Before the start of the 2015/16 Wattle Valley WNBL season, take a look at how the newest team in the league, the SEQ Stars, are shaping up.
Last Year: N/A
Newcomers: Rebecca Allen, Ify Ibekwe, Bree Farley, Rachel Jarry, Amy Lewis, Emma McKenzie, Lauren Mansfield, Nadeen Payne, Erin Phillips, Denesha Stallworth.
The Stars kick off the season with their debut match against the Bendigo Spirit on October 9. Their first interstate clash against Townsville comes in Round 7 but their run up to a hopeful playoff campaign will not be easy as they play five of their last six games on the road.
As the newest team in the league, it is hard to predict how the Stars will fare but that element of surprise could work in their favour, at least in the opening stages of the season. They have two Opals players in Rebecca Allen and Rachel Jarry, a 188cm import in Ibekwe and a 191cm forward in Stallworth who has played in the WNBA and Europe. That front court looks potent and should control the glass in most of their games.
Knees have already become an issue for SEQ before the season even starts with Allen and Erin Phillips’ WNBA seasons cut short due to injury while Jarry is also returning to match fitness after missing almost an entire year with a knee injury of her own. If Phillips does miss games, that leaves their back court vulnerable with point guard Lauren Mansfield needing to take on a heavy load.
Watch out for…
The sister of Ekene who played in the NBL last season, Ify Ibekwe has a natural athleticism that will concern oppositions in the paint. At the University of Arizona, she became the first player to average a double-double and was the Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year for two straight years. Turning 26 today, she has already been drafted by the Seattle Storm in the WNBA and will be keen to make an impact this season.
In what looks to be a very even competition, SEQ will need to get off to a quick start and maintain that intensity throughout the season if they are to make the finals. Not having any consistency as a new team could hamper them in that regard as will the loss of experience if injury keeps Allen and Phillips away for an extended period of time. However, looking at their side on paper, they could certainly challenge for a top four spot.