The WNBL has been well represented once again in the national team, following the announcement of the Australian Opals team that will compete for the FIBA Asia Cup in India from July 23-29.
Nine of the 12 players named participated in the 2016/17 season while at least seven athletes have been confirmed to be playing in the upcoming 2017/18 campaign.
“It was a difficult decision in naming the final team but we feel they will be able to play against all the contrasting styles of the opponents we will face at the FIBA Asia Cup,” said Opals head coach Sandy Brondello.
“The style of play is built on a strong defensive unit playing team defence at all times, getting stops and rebounds and running for easy baskets in transition.
The Jayco Dandenong Rangers duo of Sara and Steph Blicavs, who both finished in the top ten MVP voting last season, will represent Australia while the University of Canberra Capitals also have two representatives in reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marianna Tolo and Lauren Mansfield who will make her debut for the Opals.
“Lauren continues to improve her game with each season and fits our style of play,” said Brondello.
Another national team debutant is Kelsey Griffin of the Bendigo Bank Spirit who became an Australian citizen in 2015 and this inclusion in the Opals team follows her presence in the Rio Olympic squad last year.
“Kelsey is a very versatile player and has a high basketball IQ,” said Brondello.
Two Olympic veterans will help provide experience to those newest members of the team with MAC Adelaide Lightning’s Laura Hodges and Brydens Sydney Uni Flames’ Belinda Snell bolstering the side.
After making her Olympic debut at Rio, Perth Lynx’s Tessa Lavey has also been named in the back court alongside Deakin Melbourne Boomers guard Maddie Garrick who finished ninth in the league MVP voting last year.
In addition to those 2016/17 players, Abby Bishop, who recently signed with the Lightning for the upcoming season, is back in the Opals team.
Commitments to the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA will preclude Brondello from attending the FIBA Asia Cup but a coaching staff including Penny Taylor and Olaf Lange as well as Flames’ Championship winning coach Cheryl Chambers and Caps head coach Paul Goriss will lead the team.
The Opals will fly out for India on July 17 before their first game on July 23.
The Australian Opals FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Schedule (all times AEST):
July 23: Australia vs. Korea at 3.30pm
July 24: Australia vs. Philippines at 5.45pm
July 25: Australia vs. Japan at 5.45pm
July 27: Quarter-Finals
July 28: Semi-Finals
July 29: Bronze and Gold medal games
The Australian Opals FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Team:
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