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Lightning takes a new turn with import


LIGHTNING's latest import signing, Brianna Turner, is another player sure to assist in making this particular 2019-20 lineup one of the most defensive orientated in Adelaide - if not WNBL - history.

Turner, 22 and a 191cm power forward from storied University of Notre Dame, is highly respected as a defensive star.

Last season in the Atlantic Coast Conference she won the Defensive Player of the Year award, a category in which she also previously has dominated.

Watched by Notre Dame alumni and Lightning teammate Natalie Novosel, Turner recorded a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double in this year's NCAA Final, a gut-wrenching thriller won 82-81 by Baylor.

Turner subsequently was selected in the first round WNBA draft by Atlanta Dream, and Phoenix Mercury coach and Australian Opals mentor Sandy Brondello immediately traded two-year centre Maria Gulich for her.

Gulich was on Lightning's radar but the club was more impressed with Turner's credentials and her defensive abilities.

She joins the WNBL's reigning Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Nicholson, tough-as-nails defender Novosel, internationally-rated defender Stephanie Talbot and hard-nosed defensive specialist Nicole Seekamp in a Lightning team which threatens to terrorise opposition offences.

"We're certainly looking very good at the defensive end," Lightning's reigning WNBL Coach of the Year Chris Lucas said.

They also can "fill it up", Turner concluding her college career at Notre Dame averaging 14.6 points, seventh all-time on the school's scoring list. Her 62 percent accuracy is second all-time.

Turner will come to Australia as one of the sport's mostly highly-credentialled recruits.

She co-captained USA to the Gold Medal at the 2014 FIBA Americas Under-18 Championship, averaging 13.6 points at 60 percent, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was named the USA's Female Athlete of the Year and its National High School Player of the Year.

That followed USA national representation at the 2012 FIBA Under-17 World Championship and the 2013 FIBA Under-19 World Championship - both also Gold Medal performances.

In camp this week with Phoenix Mercury, Coach Brondello, Lightning teammate Talbot and Lightning coach Lucas, Turner is revelling in the elite atmosphere.

"It's a goal for me to play for the (senior) USA national team," she said. "Sandy is a phenomenal coach and I know my time in Australia will help towards that goal as well.

"Australian players are long and athletic and I've only heard great things about the WNBL.

"I feel like Australia is a beautiful country. I've met Chris face-to-face now too."

Familiar with WNBA guard Lindsay Allen - who played in 2018-19 for Melbourne Boomers - from their college days and also as USA junior teammates, Turner was impressed with what she had to say about our WNBL.

"Knowing the history of the WNBL and that a lot of very good players go there, it made the decision easy," Turner said. "So did the fact it's a shorter season.

"And knowing Natalie Novosel went to Notre Dame too, also helped."

Novosel, Talbot, Seekamp, Nicholson and Chelsea Brook all are signed for 2019-20, where Adelaide aims to go one better than last season's runner-up finish behind Canberra Capitals. The club is in pursuit of an import centre

Mercury's WNBA preseason camp started on Monday, as did Dallas Wings' camp where Seekamp is pursuing a permanent roster role.

"We've been going at it (training) for two days and it is very different to playing in college," Turner said. "The pace of the game and the amount we are learning in a short time is amazing."

Drawn to basketball as a child due to both her parents being collegiate players, Turner also swam competitively before focusing on roundball.

She said her strengths include her ability to run the floor, her defence and shot-blocking - music to the ears of Lucas and his lockdown Lightning.

MERCURY RISING: Sandy Brondello, right, next to Penny Taylor, addresses her Phoenix squad, including Brianna Turner, Leilani Mitchell, Steph Talbot and Alanna Smith.

May 8

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