OPALS BEGIN ASIA CUP CAMP IN PHOENIX

OPALS BEGIN ASIA CUP CAMP IN PHOENIX

The Chemist Warehouse Opals arrived in Phoenix for camp this weekend and their coach could hardly wait...

Written by Megan Hustwaite. 

Following on from April’s camp on the Gold Coast, 13 players will be put through their paces for eight days as preparations ramp up for the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup.

Brondello says time together as a squad is precious when its members play basketball all over the world.

“I’m looking forward to getting together and to keep progressing to where we need to be and continuing to build. Every little bit of time we can spend together is critical – we’ve got a big year coming up.

“For the players who weren’t with us in April it’s about getting them up to speed because it is a selection camp and we’ve got Asia Cup in September. We do have some injuries, which is unfortunate, but we’ve got a great group of girls, some WNBA players who weren’t at the Gold Coast will come and participate in a few of the days.

“We train hard but want to have fun as well. They are great girls, they work so hard and are so coachable.”

The Opals boast plenty of depth and may need to call on it during a hectic build-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

“We’ve got 13 coming to camp and we’ll get up to 15 at one stage. It’s a nice-sized camp, we can play against each other and get a lot accomplished,’’ Brondello says.

“Seeing our girls who haven’t been there before is important, just to get that opportunity to evaluate everyone. We have so much talent and that makes our job really hard when we have to select a final team.

“The team may change a little bit for Asia Cup with WNBA still going, depending on what teams are in the play-offs, so some of those players may be missing but we have so much depth that can cover for them.

“Every time we hop on the court we want to make sure we’re giving a great showing and continuing to improve, not only individually but collectively as a team, within the system we have.”

Selection in the WNBA All-Star game means Liz Cambage is not Phoenix bound, while Marianna Tolo and Jenna O’Hea are sidelined with injury. Bec Allen and Sami Whitcomb will join the camp during their WNBA break, while Mercury recruit Alanna Smith will also feature.

“Bec and Sami have shown a commitment. They have three days off but want to be there and that’s the wonderful thing - they don’t want to miss it, they want to be part of the Opals.

“For me that says a lot and that’s what we want to see, passion.”

In another positive development, Olympian and WNBA and WNBL champion Abby Bishop returns to the Opals squad for the first time in two years.

“Abby’s made a commitment to the Opals with a goal to get to that Olympics and we want our best players available,’’ Brondello says.

“Abby’s had a great career and I think it’s fantastic she’s staying in Australia and playing for the Townsville Fire. She knows how to score and is an experienced post player. I’m excited to get to see her again, it’s been two years.”

So, just how much can the Opals jam pack into eight days?

“You try and get in as much you can in a short period of time and we’re not only evaluating but making sure we’re continuing our chemistry and growth as a team,’’ Brondello explains.

“As coaches it’s a great opportunity for us to look at things like how we expand defensively. Liz is not going to be here so how can we play when she’s not on the court to make sure we’re a bit more aggressive at both ends of the floor.

“We’ll be very productive, we’ll get one team session in a day, there’ll be weights and small groups around it, team meetings so we continue to keep building that culture and at the same time make sure the girls get that recovery because that’s important as well.

“We’ll be cramming a lot in.”