Roy Ward on the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence, plus this week’s big plays and the media wrap-up.
The lessons come daily and the results are rarely predictable.
Coming into their road double this round, Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence women’s coach Paul Goriss admits he was concerned about how his side would handle the weekend.
All of his squad except for Jasmine Simmons had spent five days at an Australian Gems training camp ahead of the FIBA under-19 world championships next month and on the back of the camp they had a four-hour bus ride to the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre in Albury to take on the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits on Friday night.
“I was a bit concerned about our energy level when we stopped at Holbrook for our programmed snack stop,” Goriss said.
The team didn’t stop to see Holbrook’s famous HMAS Otway Submarine which sits in the middle of the town – instead they powered onto Albury and hit the court with a burst of energy Goriss didn’t see coming.
“You could tell in the first five minutes that the energy was up, we were playing good defence and set a foundation for the rest of the game,” he said.
The COE squad would go onto score a 73-47 win over the Lady Bandits. The squad then returned to Canberra at 2am Saturday morning and hosted Sandringham Sabres on Sunday at midday, taking a 75-58 win.
“The girls have some challenges in regard to fatigue and recovery but I couldn’t speak highly enough of their energy and effort levels,” Goriss said.
“It could have been a real grind in Albury but we came out with the other extreme and were highly motivated and energised.
“This is why we are playing in SEABL because it puts a focus to what the girls are doing into a game and they get something back for their hard training.”
Under the new structure of the COE, veteran Opals squad members can be added to the squad and train and live with the teenage players.
In earlier games this season, Goriss had Opals players Elyse Penaluna and Katie-Rae Ebzery sent to Canberra to work on their games ahead of Olympic qualifiers later in the year.
Alex Bunton was also sent to train with the squad but has battled an injury.
With Ebzery and Penaluna away with the Opals’ European tour, the COE’s teenagers still managed to take away both wins this past weekend.
Forwards Alanna Smith, Anneli Maley, Alexandra Sharp and Chantel-Anais Horvat are four highly rated talents on the COE roster and all have started taking bigger roles in their SEABL games this season.
Smith, daughter of former NBL player Darren Smith, is heading to Stanford later this winter after she returns from the under-19 world championships.
“Maley and Horvat have come along in leaps and bounds with their basketball IQ and skill levels,” Goriss said.
“A year earlier they were playing behind better team members – Steph Talbot would take the opposition’s best perimeter player but now it’s between them to defend legitimate WNBL players in our SEABL games.
“With Smith I would love to have her for another year, she had injuries last year but now she is just starting to scratch the surface of being a pro athlete.”
The COE women will play their final SEABL game of the season on June 28 then head off for the worlds on July 3.
Goriss added that having Opals squad members training with the COE teenagers was proving a great success.
“One thing about the old AIS program was you had a pecking order within the group because they were all the same age,” Goriss said.
“There was no senior cohort to lead the way – I cannot speak more highly of how Katie-Rae and Elyse have led the group on and off the court.
“Whether at practice or games – they offers hints and advice on how to handle situations, they pull players aside and have a quiet word.
“They are excellent on a day-to-day basis and hold the girls to a higher standard.”
*Launceston Tornadoes star Ally Wilson powered her side to a win over Ballarat with 30 points and eight rebounds.
*Ballarat Rush’s Abigail Wehrung scored 25 points in her club’s loss to Hobart Chargers.
*BA COE forward Alanna Smith led her side to a win over Albury-Wodonga with 22 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes.
*Sandringham Sabres import Brittany Smart again led from the front with 25 points, five rebounds and four steals against BA COE.
*Dandenong Rangers veteran Clare Papavs found her range with 26 points and 10 rebounds against Bendigo Braves although Braves forward Steph Bairstow also had a good night with 23 points and 11 boards.
*Canberra Capitals Academy’s Julie Foster was all over the glass with 19 rebounds to go with her 12 points in the Caps’ loss to Geelong. She also had 16 points and 17 boards in the Caps’ loss to Frankston.
SEABL media links
*Leader newspaper’s Megan Hustwaite (@MeganHustwaite) wrote this feature on WNBL and SEABL star Steph Cumming. Feature, picture: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/sport/steph-cumming-is-back-in-melbourne-to-play-seabl-for-kilsyth-and-wnbl-at-dandenong/story-fnglemo4-1227372814057
*Border Mail’s Steve Smith (@stevesmithffx) reports Albury-Wodonga coach Michael Brookens was unhappy with the referees. Report: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3115994/brookens-cries-foul-as-his-girls-struggle-to-find-the-net/?cs=10
*Geelong Advertiser’s Wes Cusworth (@WesCusworth) reports on Isabella Brancatisano’s big game for Geelong Supercats. Report, picture: http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/sport/local-sport/lady-supercat-isabella-brancatisano-has-a-major-impact-coming-off-bench/story-fnjuhs0b-1227376941376
*The Examiner’s Alexandra Humphries reports on the Launceston Tornadoes’ win over Ballarat. Report, picture: http://www.examiner.com.au/story/3114565/wilson-stars-for-torns/?cs=96
*Ballarat Courier’s Melanie Whelan (@Melanie_whelan) reports on the Rush’s tough weekend. Report, picture: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3115999/tornadoes-sweep-through-for-20-point-victory/?cs=63
Roy Ward (@rpjward) is a freelance sports writer who has covered the NBA, NBL, WNBL, SEABL and Big V during his career. He will be filing weekly columns on the SEABL men’s and women’s competitions during this season. For feedback or suggestions send Roy a tweet or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org