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Free Throw Foundations lands 'The Bron'

THE Free Throw Foundation has scored another superstar speaker for its next fundraiser luncheon on December 20, with "The Bron" - Opals coach Sandy Brondello - secured to share her plans for our Tokyo Olympics gold rush.

Presumably, the Opals will qualify for those Olympic Games next year, by motoring through FIBA's Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournement next month in Kuala Lumpur where Australia must finish in the top-two of its group of Japan, Taipei and India.

The tournament runs from November 10-18, Basketball Australia this week revealing Bondello's 19-player squad ahead of that key series.

It is Rebecca Allen (Arka Gdynia, Poland/New York Liberty), Abby Bishop (JCU Townsville Fire), Sara Blicavs (Jayco Southside Flyers), Elizabeth Cambage (China/Las Vegas Aces), Katie-Rae Ebzery (Perth Lynx), Darcee Garbin (JCU Townsville Fire), Cayla George (Deakin Melbourne Boomers), Kelsey Griffin (University of Canberra Capitals), Tessa Lavey (Bendigo Spirit), Tess Madgen (JCU Townsville Fire), Ezi Magbegor (Deakin Melbourne Boomers), Leilani Mitchell (Jayco Southside Flyers), Lauren Nicholson (Adelaide Lightning), Jenna O'Hea (Jayco Southside Flyers), Nicole Seekamp (Adelaide Lightning), Steph Talbot (Adelaide Lightning/Minnesota Lynx), Marianna Tolo (University of Canberra Capitals), Tahlia Tupaea (Bryden's Sydney Uni Flames), Sami Whitcomb (BLMA France/Seattle Storm).

Given Australia can only suit one naturalised player out of Mitchell, Griffin and Whitcomb, two of those players will be unlucky, reducing the group to 17, with only five others to be cut for the final 12-player team.

The return of Cambage and Tolo to the squad puts the microscope back on the South Aussie pair of George and Bishop and if Brondello ultimately goes with Rio Olympian Mitchell - ahead of 2017 Asia Cup MVP Griffin and 2018 World Cup silver medallist Whitcomb - Lavey and Tupaea's hopes most likely also would be dashed.

Pre-Olympic qualification tournaments simultaneously also will be staged across other zones, including the Pan American and African. But with Japan already an automatic Olympics qualifier as host nation, Australia's task in Kuala Lumpur appears fairly routine.

Mackay-born Brondello (below) is another of Australian basketball's major success stories as a player and coach.

A tearaway combo guard with a sparkling jumpshot, great ability to get to the basket, excellent decision-maker and tenacious defender, Brondello's greatest on-court asset was her basketball IQ.

Making her WNBL debut with the AIS in 1986, after two seasons she joined Bankstown, was at Sydney for 1989-90 and at Brisbane from 1991-96.

Along that stellar playing journey, The Bron was the league MVP in 1995, the WNBL's leading scorer in 1994 and 1995, and an All Star Five selection in both of those seasons.

She logged 302 games for the Opals, is a four-time Olympian (1988-96-2000-04) and played at four FIBA World Cups in 1990-94-98-2002.

In the WNBA, Brondello played for Detroit Shock (1998-99), Miami Sol (2001-02) and Seattle Storm in 2003, participating in the league's 1999 All Star Game.

Named the Australian Basketball Player of the Year in 1992, Brondello also played in Germany for BTV Wuppertal, winning 10 national championships and the 1995–96 FIBA Women's European Champions Cup.

Switching to coaching, she went from an assistant at the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars to their head coaching role, assisted at Los Angeles Sparks for three years before winning the head coach role at Phoenix Mercury.

In six seasons at the Mercury, she has never missed the post-season, winning the championship in 2014, the same year she was named the WNBA's Coach of the Year.

Helming the Opals since 2017, Australia won an Asia Cup Silver medal under her long-distance guidance, then Commonwealth Games Gold in 2018, the FIBA World Cup Silver medal behind the US in 2018 and a Bronze at this year's Asia Cup.

Tickets for her guest speaking luncheon engagement on December 20 at The Highway on Anzac Highway, Plympton, already are selling quickly. For further details, go to the FTF website here.

Oct 18

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.