SHE'S the bright spark ready to further engulf a raging blaze.
Penrith basketball sensation Tahlia Tupaea took a remarkable leap towards a sizzling career when she signed a contract with the Sydney Uni Flames, who compete in the Women's National Basketball League, for the 2012/2013 season last week.
It was the 15-year-old's first WNBL contract and it came a year after she joined their development program, the Sydney Flames Academy.
"It was a big surprise," Tupaea said. "I'm so young I didn't think I'd get picked at this stage so I was amazed and shocked."
With her overarching goal to one day represent the Australian Opals, Tupaea's signing is a valuable stepping stone towards a dream come true.
"I always wanted to be chosen for the squad," she said. "And now I am. I'm just excited!"
The Flames began their season last Saturday night against the Canberra Capitals and Tupaea was confident her team would be a force throughout the competition which ends in March.
"I know it's a young team, the youngest they've had, but we've got good players."
Tupaea learned of her contract after returning home from a development camp with a squad of 20 girls from across the country who were whisked away after their stellar performance at the under-16s national championships. Following an impressive display at the camp, she was selected for the Australian under-17s women's team to represent the nation at the Under-17s Oceania Youth Championships in Melbourne in November.
"It feels great to know I can represent my own country in the sport I love to play," she said. "It's going to be pretty tough but I think we have a chance of being in the top three."
The Flames contract and Australian call-up capped off Tupaea's successful season with the Penrith Youth League Women's team which she joined in winning the premiership title last month in a grand final in which she was named Most Valuable Player.