Australian Opals: FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Preview
THIS week marks the commencement of the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, taking place in Amman, Jordan from September 27 through to the October 3. With the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup set to take place in Australia in 2022, this week’s competition acts as the qualification round for Asian and Oceanian teams. Australia and New Zealand will head into the week with hopes of advancing to compete in next year’s games. Australia in particular will be eager to qualify for the World Cup, given their hosting responsibilities.
Australia’s squad was named last month, with WNBL names such as Jade Melbourne and Keely Froling set to don the green and gold. The side unfortunately lost Maddison Rocci to injury and Bec Allen to other basketball commitments in the lead up to the games, despite being named in the initial squad. The team will be captained by guard Sami Whitcomb, who will be leading the side after gaining her citizenship in Australia in 2018. Whitcomb has starred at both domestic and international level for a number of years and looks crucial to Australia’s chances at qualification.
The team will also have coach Paul Gorris at the helm, with the WNBL’s Canberra Capitals coach set to bring his talent in developing and leading Australia’s youngsters and translate it into victories on the court. Gorris has worked for a number of years at Basketball Australia’s Center of Excellence and has developed young talent such as the NBA’s Dante Exum, so expect him to utilise the team’s young talent such as Melbourne, who at just 19 years of age is already turning heads domestically.
Australia will take part in group A of the tournament, with New Zealand set to participate in group B for this competition. The Opals are ranked third in the world, making them the highest ranked team in this tournament, but they will not face each other until potentially the finals.
Australia’s schedule is not friendly to Australian viewers, with two of the Opals’ three matches beginning at 2am AEST. The side will take on Chinese Taipei at 2am on Tuesday morning in their first outing of the series. The last matchup between these two sides saw the Opals claim a 39-point victory in 2019. The Opals will then take on the Philippines just 24 hours later, but this is not their shortest turnaround. Following their second match, the side will have just 21 hours until they take on China in the final game of their brutal preliminary round schedule, before finals begin on the 30th of September.
Australia’s world ranking shows them as favourites heading into this clash, but they must justify this by performing on the big stage. With a talented coach at the helm and a roster full of strong contributors, this shapes up to be an exciting week.
Image Credit: Basketball Australia via Twitter