Donna Wilkins (nee Loffhagen) is a two-time Olympian playing (alongside Leanne Walker) for the Tall Ferns at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. She was the leading rebounder at the ’04 Games, averaging 10.6 boards per game.
Two years later she was a member of the New Zealand team that won silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Donna began her career in Canterbury playing for the Wildcats in 1993 and was selected for the NZ U20s the next year. She then went on to play for Southland and Otago before heading across the Tasman to play in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League for the Canberra Capitals, winning a championship in the 2006/7 season.
The following year she played for the Christchurch Sirens during its one and only season in the WNBL.
A measure of Donna’s ability was that she was invited to trial for WNBA side the Connecticut Suns in 2006. In her words “I played in all the trial games but was cut on the last day before the season commenced”. Basketball can be a cruel game!
Donna’s illustrious 11-year career with the New Zealand team concluded after the previously mentioned 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Kim Lucas was the Tall Ferns manager for most of Donna’s career and she had this to say about our Hall of Famer.
“Her tough never-say-die spirit often lifted her teammates to overcome more highly ranked teams and she never gave up even when we were being beaten by the best in the world. That was just another challenge to Donna, not something to be daunted by. At the 2004 Olympics she out rebounded Lauren Jackson widely considered to be the best female player in the world at the time. Donna was pure strength of spirit and tough as nails.
“Coaches loved her because she is the kind of player who would run through a brick wall for you!
“The first time in camp with the National Team as a young 17-year-old you would think she’d be nervous about being confronted by the established team members, but not Donna. She played as tough as anyone.
“In one of her first games for NZ against Australia in Terrigal, Australia she was undeterred by having to play a game against the World Silver Medallists at the time. She gave them no extra respect.
She had two arms and two legs just like them and she was going to give them a run for their money – and she did!
“Nowadays she brings up three children and amuses herself by running the Kepler Challenge, just the 60 kilometres over a mountain range that can take 10 hours or more to complete in sometimes dire conditions. Donna will know best how many of those she has completed but there is no challenge she will not rise to and succeed. The run is the ultimate test of strength and endurance and sheer guts. The same traits she bought to the New Zealand Tall Ferns.”