By Lachy France
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames fan favourite Katie-Rae Ebzery has fulfilled a lifelong dream with the announcement that the former Flames captain will be part of the Australian Opals Olympic basketball squad for Rio 2016. Ebzery will be part of a 12-strong roster that will strive to bring home the Opals’ first Olympic gold, after the team finished with bronze in London 2012 and silver in 2000, 2004, and 2008.
Ebzery has been part of the Opals side throughout this Olympic campaign, dating back to her national team debut in the FIBA Oceania tournament in 2015 which doubled as the Olympic qualifiers. That tournament saw Ebzery come off the bench to average 18.5 minutes across the home-and-away series with New Zealand, averaging 5.5 points per game in the series victory that qualified the Opals for Rio.
Following a stellar 2015-16 WNBL season that saw her named in the All-Star Five with averages of 17.7 points and 4 assists per game, Ebzery received a call-up into the Opals’ extended squad for a camp in March. With a squad littered with WNBA and international experience, it originally looked as if Katie would have her work cut out if she was to make the final 12, but Ebzery clearly demonstrated her value to the Opals coaching staff.
Selected as a member of an extended Opals squad to tour Europe for several games against other top nations, Ebzery shone at times. Katie finished with 16 points and 5 assists in a 90-69 win over China before notching 13 points in an 81-54 demolition of Belgium later in the tour. These performances, combined with her work in camps, sealed Katie’s spot in the Olympic squad against some extremely tough competition from the likes of Tess Madgen and Rebecca Allen, who were amongst the last players cut from the squad which had been reduced to 15 before the final camp on the Gold Coast in late June.
Katie’s selection is just reward for a player who has exemplified the work ethic required to become an Opal. With over 200 WNBL appearances at the age of 26, Katie became the Flames’ undoubted leader over her six seasons with the club. A two-time club MVP and a WNBL All-Star Five selection, Katie’s game has come on in leaps and bounds over the last couple of seasons to become one of Australia’s premier guards, leading to a well-deserved place at the Olympics.
Ebzery will now travel with the Opals to the United States playing 3 games in a tournament which will culminate in a game against the host nation in the famous Madison Square Garden arena in New York on August 1. From there, the team will travel to Rio, where their first game will be against host nation Brazil at 6:30am on Saturday, August 6 (AEST). The team will play five group games before the knockout round starts on Tuesday, August 16 with the medal games being played on Saturday, August 20.
Everyone at Brydens Sydney Uni Flames would like to congratulate both Katie and the entire squad and wish the Opals good luck in their quest for Olympic gold.