Ahead of the 2022 FIBA Basketball World Cup returning to Australian shores come Thursday, get to know your team set to don the green and gold on the biggest basketball stage.
Nicknamed ‘Spida’ after her long limbs, Bec Allen returns for her third FIBA Women’s World Cup, after claiming back-to-back medals for Australia at the 2014 and 2018 FIBA World Cups, the 2014 event her first appearance as an Opal.
On the back of her 2014 performance on the national team, Allen’s WNBA career began, signing with and making her debut for the New York Liberty in 2015. The guard has taken her game around the world, playing across the EuroLeague, in Poland, Slovakia, France and Spain, where she currently plays with Valencia Basketball. 2021 saw Allen and Valencia achieve success as they claimed the EuroCup title and in her two seasons with the Spanish team, they’ve finished runners-up in the LIGA ACB (Spanish Basketball League).
An Olympian and FIBA Asia Cup medallist, Allen will be striving for a fourth international medal starting next week.
Born into a sporting family and following in the footsteps of her parents who both played on the national basketball stage, Sara Blicavs has forged her own basketball career over the past 13 years. Launching her playing career playing for the AIS in the WNBL back in 2009, Blicavs now holds two WNBL Championships to her name, the first with Bendigo Spirit in 2014 and the second with Southside Flyers in 2020. She was also named in the All WNBL Second Team in that same championship year (2020).
After making her Opals debut in 2015 at the FIBA Oceania Championships where Australia achieved gold, the 6’2” forward has contributed to back-to-back FIBA Asia Cup medals (silver in 2017 and bronze in 2019) and went on to make her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.
From Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, Darcee Garbin is a dual WNBL Champion with the Townsville Fire (2016, 2018). An 11-year playing career has seen Garbin develop as a leader, with the forward named captain of Perth Lynx for the 2021-22 season and leading them to a three-game grand final WNBL series, just falling short to the Melbourne Boomers.
Spending time in Europe, Garbin played the 2018-19 season with the German team, Herner TC in the DBBL and once again tasted success, claiming the DDBL Championship title and DBBL Cup. At the conclusion of the home soil World Cup, Garbin will return to the Euro League to play in Hungary.
Debuting for the Opals in 2019 at the FIBA Asia Cup, Garbin has achieved back-to-back FIBA Asia Cup bronze medals with the national team and will play in her first FIBA World Cup starting next week.
A long-time server of the national team, dual Olympian, Cayla George has planted herself as a staple of the Australian line up. A playing career spanning almost two decades, the upcoming home turf FIBA World Cup will be George’s third, following back-to-back podium World Cup campaigns in 2014 and 2018. George also played a key role in the Opals gold medal Commonwealth Games title.
A stint in the WNBA and European leagues, however it is the WNBL where she has made her most significant impact. A four-time WNBL Champion, the 6’4” center launched her career at the WNBL at just 16 years old. 2007 saw her average 15 points and 11 rebounds per game, making her a standout for the Rookie of the Year award. She captained the Melbourne Boomers to their drought-breaking -and her fourth- title in the 2021-22 season and she has twice been named in each All-WNBL First and Second teams.
Not only does George bring professionalism and strong performances to the Opals, but her bright and bubbly character has also driven the Opals culture off the court.
Everyone knows her name, she’s Australian sporting royalty and an Australian Basketball Hall of Famer, yet nine years after announcing her retirement and at 41 years old, she’ll don the green and gold once again. Jackson made her Opals debut over two decades ago, at the 1998 FIBA World Championships, where the Opals won bronze, and she quickly became a key part of Australia’s golden era.
Returning for her fifth FIBA World Cup, and her third appearance on home soil (2000 Sydney Olympics and 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games), the four-time Olympian holds eight medals to her name, including four Olympic medals, the 2006 Commonwealth Games Gold and topped with the elusive FIBA World Cup Gold in that same year.
A WNBA dual Champion and Seattle Storm icon, five-time WNBL Champion and four-time WNBL MVP, Jackson’s career has also seen her take her game across to Europe, Chinese and Korean leagues.
|TESS MADGEN (c)
Hailing from the Barossa Valley, South Australia, Tess Madgen returns for her second FIBA Women’s World Cup and will Captain the Australian team for the first time. A ferocious guard who can also play forward, this year marks Madgen’s 11th year as an Opal after making her debut in 2011 at the FIBA Oceania Championships. 65 games repping the green and gold at the senior level, the Tokyo Olympian brings a heightened sense of leadership to the group, with Coach Sandy Brondello stating that she’s like a “coach on the court.”
A member of the 2018 FIBA World Cup silver medal line-up and 2021-22 WNBL Championship with the Melbourne Boomers, Madgen was also named to the 2015 All-WNBL First team and the All-WNBL Second team in 2020. Now a senior voice on the national team, she is hungrier than ever to lead the Opals back to the podium come September 22nd.
It would be easy to forget that Ezi Magbegor is only 23 years old. The 6’4” tall, has already achieved a WNBA Championship with Seattle Storm in her debut season (2020), won the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup in 2021 and claimed the 2021-22 WNBL title with the Melbourne Boomers. Despite the Storm not progressing through the playoffs of the 2022 season, Magbegor was named to the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team, capping off a sensational season that saw her appear in the Storm’s starting five several times. Her strength in defence has quickly become a signature move for Magbegor, with the rebounding machine using her physicality to regularly block offensive plays.
A three-time WNBL Youth Player of the Year, the center was also named the MVP of the 2016 FIBA Under 17 World Cup, which catapulted her to senior national team contention. She first represented the Opals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and was a part of the dual medal year on the international stage, following the Games gold medal with a silver at the FIBA World Cup.
After returning to Australia for the FIBA World Cup, Magbegor will take her game to Europe where she will play in Hungary.
A youthful force on the court, Anneli Maley’s first FIBA Women’s World Cup will see a breath of organised chaos added to this Opals lineup. Known for her rebounding athleticism under the ring, the 2021-22 WNBL Season MVP now adds a strong shooting ability to her skillset, after taking out both leading scorer and rebounder awards after the last WNBL season.
A breakout year for the 24-year-old, 2022 saw Maley’s dominant WNBL season rewarded with a stint in the WNBA with Chicago Sky. A feature of the 3×3 competition since 2015, Maley returned from the WNBA to play a key role in Australia’s silver medal campaign at the 2022 FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup back in July. Faced with a tough choice between striving for the Commonwealth Games team or competing for a spot on the FIBA World Cup Opals team, Maley’s fighting spirit on and off the court secured her ticket to Sydney.
A quiet achiever, Steph Talbot is one to go about her business as usual yet have a significant impact on the court. A regular name on the Opals team list since making her debut in 2015, the dual Olympian enters this 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup campaign on the leadership team alongside Sami Whitcomb and captain Tess Madgen.
On the national stage, she’s seen every level of the podium, with 2018 a memorable year for the now 28-year-old. A Commonwealth Games gold and FIBA World Cup silver topped her national team achievements four years ago.
Drafted to the WNBA in 2014, Talbot is now a regular feature of the Seattle Storm lineup, where alongside Opals’ teammate Ezi Magbegor, the Storm claimed the 2021 Commissioner’s Cup. Locally, she’s a WNBL MVP (2020), has been named on the All-WNBL First team twice and is the captain of Adelaide Lightning.
A warrior of the national team, Marianna Tolo has been representing the Opals for 15 years, since making her debut at the 2007 FIBA Oceania Championships. A dual Olympian, Tolo will be returning for her third FIBA World Cup appearance, having played on the Australian bronze-medal team in 2014. She was also a member of the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup silver medal team.
4 WNBL Championships with the UC Capitals and achieving two as co-captain, Tolo’s playing career spreads far and wide. Not only a key WNBL figure since 2006 but the 6’5” center/forward has also seen success in Europe, including claiming the French Cup with Basket Landes earlier this year. She also briefly appeared at the WNBA with the LA Sparks in 2015, before injury ended her campaign.
If there was ever to be a story of overcoming adversity, you couldn’t look past the persistence of Kristy Wallace. A top basketball prospect throughout her juniors in Australia and her college career, Wallace’s basketball journey took a detour after she suffered two ACL injuries.
She’s one of three players in Baylor women’s basketball history to notch up 500 career assists, was named on the Big 12 All-Freshman Team in 2015 and in 2018 was named on the Big 12 All-Defensive Team, the First Team All-Big 12 and was awarded a WBCA All-America Honourable Mention. On the back of her successful 2018 campaign and despite tearing her ACL for the first time toward the end of senior year, Wallace was selected with pick 16 by Atlanta Dream in the second round of the WNBA draft.
After suffering her second ACL injury in her second game back within the WNBL, Atlanta remained supportive throughout her rehabilitation process. On the back of completing her first full season of WNBL (21-22), the Dream extended the invitation to return to pre-season training camp where she secured a spot on their 2022 season roster.
Wallace made her Opals debut at the bronze medal 2021 FIBA Asia Cup.
Shooting guard Sami Whitcomb has experienced it all across her 12-year playing career. The Californian-born basketballer and now Australian citizen has become a key name across the WNBA, and European leagues and in 2021 returned to the WNBL.
Since making her debut at the 2018 FIBA World Cup in Spain, Whitcomb has medalled in each of her national team campaigns. Achieving silver in 2018 and captaining the bronze medal 2021 FIBA Asia Cup, Whitcomb will be searching to complete the medal set in Sydney next week. She will join captain Tess Madgen and Steph Talbot on the leadership team.
The dual WNBA Champion currently plays with New York Liberty alongside Opals teammate Bec Allen and under Opals Head Coach, Sandy Brondello. She’s been named in the WNBL All-Star Five team three times and played in the 2021-22 grand final series, narrowly falling short of the title in game three.
*players listed in alphabetical order.