2020 but Covid took that out, in 2021 I played but I was a bench warmer, then I was sixth man the year after, and then I became a training player with South East Melbourne and took all I could from Simon Mitchell and the group last year, and they must have seen something through that time and my work in the pre-season, and they made me a DP.”
Rosendale’s experience of moving to a bigger market at a young age in the hopes of forging a professional path aren’t only limited to him, but that move has traditionally presented itself, in basketball at least, in the form of moving to play collegiately at the culmination of a high school career, not in the midst of those crucial formative teenage years.
“It was really difficult,” Rosendale reflected on his initial move to Melbourne.
“As a kid and a teenager trying to grow up friends are really important and moving from Echuca to Melbourne meant I basically had to start fresh.
“Then when I realised how good I was in Echuca didn’t translate to how good I could be in Melbourne, there’s a jump. I think everything took me back on how hard I needed to work, I thought I was a hard worker but really, I was probably a bit lazy.
“It was just everything, I had to work harder, I had to think smarter in every aspect, it was more than just basketball I really got hit in the face with.
“When I look back at it now, I loved it, and I’m so grateful it happened because it taught me where my work ethic needed to be, and the mindset of just because you don’t see people around you working just as hard as you, it doesn’t mean there aren’t people around working even harder."
Although Rosendale and teammate Mitch Creek are from opposite ends of Victoria, their journeys through the early stages of their careers run somewhat parallel.
Creek moved from his hometown of Horsham to Canberra to join the AIS at 17 and elected to forgo college basketball in order to continue his development on home shores.
He’s since gone on to represent both Adelaide and South East Melbourne in the NBL, Brooklyn and Minnesota in the NBA, and Australia on multiple occasions.
“I’d say I’m quite close with ‘Creeky’. He’s been a big advocate for me, and him as a leader is something really awesome. He’s so passionate about what he does and he cares so deeply about the team that it makes being a teammate of his really enjoyable,” Rosendale said.
“He’s super passionate about the things he holds near and dear to his heart, like Pride Round. I’m not going to say he’s a role model because he’s a teammate and a mate, but how he goes about everything is really amazing.
“Hopefully my career can keep tracking the way it is and at some point I can have the level of voice he has around the community and I can be an advocate for the things I hold near and dear to my heart.”
One aspect of Rosendale’s debut season the Phoenix faithful will be hoping the young guard can keep tracking consistently is his three-point shot.
Ahead of Round 19, Rosendale holds a small nugget of NBL history. Of every player to have ever attempted at least six three-pointers in the NBL, he is shooting the best percentage of all of them.
Across the season he’s attempted 13 threes and hit 10 of them at a mark of just under 77 per cent. Just behind him is Ray Dawson, who made his NBL debut at the age of 16 in 1979 and hit five of eight threes (62.5 per cent) attempted across 164 career games.
“I bloody hope it keeps going,” Rosendale laughed.
“I think the understanding that it’s probably an unrealistic goal, I do have that in the back of my head. If I can keep shooting like that for the rest of my career I can probably hang my hat up at the end and be very happy.
“For me it’s about consistency, it’s about getting to my spots, getting my base, getting my hands in line and shooting the ball with confidence. For sure, I think I can continue to shoot at a very, very high level, but I think I’m going to enjoy it for now and continue to put in a lot of preparation to try and keep it at that level.
“I’m definitely going to enjoy it while I have something really cool like that. It’s not every day you can see your name next to any statistic that says it’s something in NBL history.”
Three-point records and NBL battles aside, Rosendale is working on forging what could be classified as a ‘normal’ career alongside his basketball, which is a rare but not unheard-of path in the modern world of sport.
Australian cricketer Joe Burns is perhaps the most notable recent domestic story, having famously played cricket as a hobby whilst pursuing an economics degree before a shock rise through the ranks that culminated Boxing Day Test debut in 2014.
Education and basketball tend to go hand in hand with the continued importance of the collegiate game in the United States, and Rosendale believes his role as a financial advisor helps give him a niche outlet from basketball during the rough and tumble or trying to prove himself at the highest level.
“I work at a financial advisory place called Hudson Advisory group,” he said.
“Juggling both wouldn’t be the easiest thing I’ve done, but my boss is really understanding of the basketball workload, so he gives me a lot of work from home things I can do, and for me it’s a switch off from basketball.
“We’re so ‘on’ all the time and it eats up such a large portion of ourselves, and I love basketball, I’ll talk about basketball until the cows come home, but I can switch off from it for four, five hours at a time and just really get stuck into the work – and I can do it from anywhere.
“Hopefully my career can continue trending upwards and I can be lucky enough to have a long career in basketball, but it’s good for me at a young age to learn about how to use my money. There are so many positives, I think, from working outside. The little bit of extra income is always nice but that mental switch off during the week is a great outlet to have, and learning about how to handle my own personal finances is really important and I love doing it.”
Rosendale and South East Melbourne’s NBL24 season continues in Round 19 when the Phoenix take on the JackJumpers on Saturday afternoon at 5:30pm AEDT. The Phoenix will celebrate their 150 club game in the NBL on Saaturday with PhoenixFest, as well as honour their amazing members throughout the game. Tickets are still available, CLICK HERE to secure your seat.