U17 Sapphires squad assembled

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A foundation has been set for the 2016 Under-17 World Championships with the announcement of a 23-player squad for the Sapphires.

Prior to the World Championships, 16 players from the group will be chosen for a selection camp in July. A team will then be chosen to represent Australia in the Oceania Qualification tournament against New Zealand, New Caledonia and Tahiti with the winner advancing to the World Championships next year.

After getting a look at most of the players at the Under-18 Australian Junior Championships (AJC’s) in April as well as last year’s Under-16 tournament, coach Shannon Seebohm has high hopes for the group.

“We’ve got a good balance of guards and bigs. I’ve been able to talk with all the high-performance managers of all the states around Australia and put together a good team to qualify for the World Championships,” he said.

Representing VIC Metro are five players including Najvada George (12.6 points per game at the April AJC’s) and Kiera Rowe (7.5 points). Forwards Ezi Magbegor (11.5 and 8.6 rebounds) and Rebecca Pizzey (9.8 and 5.5) will be menaces under the rim alongside the defensively talented Ella Batish. Lucy Cochrane has also been named in the squad after impressing at the Under-16 nationals last year.

From NSW Country, Cassidy McLean (10.3 points) and Lara McSpadden (9.9 and 7 boards) will be joined by Jasmine Simmons, who led her side to a bronze medal at the 2014 Under-16 nationals.

SA Metro’s Hannah Lehmann is a deadly three-point shooter and will be accompanied by Darcy Rees, an exciting forward prospect and wing player Samantha Simons, both Under-16 players.

Two Tasmanian natives in Rebecca Abel and Taylor Mole have been named. Abel was the seventh highest scorer at the Under-18 AJC’s, recording three games of 20+ points while Mole added nine points and eight rebounds per game.

Three Under-16 players will represent QLD South in bona-fide scorers, Shyla Heal and Miela Goodchild as well as forward Ula Motuga who collected 8.8 points and 7.8 rebounds at the AJC’s last year.

From VIC Country, Tayla Wynne (8.6 points at the Under-18 nationals) has been selected alongside Chelsea D’Angelo and Jasmine Shelley, the final two Under-16 representatives.

Rounding out the list is Abby Cubillo from NT, who finished second in the Under-18 AJC’s for assists, Callie Bourne from ACT (11.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists) and Mia Satie from WA Metro (7.7 points and 8.4 boards).

Speaking on the talent of the squad, Seebohm is delighted.

“The style of play I want to adopt is not built around one or two people, it’s going to be about a whole team effort at both ends of the floor and I want to be able to play a pretty quick style of basketball.

“I was definitely looking for athleticism as well as kids who have a high level of skill and are smart players. I think that will be the strength of this group, having multiple talented players on the court at once. Now the challenge is to get those players to work well together and be able to gel as a team.”

The Under-17 Sapphires squad: Rebecca Abel (Queenstown), Ella Batish (Sandringham), Callie Bourne (ACT), Lucy Cochrane (Sandringham), Abby Cubillo (Darwin), Chelsea D’Angelo (Traralgon), Najvada George (Dandenong), Miela Goodchild (Southern District Spartans), Shyla Heal (Seahawks Gold Coast), Hannah Lehmann (Forestville), Cassidy McLean (Newcastle), Lara McSpadden (Newcastle), Ezi Magbegor (Coburg), Taylor Mole (Wellington), Ula Motuga (Logan Thunder), Rebecca Pizzey (Bulleen), Darcy Rees (Forestville), Kiera Rowe (Bulleen), Mia Satie (Perry Lakes), Jasmine Shelley (Moe), Jasmine Simmons (Western Reds), Samantha Simons (Forestville), Tayla Wynne (Ballarat)