A childhood dream has become a reality for Border basketball rising star Casey Ardern.
The 18-year-old is set to play college basketball in the US next year after committing to Montana State University.
The point guard has enjoyed several seasons with the Albury-Wodonga Bandits women's team and has made an impact for the club's Youth League side since its establishment.
She's also been a permanent fixture for the Wodonga Wolves in the CBL competition.
Ardern said she's ready to take the next step in her basketball journey.
"It's been a dream of mine for years and it's kind of coming true," she said.
"Last year I was looking into it and me and mum went over there to have a look at the school.
"We were lucky in the sense that we had seen the school and met pretty much everyone that we needed to meet in person before COVID hit.
"It was difficult because we weren't sure if I could go or not."
If all goes to plan Ardern will be leaving for the US in June next year, with the college season starting in November.
She already has the added bonus of playing under Australian basketball champion and 2019 Bandits' coach Lauren Jackson.
Ardern admitted she'll be taking everything she's learnt from Jackson with her.
"Being coached by her was one of the best things I've been through," she said.
"She could direct us from a players point of view because she knows what it's like to be on the court.
"She was an amazing coach."
Jackson wished Ardern well in taking her next step in the sport.
She admitted the college system was a great pathway for young aspiring basketballers, particularly those hailing from regional communities.
"It's such an incredible opportunity and pathway for local kids that love sport and want to take that next step," Jackson said.
"It's just another opportunity for athletes to go over there and continue working on their game.
"They get life experience, they get to play basketball and they get an education.
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"It's such an incredible opportunity for her.
"I hope she embraces it and I hope she loves it."
Ardern is hoping to study psychology while in the US.
The year 12 Catholic College student is currently in the midst of sitting her final VCE exams.
However, the US college system will be more interested in her GPA than her ATAR as a grading system.
Ardern admitted the COVID-19 pandemic had made her final year of secondary school chaotic, with Victorian students forced into online learning twice this year.
"It's been a difficult year for year 12," Ardern said.
The Wodonga product has also struggled through a year without basketball under COVID-19 restrictions on sport.
The NBL1 competition pulled the pin on their men's and women's seasons back in March.
"I normally play about two or three seasons for the year for different teams and I haven't even had one," she said.
"I've played about three games for the year, which isn't normal.
"I think the last time I had a season off was when I was injured with an ankle four or five years ago.
"Being stuck at home isn't ideal for me."
Montana State University, known as the Bobcats, will open their season without fans in the crowd this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.