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Get set for a real cracker!

THE WNBL’s 2017-18 season already is shaping up as one of the best on record as further quality players commit to clubs and others find new locales for what should be a cracker.

Triple-Olympian and Spanish basketball legend, point guard Laia Palau (below) has joined Dandenong as expected, giving the Rangers two Olympic playmakers.  

Palau, 37, captained Spain to last year’s Gold Medal game against the USA in Rio, her experience sure to be a huge asset in the further rapid rise of Opals guard Tessa Lavey.

Steph Blicavs, Sara Blicavs, Carley Mijovic, Kayla Pedersen, Amelia Todhunter … it is shaping up as a formidable Dandenong drive to go one better than in 2016-17.

“We have a very exciting team coming together and with her leadership, versatility and amazing playmaking ability, Laia will complement our group and provide the support role we need,” coach Larissa Anderson said.

It will be a tough trip for any team travelling to Victoria, given Melbourne Boomers have retained stars such as Brittany Smart, Maddie Garrick and Bec Cole while adding Jenna O’Hea, Louella Tomlinson and Liz Cambage.

Today the Boomers formally also added star New Zealand Tall Ferns forward Kalani Purcell, 22 and 188cm, to their roster. 

Purcell is a star in the making, named to the West Coast Conference’s First Team and as its Defensive Player of the Year this year, while she led Brigham Young University in rebounding (10.5rpg), assists (4.9apg), blocks (1.4bpg) and was third in scoring with 12.7ppg.

It is probably no coincidence Boomers coach Guy Molloy, now an assistant to Kennedy Kereama with New Zealand’s Tall Ferns, was aware of her bona fides.

“We identified Kalani some time ago and worked really hard behind the scenes to make contact and put an offer together for her that will provide her with an opportunity to train and play alongside some very talented forwards, while also living every day in a program that will help take her game to the heights we know it can get to,” Molloy said.

Don’t think Bendigo Spirit will be any pushover either, securing former Perth Lynx swingman Betnijah Laney to run alongside Kelsey Griffin in the 3-4 roles.

We knew Laney was on her way back to Australia (see below, from April 26…)

Like Griffin, Laney (below), 23, has a stack of WNBA experience behind her and was the unsung heroine of the Lynx’s 2015-16 Grand Final drive.

“Her combination with Kelsey will be exciting for us. Her defence will help us matching the size around the league this season,” Spirit coach Simon Pritchard said. 

“What I really like about Betnijah is her ability to play transition, push the tempo, and finish well at the rim.”

Canberra Capitals have added WNBA forward Jordan Hooper (Connecticut Sun) to their roster, joining fellow new faces Rachel Jarry and Lauren Scherf.

Hooper, 25 and 188cm, averaged 18.5 points with 8 boards for SEQ in 2015-16 and also represented the USA at World University Games.

“The WNBL reminds me a lot of the WNBA. The level of talent and athletic ability is incredible. Australian basketball players are some of the best, well-rounded athletes I’ve seen, so I’m very happy to be part of the WNBL again,” Hooper said.

She could not have been more right, the introduction this season of minimum salary and the WNBL securing a genuine broadcast partner in FOX Sports huge for the league.

In Perth, Sami Whitcomb – setting records as a WNBA rookie with Seattle Storm – will return, joining new faces Alice Kunek and Olivia Thompson, who both cross from Melbourne Boomers. Kayla Standish is heading west too, from Townsville.

MAC Adelaide Lightning virtually have a new starting lineup in Aimie Clydesdale, Nicole Seekamp, Natalie Novosel, Abby Bishop and Ruth Hamblin, backed up (so far) by Lauren Nicholson, Colleen Planeta, Sarah Elsworthy and Chelsea Brook.

Four-time Olympian Laura Hodges recently decided to play on but has yet to reveal where she will ply her trade this season.

Sydney Uni Flames has lost Leilani Mitchell to Europe but regain Katie-Rae Ebzery, while retaining Alex Wilson (how she is not in the current Opals squad is a mystery and blunder of epic proportions), Belinda Snell, Jennifer Hamson and Tahlia Tupaea.

The Fire have regained Rio Olympian and dual-championship starter, power forward Cayla George, with Suzy Batkovic, Mia Murray, Micaela Cocks, Darcee Garbin, Kelly Wilson and some truly exciting new Aussie talent.

FOX Sports certainly picked a good time to jump aboard. We’re heading for a season to end all seasons!

Jun 1

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