Stepping onto the court at the U-17 basketball world championship proved to be a seminal moment in the life of Lucy Cochrane. Not only because of the chance for Cochrane, then 15, to compete against the best on the planet. Or because her Australian team won its first-ever championship at the event. But because of the opportunities this tournament opened for her.
The tournament led to recruitment from several college programs in the United States, and Cochrane was lured by the chance to move to “The Land of Opportunity.” She made the intrepid decision to move halfway around the world from her family to pursue playing basketball in college at the University of Oregon before transferring to the University of Portland.
“Being able to come to college is such an amazing opportunity,” Cochrane said. “Just to be able to come here and play and meet so many different people is also just awesome… I was kind of always a little bit hesitant just leaving home, but I came over and visited and just loved it.”
Cochrane has thrived in the college game and led Division I in blocked shots this season at 3.93 per game for Portland. The 6-foor-6-inch forward affected countless other shots in the post as well.
“Our defense really relies a lot on Lucy being there to contest shots,” teammate Maisie Burnham said. “She’s a player with all sorts of tricks. I love playing with her because of her aura. She’s just so calm and relaxed even in situations that could be intense. Lucy’s just going to sit back, play her game, and she does what she does.”
The All-WCC honorable mention selection played a pivotal role in the Pilots’ run to the second round of the WNIT, but she carries a special aura off the court as well. Burnham described Cochrane as the nicest, most-humble person she has ever met, which makes her dominance on the court even more exceptional. The guard said Cochrane is the model of humility, and her teammates often need to remind her just how valuable she is to their success.
Cochrane played her freshman season at the University of Oregon, where she averaged about seven minutes a game. She eyed more playing time and decided to transfer.
“It’s just really cool how many opportunities there are for people that want to play a sport here [in America],” she said. “It’s such a big part of the culture. And people just really get around sports, which is awesome.”
With a wealth of options, the Aussie chose Portland because the coaching staff and team were so welcoming. She was also attracted to the opportunity to play alongside fellow countrywomen. The Portland roster includes five other players from Australia.
With an 18-hour time difference between Australia and Portland, the Melbourne native found comfort in these new teammates.
“It’s really nice having other people here who kind of are in the same position and miss their families,” Cochrane said. “[They] know what it’s like to be away from family, especially at Christmas time and all of that, when we can’t be at home.”
With the Australians’ inability to go home to be with their families for the holidays, their teammates filled the void, especially with three of them hailing from the Portland area. Cochrane and two fellow Australians spent Thanksgiving with Maddie Muhlheim and her family in Portland.
The close-knit nature of the Pilots team has made it easier for the star defender to adjust to the United States. She pointed to her teammates and coaches as two major parts of her support system.
This season coach Michael Meek challenged Cochrane to try to contest and block every shot. He told her she should possess that mentality every time she steps on the floor, which she has done.
While the defensive side of the ball has been Cochrane’s strong suit, she looks to improve her game on the offensive end of the floor heading into next season. She averaged 8.1 points per contest this season, which ranked fourth on the team.
One area the forward believes she can improve upon is sealing her defender in the post. This involves the offensive player gaining inside position on the defensive player, leading her up the lane and creating an open passing lane for an entry pass.
Expanding her arsenal is nothing new to Cochrane. She first began playing basketball when she was seven years old after initially playing netball, a popular sport in Australia. Similar to basketball, the objective is to shoot the ball through a basket. The sports differ as there is no backboard in netball, and the players are not allowed to move with the ball. They must either pass or shoot it. Also, seven players from each team are on the court at one time.
The sophomore, who has always been tall for her age, saw the skills she developed in netball transition to the basketball court, where she fell in love with the game and the opportunities it presented.
“She’s putting it all together and literally excelling at everything she does,” Burnham said. “She’s taking advantage of all the opportunities to better her chances of the next steps in her career, whatever that may be… She’s just the full package.”