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Finally, some 20-20 vision for Opals


AUSTRALIA’s Opals look set for a return to the medal dais in Spain with the announcement today of a multi-talented 20-player squad from which the final 12 for the FIBA World Cup will be selected.

The championship, in Tenerife in Spain, will run from September 22-30 and Opals coach Sandy Brondello has assembled an exciting squad with no notable available omissions and no “how the hell did she get there?” members, unlike her predecessor.

Dual-Olympian Liz Cambage, who threw down the historic first women’s dunk in an Olympics when she slammed one against Russia in London, threw one down last week to close the WNBA All Star Game and is in world-beating form.

Fellow Aussie WNBA regulars such as FIBA 2014 World Championship Bronze Medallist Rebecca Allen (pictured), Rio starter Leilani Mitchell, naturalised former Perth Lynx superguard Sami Whitcomb, Rio Olympics debutante Stephanie Talbot and multiple former Townsville fire championship winner Cayla George all are back in the 20-player outfit.

Unfortunately but due to their WNBA commitments, none of that group will attend the selection camp later this month at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence at the AIS in Canberra from August 10-17, with only players based in Australia attending.

ACL injuries ruled Sara Blicavs, Marianna Tolo and Kristy Wallace out of squad contention but players such as Alanna Smith – who starred for the Silver Medal-winning Opals at last year’s FIBA Asia Cup – and fellow future stars such as Ezi Magbegor, Darcee Garbin and Tahlia Tupaea, have their window.

They were part of the Chemist Warehouse Opals who recently competed in a four-nation tournament with Argentina, Serbia and the hosts in China, returning with an impressive 5-1 record.

“After a successful six-game tour of China, we enter the last Chemist Warehouse Opals camp before the World Cup team is selected,” Brondello said.

“With the World Cup less than two months away, every training session is vital in order to be in our best shape and improve on areas at both ends of the floor.

“The coaches have highlighted a number of things to work on from the China tour and this selection camp gives us a great opportunity to do so.

“The coaching staff is excited to be adding Alex Bunton and Alanna Smith to our World Cup squad along with the players that played on the China tour.”

Once again, Leilani Mitchell, Kelsey Griffin and Sami Whitcomb all will compete for the solitary naturalised player spot permitted by FIBA.

And again, the legal case for Mitchell’s status to be revisited stands out, her mother being Australian. Clearly BA is unwilling to fight that fight, just as it stepped away from appealing any of FIBA’s outrageous sanctions from the Boomers-Philippines’ “melee in Manila” last month.

Chris Goulding’s one-game ban remains a dreadful joke, with the Rio Olympian and Melbourne United NBL championship-winner an unfortunate punchline – literally and figuratively.

But if BA won’t fight something that blatantly absurd, there’s no chance it will continue exploring Mitchell’s eligibility after being told it is a non-negotiable.

And that’s a shame, considering Griffin was MVP of the Asia Cup and Whitcomb a one-of-a-kind offensive juggernaut.

CHEMIST WAREHOUSE AUSTRALIAN OPALS WORLD CUP SQUAD: Rebecca Allen (New York Liberty), Stephanie Blicavs (MAC Adelaide Lightning), Alex Bunton (Brydens Sydney Uni Flames), Liz Cambage (Dallas Wings), Katie-Rae Ebzery (Perth Lynx), Darcee Garbin (JCU Townsville Fire), Cayla George (Dallas Wings), Kelsey Griffin (University of Canberra Capitals - subject to injury clearance), Alice Kunek (Tarbes Gespe Bigorre), Tessa Lavey (Jayco Dandenong Rangers), Tess Madgen (JCU Townsville Fire), Lauren Mansfield (Perth Lynx), Ezi Magbegor (Deakin Melbourne Boomers), Leilani Mitchell (Phoenix Mercury), Jenna O’Hea (Deakin Melbourne Boomers), Nicole Seekamp (MAC Adelaide Lightning), Alanna Smith (Stanford University), Tahlia Tupaea (Brydens Sydney Uni Flames), Stephanie Talbot (Phoenix Mercury), Sami Whitcomb (    Seattle Storm). Coach: Sandy Brondello (Phoenix Mercery), Assistant coaches: Cheryl Chambers (Brydens Sydney Uni Flames), Paul Goriss (University of Canberra Capitals), Chris Lucas (MAC Adelaide Lightning).

Aug 1

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