An experienced Australian Opals line-up has been selected to compete at the upcoming FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup qualifying tournament in Belgrade, Serbia from 10-13 February.
Led by the likes of dual Olympian Cayla George and FIBA Asia Cup bronze medal captain Sami Whitcomb, the 12-strong squad will feature a mix of familiar and fresh faces. Impressing selectors throughout the current WNBL season and at the Sydney-based Opals camp this week, Maddy Rocci and Shyla Heal are set to make their senior Opals debut.
“It’s extremely special, being around teammates like Sami Whitcomb you learn so much, her leadership is crazy good, you learn heaps from the veteran players,” Heal said.
With a selection of 16 athletes in attendance at this week’s training camp, condensing the team to the final 12 was a challenge for Opals Head Coach Sandy Brondello and the selection team.
“We’ve learnt valuable lessons from 2021, we’ve reset, and it’s been a fantastic camp. It’s still very fluid but we’ve got a good mixture of veteran players, the core group who were in Tokyo but we also have some new faces as well so we’re excited to integrate them into the team and start our build-up to the World Cup,” Brondello said
Returning to the Opals uniform, Olympians Steph Talbot, Alanna Smith, Sara Blicavs and Tess Madgen will reunite with Europe-based Opals Bec Allen and Marianna Tolo to don the green and gold once again.
“We’ve got a good bunch of experience and some players who haven’t had a whole lot of international games at the senior level so overall it’ll be a nice little combo, a hybrid team to go over and get some dubs” George said.
Opal Ezi Magbegor had an injury at training on Wednesday afternoon and whilst all scans and medical cleared her to play, the decision was made that she will not travel with the team for this event.
After a series of interrupted seasons due to injuries, Kristy Wallace’s resilience and determination to return to the elite level is a story of inspiration. Stringing together a run of consistent performances over the past year, highlighted by her FIBA Asia Cup Opals debut, Wallace’s inclusion in the qualifying team comes as a true reward for effort. Joining Wallace in the team is dual FIBA Asia Cup bronze medallist Darcee Garbin, after a stand-out 2021 campaign.
“I’m so grateful to be selected as part of this Opals team and honoured to represent Australia for the second time. My basketball journey has been a long one, full of highs and lows so I’m just really happy to be playing consistent basketball again and to have this opportunity. It’s truly incredible,” Wallace said.
FIBA Qualifying Tournament Schedule:
February 10: Australia v Brazil
February 12: Australia v Serbia
February 13: Australia v Korea.
As the host nation of the FIBA Women’s World Cup this September, the Opals have automatically qualified for the event.