Category: News

WNBL Player Spotlight – Southside Flyers – Leilani Mitchell

MOST punters heading into the new WNBL season would invest their chips heavily into the Southside Flyers squad that head coach Cheryl Chambers has strung together, as a starting five filled with prominent Opals is set to take the North-Queensland hub by storm.

When asked if this side was one of the most talented squads Chambers has had prior to a season tip-off it is no surprise she promptly responded with “it certainly is”.

“We’ve got some quality players, some older players, some younger players, we’ve got a bit of a mix of everything, so we think it’s a good group. However of course, just because you’re a good group it doesn’t mean you win games, so there is a lot of work to do and make sure we play as a team. But I’m really excited to work with the girls from last season again and bring in the likes of Liz Cambage, Rachel Jarry and Steph Blicavs, which is exciting because they are players with lots of knowledge,” Chambers finalised.

Nevertheless, we focus on one of Australia’s best point guards in the nation’s history to kick off the Flyers’ Player Spotlight series. That of course is veteran 35-year-old American-born Leilani Mitchell, as she prepares for her seventh campaign in the Australian women’s top-flight for basketball.

Coming off of a solid 2020 WNBA season averaging 9.5 points per game across 22 games for the Washington Mystics, Mitchell certainly boasts a constantly dynamic brand of basketball. The sharpshooter also targeted the rim with archer-like precision, converting on 40.8 per cent of her shots from the field and at 30.5 per cent from three-point range.

These numbers, despite being in a competitive League like the WNBA, tell a similar story in the Australian scene. Mitchell shot at a remarkable rate in WNBL20 averaging 15.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.2 each time out on the floor. Her shooting consistency again was as reliable as ever, going 45.6 per cent from the field and 42.3 from deep.

It became a no-brainer that Southside would want nothing more than to retain Mitchell’s services for another season, and come September 3, the Flyers’ faithful got their wish as Mitchell publicly committed to another fixture with last season’s runner-up.

“I’m beyond excited to continue playing for the Southside Flyers. I was honoured to be a part of the Flyers inaugural season and can’t wait to get back with the girls and continue our quest for the championship,” Mitchell said.

“I know that we will all return hungry and willing to work hard, build on our team chemistry, and have fun! It’s a wonderful organisation that truly cares for the players. It goes beyond basketball. The management, coaches, teammates, and fans make the Southside Flyers the best organisation to be a part of,” the Washington-born phenom added.

Highlighting the fact that Mitchell is a revered master of the game, Chambers reiterated that next season is not so much about tweaking her point guard’s game, but rather refining it as Mitchell gains a little family time in Newcastle before the start of the new season.

“Given that she’s had such a big workload in the WNBA, the thing will be to try and look after her and make sure that she has some minutes where we can try and offload her so we are not running her into the ground,” Chambers added.

Force and Rollers upset Capitals and Roar to advance

BEING on the road for a do-or-die quarter final up against a quality opponent did not phase either Gold Coast Rollers or Ipswich Force as the fifth and sixth placed sides upset the fourth and third placed lineups, RedCity Roar and Brisbane Capitals respectively. The results mean that top of the table Logan Thunder will now play the sixth placed Force in the semi-finals, whilst the second placed Southern District Spartans will lock horns with the Rollers.

RedCity Roar (62) defeated by Gold Coast Rollers (97)

Only percentage separated the two sides heading into the final, with RedCity Roar traditionally a higher scorer, averaging 77.5 points to the Rollers’ 70.5, whilst also conceding a higher 73.5 to 62.5. It was only the latter number that rung true in the end as the away side Rollers held the Roar to just 62 points during the 35-point win to shock the crowd.

The Roar went into the game without one of their star WNBL talents in Lauren Mansfield, which left a lot on the shoulders of Tall Ferns star, Ashleigh Karaitiana. It was clear throughout the contest that the Rollers were going to make more of their opportunities and their long-range shooting – dropping 16 of 37 triple attempts at 43.2 per cent efficiency – was going to be a problem.

Gold Coast also had seven less shot from inside the arc but was more effective (20/42 to 19/49). The Rollers led the rebounds (47-40), assists (26-16), steals (8-7) and second chance points (13-9) and also had less turnovers (11-16). The Roar managed to level with two blocks apiece, but otherwise it was all the Rollers who were deserving 97-62 winners in the quarter final.

Playing just 19 minutes on court, Gold Coast’s Skye Mason made the most with a deadly eight of 11 from the field, including four of six three-pointers to finish with 21 points and adding a block for good measure. No Rollers’ players had more than 29 minutes on court, with Siarn Woods‘ achieving that feat on her way to 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in a best-on-court performance.

Meanwhile Carleigh Patrick (22 minutes) had 14 points, six rebounds and two assists, Lilly Rotunno (24) had seven points, five rebounds and five assists, and Sarah Ambrose (23) finished with seven points, eight rebounds and five assists. Finally, the defensive effort by Kisha Lee to rack up 10 rebounds to go with six points and four assists in just 16 minutes was sensational.

Despite playing the equal most minutes of any player and trying her heart out, Karaitiana finished with 18 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in a good effort by the Rollers to hold her. Charmian Mellars stepped up to pick up a double-double with 12 points, 13 rebounds and three assists, whilst Ajiah-Liric Siosiua-Pepe was the only Roar player with an field goal efficiency greater than 40 per cent, making two triples on her way to 14 points, two rebounds and two assists. Kayla Kiriau was the other Roar player to reach double-figure points with 10, as well as five rebounds and three assists.

Brisbane Capitals (76) defeated by Ipswich Force (79)

It was heartbreak for the home fans at Auchenflower Stadium yesterday, as the Brisbane Capitals also suffered a defeat in the quarter finals, going down to Ipswich Force by three points. In the scheme of things just two wins separated the third placed Capitals from the six placed Force heading into the match, with the latter actually better offensively (77.4 to 74.2 points per game), while the former were better defensively (63.5 to 72.4 points conceded).

The match went down to the wire with both teams having their chances in a game of two halves, and in the end it was the Force’s long-range accuracy – 12 of 28 at 42.9 per cent – that stood out. The Capitals hit just 26.7 per cent – four of 15 – from that range, whilst also having double the opportunities from inside the arc. Making 66 attempts, the home side only drained 23, whilst the Force hit 16 of 33 with a higher efficiency.

The sheer volume of possession and shots put up by the Capitals was deserving of victory, as they also dominated the rebounds (54-30), and won the assists (18-15), steals (11-7) and second chance points (21-5), whilst the Force topped the blocks (3-2). In most cases those kind of numbers would lead to a Capitals’ win, but instead the efficiency of the Force helped the lowest ranked finalist get over the line and earn a crack at minor premiers, Logan Thunder.

Amy Lewis embodied the Force’s game on court with an outstanding best-on performance. She sank a match-high 32 points, six rebounds, four assists and one steal playing every minute to ensure her team got over the line. She was well aided by Georgia Ralph (16 points, seven rebounds, two assists and four steals) who was incredibly strong defensively to deny the opposition.

Also hitting double-figure points, Catherine Macgregor knocked down 13 points, and had eight rebounds and two assists, whilst Rachel Mate finished with 12 points, three rebounds, four assists and a block. The Force’s starting five – including Iris Cubit – spent at least 29 minutes on court each whilst scoring all of their points in a dominant effort.

The Capitals favoured heavy rotations, sharing the court time around with eight players earning 17 or more minutes, with Meg Essex (36 minutes) leading the way in many facets, dropping a team-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. Emma Read (18 points, three rebounds and two assists) was the other player to find her range with a greater than 40 per cent efficiency.

The three other starters played their role but struggled with accuracy as Anna Cameron picked up a whopping 16 rebounds – 12 off the offensive boards to give her side second-chance efforts – but could only manage four points with 2/10 from the field. Madison Woodford also achieved that 2/10 field goal attempts, but picked up the nine rebounds and four steals, while Georgia Woolley had 11 points, as well as three rebounds and two assists, but would have loved to have capitalised more from the field with just three from 13 makes.

Picture: Brad Anderson

NBL Classic Contest: Perth Wildcats proceed to 1997 finals despite Derek Rucker’s best efforts

WITH the National Basketball Association (NBA) recently capping off their post-season and the National Basketball League (NBL) feeling like their last game was over a lifetime ago, it is a good time for basketball fans to appreciate what teams can do come finals. But how about what it takes to even get there in the first place?

In 1997 the Townsville Suns were fighting for just that – a chance to play competitive, highly watched basketball in pursuit of a championship. A loss would mean their season was over, because with just one game left in the regular season, the Suns had to bring it. But surpassing the 17-13 Perth Wildcats was no easy challenge. Led by two time NBL Grand Final MVP Ricky Grace, the Wildcats had beaten the Suns in nine of their last ten meetings. But their last encounter was the lone Suns win of the lot, potentially throwing a wrench in whatever momentum Perth originally held. 

This meant the outcome of this game coming in was almost impossible to predict – the only thing fans knew was that Townsville were desperate. This was made evident in the very first play as Chris Sneed dove from half court to grab the ball after a fumble on a tipped rebound. But sometimes hustle and heart cannot overcome everything as Perth clearly had the height advance down low. This was no small detail; in fact it was probably the most important element of the game as the Suns were slaughtered on the glass, finishing the quarter with a six rebound deficit, down 24-17. However, this was an expected challenge coming in as the two teams ranked first and last in the league, respectively.  

The Suns needed to change some things around, so that is what they did. Firstly, their off-ball defenders adjusted by going under screens, in contrast to their first quarter approach of going over. This was to give them a sharper angle to the basket in case a shot was thrown up. However this clearly took its toll on their ability to play perimeter defence. Secondly, once the shot was thrown up, all five Townsville players either boxed out or attacked the glass, leading to not one single transition basket in the second or third quarter. With all of these necessary adjustments, along with a never say die attitude from Suns’ star Derek Rucker, the Suns were only able to score two more points than the Wildcats in the second, and tie up the third. 

But despite the commendable efforts of Rucker, who was visibly sparking his team with more and more energy with every play, his form was soon to run out. This was because Rucker, who was only six-foot tall, had not spent a single minute on the bench since tip off, while acting as the leading rebound general throughout the match.

Again, all of these pro-rebounding improvements only worked to stop the bleeding, but did little-to-nothing to give the Suns any form of edge. So heading into their fourth quarter, with the Wildcats shooting at an unsurprising 45 per cent from three and leading by eight in the rebound column, the Suns would have to play their greatest quarter to shrink the five-point lead. 

In front of a Townsville-led crowd, the Suns put on that type of quarter for them coming out of the gates hot with a contest three from Rucker, the Suns killed the lead early. But creating their own is always the harder hurdle. Neither team was giving in, until there were just two minutes left, with Perth holding a three-point lead. 

So far up to that point, the Suns were playing exceptional, making all the right passes and taking all the right shots while giving full effort on both rebounding and defence. This was all on the back of Rucker. But this would be their downfall as once Rucker became seriously gassed, his individual game diminished. His shot fell way short and he was beat on the board by fresher legs on Perth, especially James Crawford, a Wildcats player off the bench, who was dropping buckets in the last. 

As Rucker regressed, the team inevitably followed until they lost by just a basket, 102-100. Rucker, who played an exceptional game, could not play exceptionally in every minute, but still finished with a jaw-dropping 36 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. That was one for the record books. His best supporting player had to be Sneed, who dropped in 16 points along with ten rebounds. 

For the victorious Wildcats, they would go all the way to the Semi Finals before losing, but would have the surprising Crawford to thank for this win, who sketched in 25 points. 

WNBL Player Spotlight – Adelaide Lightning – Chelsea Brook

AS we have done at Draft Central for the past six weeks, Fridays are reserved for the League’s best-known centers. Today is no different, as we conclude the Adelaide Lightning’s Player Spotlight series focusing on 22-year-old big Chelsea Brook and how her performances last season have helped her develop to this point with WNBL21 around the corner.

A native to South Australia and raised in the town of Truro, a 70-minute drive north-east of Adelaide, Brook is a prime example of the players that emerge through the South Australian junior circuit.

Beginning her career at the tender age of four, Brook was encouraged to begin playing primarily thanks to those she is closest to according to a piece released by the club last month. “My family had a huge influence on my basketball career, I was involved in our local Barossa Valley association from the age of four. My parents would coach my older sister’s team and I would fill in and always be out at trainings joining in,” Brook said. “They pushed for me to play District Basketball with the Norwood Flames and would drive me to Adelaide twice a week so I could play, throughout my SA Country Basketball career they would give up their weekends to drive me to state trainings and tournaments all around South Australia and ensured I had every opportunity to be successful.”

Playing with a wide array of South Australian talent, Brook was lucky enough to be a member of the Australian World Uni Games side that took home gold in Taiwan and Japan. In addition to this, she would also accomplish something that has rarely been done in South Australian basketball history. Following a successful 2018 SA Premier League campaign for the Sturt Sabres, Brooke earned the Halls Medal, the state’s highest individual honour for a female basketballer – as a teenager.

Based on last season’s WNBL numbers, Brook’s progression continues to suggest improvement after averaging seven points, 2.7 rebounds and converting over half of her shot attempts (51.5 per cent) in 2019/20. The fifth-year player has been working on a more consistent three-point threat and hopes her added work on this asset will come to fruition in under a month when league action resumes.

“I would describe my playing style as a stretch forward, in the offseason I’ve definitely tried to improve my consistency of outside shooting and I think that is something that I can bring to the Lightning this upcoming season,” Brook added.

Brook is nothing less than excited to be back in her home-town side for another season and to help head coach Chris Lucas and her teammates find immediate success this season, “I feel really excited and blessed to be able to return for my fifth season with the Lightning, I love having the opportunity to play under Chris again and be able to be involved with the Lightning community and supporters who continually come out and support us,” noted Brook.

QSL Women’s quarter finals preview: Logan Thunder and Spartans await winners

IT is do or die for RedCity Roar, Gold Coast Rollers, Brisbane Capitals and Ipswich Force in Queensland Basketball League (QSL) Women’s with only two teams able to progress through to the next stage of finals. After impressive seasons, Southern District Spartans and Logan Thunder already secured their place in week two while the other four battle it out over the weekend to keep their premiership aspirations alive and kicking.

RedCity Roar v. Gold Coast Rollers
Saturday, 17 October

When both sides faced off way back in Round 3, it was the Roar that walked away with a 13-point victory over the Rollers, something they will be hoping to recreate in the quarter final. Expect a close game between the two sides as they both finished with seven wins and four losses apiece with Roar just edging ahead of the Rollers to claim fourth spot on the ladder, making for an exciting battle.

RedCity have no shortage of stars across the court with Ashleigh Karaitiana a real barometer for the side. Karaitiana is prolific when it comes to scoring, able to find the basket with great ease and is in hot form sinking a combined 39 points in her last two outings. She has also proven to be a menace on the rebounding front, dragging down 17 back in their Round 3 win.

She is often well aided by the likes of Lauren Mansfield not only on the scoreboard but so too when it comes to rebounds and assists. Although Ajiah-Liric Siosiua-Pepe did not fire in their clash at the start of the season, she has been in scintillating form of late sinking a combined 31 points in her last two appearances, making her a real threat for the Rollers. Lorna Shepherd, Kayla Kiriau and Charmain Mellars are other players to keep an eye out for, given their ability to pop up at any given time and influence the play.

The Roar may have the services of Karaitiana but the Rollers are not without a ball magnet of their own with Carleigh Patrick starring in their clash. Patrick found plenty of room and was able to knock back a team high 19 points while also collecting 13 rebounds. Siarn Woods is another key cog for Gold Coast because when she is able to get rolling she can have a huge influence on the side, as is Sarah Ambrose with the latter renowned for her ability to get a hand in and regain possession for her side. Lily Rotunno and Susannah Walmsley cannot afford to be left to their own devices with the duo able to contribute to the scoreboard.

Both sides have lost two of their past five games heading into the quarter final on Saturday, with a loss to the lower-ranked Ipswich Force still fresh in the mind of the Roar, meaning they will come out firing and hoping to make amends to their shortcomings the game before.

Brisbane Capitals v. Ipswich Force
Sunday, 18 October

The Capitals have been one of the most dominant teams throughout the 2020 season winning eight of a possible 11 games and will be looking to inflict that on the Force who have been relatively inconsistent. Ipswich has proven to be a more attacking team compared to Brisbane, with the latter relying on their defensive structures to win games and stop oppositions from putting up hefty totals, a game plan they implemented when they met back in Round 1. It has been a long time between drinks for both sides, who have found their rhythm and ironed out any kinks from their Round 1 meeting.

One thing that has remained the same is the dominance of Amy Lewis for the Force. She has been a constant threat throughout the season, finding the net time and time again whether it be from deep or inside the paint such is her scoring prowess. She starred back in Round 1 with a game-high 31 points while in Round 10 alone she single-handedly dropped 40 points, making her one to watch heading into the quarter final. Catherine Macgregor has also been a steady hand for Ipswich throughout the season while the likes of Georgia Ralph and Rachel Mate have been key. Mate is coming off a dominant weekend of basketball action sinking 40 points and collecting 10 points, proving just how explosive she can be when given time and space.

With a number of stars to combat, the Capitals will be hoping that their shared approach will be enough to get the job done. Georgia Woolley has been crucial for Brisbane able to attack the rim and showed that in Round 1 against the Force finishing with 13 points from her 24 minutes on court, highlighting how she does not need a lot of time to do damage. Emma Read is another player to keep a watchful eye on, thanks to her ability and game sense to take it on and back herself in while Meg Essex and Anna Cameron are also viable options to keep the scoreboard ticking over to apply pressure on the opposition. Madison Woodford is another player that cannot be underestimated able to get on the move and boasts an average of 10.9 points a game.

Boasting very different styles it will come down to which team is able to get their game up and running first and which team settles into the tempo. If the Capitals are able to shut down Lewis it will go a long way in getting them over the line. However, if Ipswich get enough time and space to attack the rim it could be game over for Brisbane.

Picture: Brad Anderson

WNBL Player Spotlight – Adelaide Lightning – Alanna Smith

THE Adelaide Lightning have set the benchmark high already after tagging Alanna Smith as their “biggest WNBL signing since Suzy Batkovic a decade ago”. This comes after Smith has excelled at every possible turn despite only being 24.

A Stanford University alum, Smith averaged close to 12 points per game (11.9), six rebounds and a block and a half each time out on the floor over her four seasons of NCAA play. Following her successes in California, the accomplishment of a lifetime would come across the Tasmanian-born star, as the Phoenix Mercury selected Smith as the eighth overall pick in the 2019 WNBA draft.

In what was an introductory rookie season, Smith appeared in 18 games throughout the 2019 campaign averaging a point and two rebounds, while also missing her final 14 games due to an ankle injury. She did however take on a more prominent role in Sandy Brondello’s side during the 2020 “Wubble” season, maintaining almost 16 minutes each game and improving her statistical averages to 6.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists.

Now, Smith sets her sights on North-Queensland where in less than four weeks she will participate in her second hub competition in the same year. But she seemed nothing less than excited to make her long-awaited homecoming to the Australian competition when the announcement became public on June 10, where she noted her admiration for head coach Chris Lucas.

“I know Chris really well, I knew there was a vacancy on the (Lightning) roster in the four-spot (power forward) and I spoke with a few people who have played for Adelaide before,” Smith said. “I only heard really good things and I am keen to get there and be part of an awesome organisation.”

The Lightning will have on display possibly the best forward combo in the entire WNBL. Stephanie Talbot, who was selected to the All-WNBL Second Team last season and ranked amongst the best in statistical categories such as rebounds, assists and minutes played, will be a key player for Smith to rely upon within coach Lucas’ WNBL21 rotation.

Expanding upon this, Talbot – like Smith – is a WNBA-level talent, having been a member of the Phoenix Mercury, Minnesota Lynx and now the New York Liberty. Speaking to this point, perhaps some additional wisdom can be bestowed up Smith in preparation for the next WNBA campaign.

A number of these factors could see the two mid-twenty-year-olds feed off one another and see drastic improvements as a result for both parties. This can be seen as nothing other than a positive, as Lightning supporters hope to see their team reach the semi-finals once again and possibly go a step further.

QSL Men’s quarter finals preview: Capitals and Spartans to host do-or-die finals

IT is set to be a big weekend of Queensland Basketball League (QSL) Men’s action as four teams battle it out to progress to the next stage of finals and keep their premiership hopes alive. RedCity Roar and Ipswich Force have already booked their spot in the round two action of the finals after finishing first and second respectively, and will be awaiting the winner of the two quarter finals whether it be Southern Districts Spartans, Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal, Brisbane Roar or Logan Thunder.

Southern Districts Spartans v. Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal
Saturday, 17 October

In a battle of fourth verse fifth expect plenty of fireworks and excitement as both sides endeavour to make it to next week. The last time these two sides met was in Round 8 as the Spartans run out victorious by 15 points against a feat they will be hoping to repeat in the final. On the other hand Phoenix Teal will be hoping to flip the script. Accuracy seemed to be the main area of concern for Sunshine Coast converting at a lower clip than the Spartans something they will be acutely aware of heading into the clash.

In their last outing, Anei Muorter was the dominant scorer sinking 20 points while Callum Dalton was not far behind with 19 points and eight rebounds. Tyrell Harrison was another key contributor with 14 points and nine rebounds while his ability to block the ball provides plenty of excitement and opportunities for the Spartans something they will be hoping to re-create once again. they were however without the services of Tamuri Wigness who has proven to be a key figure when it comes to dishing off dimes and setting up attacking forays.

For the Phoenix Teal they will be looking to the likes of Jamaal Robateau to lead the way having piled on 27 points in their last encounter and picking up a massive nine steals. Robateau will a player the Spartans look to stop given his dominance and ability to tear game apart. Another player that cannot be overlooked is Nelson Kahler  who is both able to hit the scoreboard with great ease while also ply his trade off the boards. Jonathan Jassen can sometimes fly under the radar but has had a recent run of hot form coming off 24 and 25-point outings and will be eager to bring that rhythm into the clash on Saturday.

If recent history is anything to go by it is fair to say that the result is in favour of the Spartans however finals basketball brings a whole new level of intensity and desperation making it anyone’s game.

Brisbane Capitals v. Logan Thunder
Sunday, 18 October

The second and final game of quarter finals sees Brisbane Roar and Logan Thunder go head to head on Sunday. It has been a strong season for the Roar finishing in third thanks to their nine wins from 11 games and feel agonisingly short of second spot so expect them to come out with a real fire in the belly. The Thunder have been somewhat up and down winning six games and losing five making for an interesting contest between the two sides. Last time they locked horns it was the Roar that came out on top albeit by 11 points in a much closer match than many anticipated something the Thunder will take plenty of confidence out of.

The Capitals boast a wealth of scoring options with Jason Cadee the most dominant of all sitting fourth in the competition for average points with 23.36 a game while also proving to be a handy option on the assist leading the league with 6.91 a game. Cadee will be the one the thunder have to stop given he is also renowned for his ability to cleanly contest the ball and win it back. Jarred Bairstow is another concern for the Thunder given his ability to find the rim and score nailing 25 points last time they met while also putting on a show in the rebounding front with 14 to his name. Cameron Goldfinch and Timothy Soong are others able to have an impact and keep the scoreboard ticking over for the Capitals.

The Thunder are not without their own stars with Christopher Cedar proving to be a real thorn in the Capitals’ side last time the two sides met, knocking back 29 points and while he has been a fraction quieter over the past couple of weeks he will draw plenty of confidence form that performance. Thomas Ammar stepped up to the plate converting 20 points from his 31 minutes on court while Atem Bior also flexed his muscles with 18 points and an impressive 15 rebounds nine of them defensive showcasing just how much of a threat he can be, when firing on all cylinder.

It will take a team effort from Logan Thunder if they are to ruffle the feathers of the Capitals and get the win, given the multiple avenues in which the latter possess to not only score but so too defend.

Picture: Lachlan Nuttall

WNBL Player Spotlight – Adelaide Lightning – Steph Talbot

AFTER what was an excellent WNBL20 season for the off-guard/forward Stephanie Talbot, which culminated in an All-WNBL Second Team selection and finishing fifth amongst rebounders throughout the competition, the 26-year-old is ready to compete in her second straight season as a member of the Adelaide Lightning with the WNBL set to commence November 12.

A former Melbourne Boomer prior to last season, Talbot was a cornerstone piece in Chris Lucas’s side during the 2019/20 campaign. Earning a ridiculous quantity of statistics throughout the fixture, she lathered the points on as well as her rebounds. At the conclusion of the regular season, Talbot’s stat line would read 13.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game. To add even more numbers to her myriad of statistics from last season, she converted on 39 per cent of her attempts and shot 74.6 per cent from the free throw line as well.

Following a successful first season back at the club for the first time since 2014, it only makes perfect sense that Talbot keeps her rise to superstardom in one place for now, as she links up with fellow WNBA prospect Alanna Smith. The two-forward combo of Talbot (New York Liberty) and Smith (Phoenix Mercury) will cause frequent headaches for opposition teams as both players exhibit lethal two-way tendencies.

While the Katherine-born star does not explode for points often, you can guarantee that she will contribute a solid amount each time, as Talbot accumulated double-digit points totals in 17 of her 21 contests in WNBL20, whilst recording a season-high 25 points against the Southside Flyers back at the start of December.

Furthermore, Adelaide’s nine-year veteran will have more obligations to look forward to than just the upcoming national competition. Talbot received praise for her recent efforts after being offered a playing position in the upcoming Opals squad bound for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Having already represented the country at events like the 2018 Commonwealth Games (Gold Medal) and the 2018 FIBA World Cup (Silver Medal), Talbot only needs the Olympics to be crossed off to complete the three national feats in Australian basketball.

With the days counting down quicker and quicker until the start of WNBL21, Adelaide will start to make their final preparations before heading up north to Queensland, where hopefully the Lightning can return to the postseason again, after their semi-final exit last time round thanks to the Southside Flyers.

QSL stats: Regular season summary

WITH the final round of the regular season done and dusted for the Queensland State League (QSL), Draft Central casts an eye over the top performers for both the men’s and women’s competitions. A couple of familiar names grace the leader board with Mikaela Ruef and Maddison Rocci making their presence felt while in the men’s Harry Froling and Nathan Sobey proved to be damaging prospects for their respective sides.

MEN’S

Sitting pretty on top of the table, Froling has been a key cog for the Roar with his explosive nature to attack the rim with an average of 30.44 points a game. He is also number one in the league for average rebounds with 16.56 a game showcasing his ability to be a threat in multiple facets of the game. a strong backend of the season saw Sobey star for Ipswich Force averaging 29.82 points a game and taking out the top gong for triples made with a whopping 54 for the season. Jason Cadee was a standout throughout the home and away season managing 44 triples, a competition high 6.91 assists and 31 steals to show just how well-rounded of a player he is. RedCity Roar’s William McDowell-White featured highly in a couple of areas such as rebounds with 10 a game, topped the leader board for steals with 38 while also knocking back 35 triples for the season. Nelson Kahler proved to be a handy player for Sunshine Coast taking out second spot for average rebounds with 13.18 while also leading the league in blocks with 18 to his name.

AVERAGE POINTS

# 1 Harry Froling (RedCity Roar) 30.44
# 2 Nathan Sobey (Ipswich Force) 29.82
# 3 Jamaal Robateau (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal) 25.64
# 4 Jason Cadee (Brisbane Capitals) 23.36
# 5 Darryl McDowell-White (RedCity Roar) 23

TOTAL THREE POINTS MADE

# 1 Nathan Sobey (Ipswich Force) 54
# 2 Jason Cadee (Brisbane Capitals) 44
# 3 William McDowell-White (RedCity Roar) 35
# 4 Jamaal Robateau (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal)
# 5 Tanner Krebs (South West Metro Pirates) 33

AVERAGE REBOUNDS

# 1 Harrison Froling (RedCity Roar) 16.56
# 2 Nelson Kahler (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal) 13.18
# 3 Jarred Bairstow (Brisbane Capitals) 10.27
# 4 Jonathan Janssen (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal) 10.18
# 5 William McDowell-White (RedCity Roar) 10

AVERAGE ASSISTS

# 1 Jason Cadee (Brisbane Capitals) 6.91
# 2 Isaih Tueta (USC Rip City) 6.14
# 3 Tamuri Wigness (Southern Districts Spartans) 5.86
# 4 Christopher Cedar (Logan Thunder) 5.78
# 5 William McDowell-White (RedCity Roar) 5.7

TOTAL STEALS

# 1 William McDowell-White (RedCity Roar) 38
# 2 Jason Cadee (Brisbane Capitals) 31
# 3 Jamaal Robateau (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal) 26
# 4 Luke Stewart (Northside Wizards) 25
# 5 Nathan Sobey (Ipswich Force) 25

TOTAL BLOCKS

# 1 Nelson Kahler (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal) 18
# 2 Tyrell Harrison (Southern Districts Spartans) 17
# 3 Cameron Thew (Northside Wizards) 13
# 4 Oscar Cluff (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal) 12
# 5 Harrison Froling (RedCity Roar) 11

 

WOMEN’S

It has been a dominant season for Rocci who topped the table with an average of 32.5 points showcasing her ability to find the basket for Rip City whether it be from range nailing 39 triples or inside the arc. She also featured in the top five for rebounds with an average of 10.3 capping off an impressive home and away season. Ruef was another that player that starred throughout the season sitting at an average of 22.7 points a game while also taking out top spot for rebounds with 18.2 seven more than the next closest in Charmain Mellars. Northside Wizards star Stephanie Reid had her hand in just about everything for her side finishing with an average of 24.43 points and 5.68 assists highlighting her deft touch. Mikhaela Cann took out top spot when it came to assists with a season high average of 7.91 while Amy Lewis came in at second with 6.33. she also registered fifth spot for points with 22 for Ipswich Force. Madelyn Willey was a force to be reckoned with amassing a competition high 39 steals while also dishing off an average 5.27 dimes a game.

AVERAGE POINTS

# 1 Maddison Rocci (USC Rip City) 32.5
# 2 Stephanie Reid (Northside Wizards) 24.43
# 3 Courtney Woods (Northside Wizards) 24.14
# 4 Miaela Ruef (Logan Thunder) 22.7
# 5 Amy Lewis (Ipswich Force) 22

TOTAL THREE POINTS MADE

# 1 Natalie Taylor (Southern Districts Spartans) 45
# 2 Maddison Rocci (USC Rip City) 39
# 3 Madelyn Willey (Southern Districts Spartans) 34
# 4 Catherine Macgregor (Ipswich Force) 31
# 5 Danielle Bayes (Logam Thunder) 31

AVERAGE REBOUNDS

# 1 Miaela Ruef (Logan Thunder) 18.2
# 2 Charmain Mellars (RedCity Roar) 11.44
# 3 Tyla Stolberg (Toowoomba Mountaineers) 11
# 4 Maddison Rocci (USC Rip City) 10.3
# 5 Ashleigh Karaitiana (RedCity Roar) 10

AVERAGE ASSISTS

# 1 Mikhaela Cann (Logan Thunder) 7.91
# 2 Amy Lewis (Ipswich Force) 6.33
# 3 Stephanie Reid (Northside Wizards) 5.86
# 4 Kalani Purcell (Southern Districts Spartans) 5.67
# 5 Madelyn Willey (Southern Districts Spartans) 5.27

TOTAL STEALS

# 1 Madelyn Willey (Southern Districts Spartans) 39
# 2 Kalani Purcell (Southern Districts Spartans) 37
# 3 Kalia Gabriel (Toowoomba Mountaineers) 29
# 4 Aimee Durbidge (North Gold Coast Seahawks) 27
# 5 Madison Woodford (Brisbane Capitals) 27

TOTAL BLOCKS

# 1 Meg Essex (Brisbane Capitals) 21
# 2 Kalani Purcell (Southern Districts Spartans) 12
# 3 Rebecca Haynes (Southern Districts Spartans) 11
# 4 Caitlin Clancy (Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal) 10
# 5 Georgia Ralph (Ipswich Force) 7

Picture: Brad Anderson

WNBL Player Spotlight – Adelaide Lightning – Marena Whittle

NOT many players have been shopped around in the WNBL as much as Marena Whittle, as the 26-year-old prepares to represent the Adelaide Lightning this November in WNBL21. The Victorian-born utility will also join her fourth club in as many seasons hoping to build upon her last stint with the Perth Lynx.

Often referred to as a utility prospect, Whittle poses a reputation that allows her to be able to play proficiently at virtually any position within a line-up. Despite this however, she has endured a compilation of injuries in the early years of her professional career, especially during her debut season with the Townsville Fire. In addition, at Bendigo, Whittle suffered a minor Achilles injury which is just another example of the bad luck that the North Dakota State alum has endured to this point.

But seemingly a half-glass full individual, Whittle hopes that these bumps in the road have only strengthened herself as a player to this point as she looks to inspire the next wave of emerging basketballers, “I love being a role model to the younger generation, I think it’s very important to set a good example and to make sure they know that anything is possible,” Whittle said.

No stranger to competitive levels of basketball, Whittle refined her craft as a junior with the Nunawading Spectres from the age of four in the hotly contested Victorian basketball scene where many of the nation’s top basketballers originate from. This, followed by various state basketball tournaments, led her to the United States where she played her full four years of NCAA basketball. Averaging 11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds at North Dakota State, Whittle became a pivotal piece of the Bison’s roster from her freshman to her senior years, thus laying the foundations for the player WNBL fans see today.

Last season was particularly a highlight for Whittle, as she excelled in many aspects of the game during WNBL20. Being a standout player in the Perth Lynx’s secondary unit, she maintained substantial averages of 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and an assist each game. But after playing all 21 games throughout last season’s campaign, Whittle is ready to make the next step in the relatively early stages of her career, which is evident by the Most improved Player of the Year that was bestowed upon Whittle by the Lynx organisation.

“I am looking to create a diverse leadership role on court and to shake the tag of being a 6th man. I am keen to get into a starting role and looking at this unique season ahead, I think there are many opportunities for local players to step it up,” Whittle noted.

Soon to be working alongside marquee players like Whittle, Alanna Smith, Stephanie Talbot and Chelsea Brook, head coach Chris Lucas has the core weapons needed to size up to many of the other sides throughout the WNBL competition, which is set to kick off in just over four weeks’ time.