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Coffey suits Lightning to a Tee

NO-ONE is saying so just yet, but WNBA recruit Nia Coffey may be the best player to join MAC Adelaide Lightning since Leilani Mitchell wore the club’s colours for a season in 2015-16.

Coffey, who turns 23 in nine days, suits Lightning to a Tee – a hard-running 3-4 who can play the perimeter and, at 185cm, also can bang down low in the post.

“She’s terrific. Watch her last five minutes the other night in the WNBA,” her Lightning coach Chris Lucas enthused.

Starting for the Las Vegas Aces, Coffey had 23 points at 73 per cent against Sami Whitcomb’s Seattle Storm, and currently is averaging 13.0 points at 43 percent and 3.8 rebounds in the relocated former San Antonio franchise’s first five games of 2018.

“I’m very excited about what Nia brings us,” Lucas said.

Drafted into the WNBA at #5 last year out of Northwestern University by San Antonio Stars, Coffey was on the All-Big Ten Conference First Team in all four years of her college career – 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

A high school All-American, in 2013 Coffey averaged 5 points and 3.6 rebounds for the Gold Medal-winning USA team at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship in Lithuania, including a 77-54 win over an Australian team which included players such as WNBL regulars Steph Talbot, Darcee Garbin, Carley Mijovic, Alex Wilson, Alicia Froling and Vanessa Panousis.

Australia won the Bronze Medal.

Coffey played 27 WNBA games last season with San Antonio, averaging 1.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in limited rookie action.

In the winter, she headed to Israel and averaged 18 points at 46 per cent, with 9.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.0 blocks in 27 games for Maccabi Ramat Hen.

“I was actually really relieved when I got contacted by Chris,” Coffey said.

“It just felt really good to know I’ll be able to play for such a good coach.

“I feel very prideful to be a part of that, so it feels good.

“I definitely want to be able to bring just explosiveness. I feel that’s just very much a part of my game and if I’m able to bring that it can definitely give us an edge as a team.

“Also, just bringing hardworking, youthful spirit.”

That’s music to Lucas’ ears, with Colleen Planeta back for her third season in Lightning’s frontcourt and Opals regular and Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Stephanie Blicavs rejoining Lucas, with whom she won a WNBL championship at Townsville Fire.

Already also returning are reigning club MVP Nicole Seekamp, Gold Medal-winning Uni Games guard Aimie Clydesdale and versatile defender Lauren Nicholson.

Lucas himself has only recently returned from a three-week fact-finding mission in the US, watching the Phoenix Mercury's preparations for the 2018 WNBA season.

“Watching how they go about it and how (coach) Sandy Brondello runs the program was eye-opening,” he said.

Will Lightning be utilising anything Lucas saw on the Mercury floor? “Can’t say too much,” he said.

Jun 1

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