By Lachy France
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames have added one of Australia’s top young players to the roster for the 2016/17 campaign with the addition of Under 17 World Championship squad member Lara McSpadden for the next two seasons. A Newcastle junior, McSpadden has spent the 2016 winter season in Canberra at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence. Playing in SEABL, McSpadden has averaged 5 points and 3.8 rebounds in her 12 games so far this season as the Centre of Excellence side has compiled a 5-7 record with 2 games to play in their condensed schedule.
The youngest player on the Flames roster, McSpadden is clearly excited at having the opportunity to play in the WNBL at such an early point in her career
“It’s the highest achievement that I’ve had so far apart from playing in the [World Championships] grand final match in Spain for the Under 17 Australian team,” the young centre explained.
“But this is pretty much as good as it gets for someone my age. I didn’t think that I would be getting into [the WNBL] this early, because I’m only 17 and you see much older women in the WNBL. But it’s going to be great for my development. The exposure against older women will be really good.”
McSpadden’s height has made her an imposing post presence at junior level, but the young starlet has developed a well-rounded game. With an effective mid-range shot and the ability to put the ball on the floor, the young centre certainly has the tools to make the transition into the elite ranks, something McSpadden is looking to improve during her time at the Flames.
“I’m fairly tall for my age, but when you go across different countries there are people in my position who are 10cm taller than me,” McSpadden explained. “I just want to learn how to play more from the wing, attacking and penetrating from the three point line and extending my shooting range beyond the arc.”
Cheryl Chambers is one of many people in the Australian basketball community who have noticed McSpadden’s potential, and the new Flames coach is enthusiastic about the opportunity to further develop the youngster’s game.
“It’s fantastic to have Lara join our group as she has enormous potential with exciting athleticism. She epitomises what the Flames are aspiring for in their players – NSW based elite athletes who are concurrently studying,” Chambers explained. “I’m really looking forward to working with her.”
Similarly, McSpadden is just as excited to be working with the Flames’ new coach. “I’m just really happy to be a part of such a great program with really good players and I’m really excited to improve under Cheryl and see how she coaches,” McSpadden revealed. “She’s great and she has a lot of experience so I’m just really excited to see what happens.”
The 193cm centre has recently returned from Spain, where she was a member of the Sapphires squad which won the FIBA Under 17 Women’s World Championship. McSpadden saw playing time in 5 of the team’s 6 games en route to the title, scoring six points in the side’s 98-38 victory over Mexico in their opening game of the tournament.
“Winning that was the greatest thing, and I think it really showed us that we’re actually good! We were underestimating ourselves, I think,” McSpadden revealed. “But when we won, we were like ‘We’re the best in the world! What’s next? What can we do now?’”
For McSpadden, the answer is to play in the WNBL. With a two year contract, the Flames’ newest addition will have plenty of opportunities to train and play along some of Australia’s top women’s basketball players, offering her the chance to establish herself in the Flames lineup for years to come.