A new hybrid scholarship structure was unveiled in December of last year, following on from the announcement that Basketball Australia would assume responsibility of the AIS basketball program.
The structure has seen scholarships awarded to junior age athletes, WNBL players and Jayco Australian Opals, giving the team a strong mix of leadership and exciting young talent.
Jayco Opals Head Coach Brendan Joyce said the change in philosophy reflected the need to provide support and development opportunities for talented athletes in the 19-26 age range, beyond their junior careers.
“When you’re looking to identifying future Jayco Opals, trying to identify those players at 16-to-18 years of age is really difficult,” Joyce said.
“We felt that some players, particularly tall players, develop later and this program provides an opportunity for players post junior basketball to be identified and hopefully expedite that transition to the Jayco Opals through their time at the CoE.”
Headlining the team will be West Coast Waves and Jayco Opals centre Natalie Burton, who emerged on the international stage at the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championships.
The 24-year-old will be joined by some exciting young front court players, including 2012 WNBL Rookie of the Year Carley Mijovic from the Canberra Capitals, and Townsville Fire twin towers, Alicia and Keely Froling.
2013 WNBL Rookie of the Year Stephanie Talbot will be eager to impress after missing a large chunk of the WNBL season with a knee injury. The South Australian teen is another player – along with Burton, Mijovic, Tessa Lavey and Kristy Wallace – who has been called into Jayco Opals camp by Joyce.
Lavey – a WNBL Championship winner with the Bendigo Spirit – will team up with Wallace (who has spent the past two seasons playing SEABL with the Brisbane Spartans) to run the BA CoE backcourt.
BA CoE Associate Coach Paul Goriss will be the team’s Head Coach, and is looking forward to the challenge the SEABL competition will provide for the players.
“It exciting times for everyone involved in the program,” Goriss said.
“For the likes of an Anneli Maley, Alexandra Sharp and Chantel Horvat to work with established WNBL players and Jayco Opals like a Natalie Burton, Carley Mijovic and Stephanie Talbot creates a great environment for these young players to develop and also for the older players to become mentors.
“As an athlete, with the amount of practice we do as part of the program, you want to test yourself in game situations.
“I think it’s an ideal structure that we are able to practice five days a week and play on the weekends. There’s no better competition for this team to be playing in than SEABL.”
The season will start for BA CoE Women’s and Men’s teams playing a double-header against the Geelong Supercats on Sunday, with the Women’s Team tipping off at 12:00pm (AEDT) and the Men’s Team in action from 2:00pm at the BA CoE Training Hall at the AIS in Canberra.
CLICK HERE to see the BA CoE Women’s Team fixture list for the 2014 SEABL season.
Basketball Australia National Centre of Excellence Women’s Program Scholarship Athletes 2014