ABBEY Sutherland is preparing to pack her bags and play basketball half a world away.
The Warrnambool Mermaid will finish with the Big V club in July and jet to America to begin a four-year college adventure.
Sutherland, 19, has signed with Houston Baptist University, a National Collegiate Athletic Association division one school.
The Hamilton-based player said she was excited to leave her comfort zone and suit up for the Huskies.
"I had a guy who was helping me from Sydney, sort of like a scout, that contacted Houston and we chatted from there," Sutherland said.
"I went visited the school in February and signed from there.
"I think the whole experience will be really different from here and (I'm looking forward to) meeting new people and just playing basketball over there to see what it's like in America compared to Australia."
Sutherland is a key player for Warrnambool, having emerged throughout its rise up the Big V ranks.
She played in the division two championship in 2017 and was part of its division one title last season.
She's averaging 11 points for the winless Mermaids after their first six games in the championship grade this year.
"We've had a few games where we've been really close and there's been some positive signs," she said.
"Playing for the Mermaids has been great, starting in div two and working our way up, we've all noticed this season the big jump in competition.
"It's been good for us to play against stronger opponents, so it should really help when I go overseas."
Sutherland is playing alongside a teenager following in her footsteps.
Point guard Leah Bartlett is only 16 but is averaging 29 minutes a game in the Big V's top flight.
"I think Leah is a great player, she's a really good shot and when she's confident and up and about she plays really well both offensively and defensively," Sutherland said. "She's a great assest to have on the team."
The Terang-based Bartlett said she was embracing the challenge.
"It is just really good with the likes of Amy Wormald and Jae Leddin, that experience really helps my basketball," she said.
"I played squad from under 14s in Warrnambool and then I wanted to go in the women's competition and have been fortnuate enough to have some minutes."
Bartlett said Sutherland would leave a hole in the team when she left for America.
"She's had lots of experience in state basketball and lots of good coaches and her knowledge of the game is really good," she said.
The Mermaids host Southern Peninsula Sharks on Saturday night.
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