Category: WNBL

WNBL Free Agency: Schwagmeyer heads east as clubs sign developing stars

A PERTH Lynx talent heads east, and some college young guns return to their home states to bolster the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) with the Free Agency Period continuing over the past week where we update you since the last update. Of the eight teams, seven made changes with only reigning premiers, University of Canberra (UC) Capitals not featuring due to having done a lot of the heavy lifting (re-signing) early in the period.

Adelaide Lightning:

The Lightning have been able to sign Jasmin Fejo and Taylor Ortlepp over the past weeks to add to their roster for the 2020/21 WNBL season. Fejo had a strong season in the South Australian Premier League competition for West Adelaide in 2019, averaging 16.2 points, 2.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 steals for the Bearcats. Ortlepp is one to watch for the Lightning ahead of the season having finished her college days at Boston where she averaged 20.1 minutes and 3.7 points per game after missing 10 games at the start of the season. She returns back to her home state where she grew up.

Bendigo Spirit:

The Spirit have looked to their own program to pick up promising young star Piper Dunlop from the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) side, Bendigo Braves. A developing future Opals star who has already gone through the national team program in her junior years. Last year the forward stepped up to represent the Braves off the bench on two occasions in the NBL1, scoring a total of four points and two rebounds in that time. She is one who can provide good support off the bench, and over the years really start to get more minutes on court.

Melbourne Boomers:

The Boomers recent Free Agency moves have involved re-signing New Zealand duo, Kalani Purcell and Antonia Farnworth. The 187cm forward came off the bench in 23 games last season, averaging 4.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals last season in the WNBL for the Boomers. Farnworth crossed the country from Perth Lynx ahead of last season and while she had less game time to average 2.6 points and 1.5 rebounds for the Boomers, her field goal accuracy went up. She will be hoping for more court time in the guard spots.

Perth Lynx:

Perth has re-signed some height with 191cm forward-center Maddison Allen returning to the club for the 2020/21 WNBL season. After only starting in one game in the 2018/19 season with the Lynx, that number rose to 16 last season, and playing a total of 21, lifting her numbers per game across the board. She averaged the 4.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.8 blocks per game.

Southside Flyers:

The biggest re-signing of the past week has been Southside’s ability to bring back Rebecca Cole for another year. Having signed with the Flyers after previously playing with Dandenong Rangers, she averaged 16.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game in season 2019/20. Cole is a vital member of the starting side for the Flyers, shooting at an strong 49 per cent from the field, and 36 per cent from long range.

Sydney Uni Flames:

The only signing who crossed from one WNBL side to another in the past week has been Alison Schwagmeyer who crossed the country from Perth Lynx to the Flames. The Sixth Player of the Year has plenty of experience and nous coming off the bench for the Lynx and will add that to the improving Flames. The American came off the bench on nine occasions – starting another nine games – to average 15.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, an increase in both points and rebounds despite having less time on court. She is a valuable member of any team and will add an extra element to the Flames this season.

Townsville Fire:

The Fire signed Courtney Woods from the Northern Illinois University (NIU) Huskies in what could be a massive signing for Townsville. Another college talent who returns to her home state of Queensland, Woods broke some serious records at NIU, becoming the All-Time Leader in three pointers made and games played, as well as second all-time at NIU for overall points scored. She made 105 three-pointers in a season to break that season record as well for NIU, so comes back to Australia with some serious talent to burn. To put her 2019/20 college year in perspective, she put up numbers of 22.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists. If she can live up to her potential, Woods would have a huge shot at being one of the rising stars of the competition.

WNBL Free Agency: Week 3 Update

THE WNBL has had a very traffic-heavy third week in the league’s Free Agency Period, as five of the competition’s eight sides made roster updates, whilst the Adelaide Lightning announced earlier today that they will disclose their second (possibly third) signing this upcoming Monday.

Going through each team alphabetically, Draft Central outlines how the third week has panned out.

Adelaide Lightning

Almost two weeks prior to now, the Lightning organisation revealed their marquee signing of the WNBL21 season, with the acquisition of Australian Opal and member of the Phoenix Mercury, Alanna Smith.

Moving down the track to earlier today, Adelaide’s social media platforms teased the fact that on Monday June 29, the unveiling of their second and possibly third Free Agency signings will be made known to the public.

Bendigo Spirit

Known to carry a development philosophy throughout their club, the Bendigo Spirit further cemented that notion with the acquisition of 17-year-old Young Gun and University of Indiana-commit, Paige Price.

While Price spent all of last season as a development player with the Melbourne Boomers, getting just a couple of runs throughout the campaign, she’s eager to get some serious game time, as she signs with her former side’s country rivals.

But the rising star knows that she needs to work hard if she’s to earn additional minutes for next season under the guidance of Head Coach Tracy York.

“I am excited to be joining the Bendigo Spirit. I have spent a lot of time training and playing at Bendigo throughout my Vic Country experience, so I know the place well and feel comfortable in the environment and excited to be back in Vic Country.”

“There are no guarantees or promises from Tracy, but it is up to me now to earn any minutes.”

“I see the move to Bendigo as the next progression in my career and I’ve loved Tracy’s coaching style when I played under her for Australia at the FIBA Oceania Tournament so I am confident I will make the most of this opportunity,” she said.

Price is the sixth confirmed member for the Spirit next season, following the confirmations of Alicia Froling, Carley Ernst, Cassidy McLean, Demi Skinner and Tessa Lavey.

Melbourne Boomers

At the conclusion of her second season with the Melbourne Boomers, newly re-signed 20-year-old Ezi Magbegor was gifted the Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year Award for a record setting second time of her career, which makes you understand why the club is ecstatic to welcome her back for a third fixture in WNBL21.

With the Seattle Storm set to debut Magbegor in the coming weeks for their shortened WNBA season, it provides the Opal an opportunity to really raise her benchmark of opposition, before coming back to the WNBL to help push for the franchise’s first title under the ‘Melbourne’ moniker in the club’s history.

In a brief statement to the club, Magbegor highlighted her confidence in the team that is set to take shape. “I’m excited to be going into my third year with the Boomers,” she said.

“With a lot of returning players, we’ve built a strong team and I am looking forward to getting on the court with the team and really working this season,” she added.

As per Melbourne’s signed players thus far, Magbegor joins the likes of co-captains Maddie Garrick and Cayla George, as well as Townsville’s Tess Madgen.

Perth Lynx

Shortly after it was divulged that All-WNBL First Team recipient Katie Ebzery and WA-local Darcee Garbin were to be playing in the red and black next season, it seems as though ‘home is where the heart is’ for much of the Lynx’s WNBL21 roster, as Ryan Petrik and his team signed returning Perth player and former WNBL Rookie of the Year recipient, Alex Ciabattoni.

Beginning her WNBL career in her home state of South Australia, Ciabattoni would cement a splendid rookie season with the Lightning, earning herself ROTY honours in the 2015/16 season. She would make the move out west for the 2017/18 season with the Perth Lynx, helping the team to a minor premiership and a 15-6 record. Following a semi-final upset to the Boomers, the 26-year-old Forward made the trip over to Italy to sign with Reyer Venezia (Serie A1), while also going on loan to Ponzano Basket during her overseas stint.

Heading back home to what Ciabattoni calls her “second home”, Petrik seems optimistic of what this Perth side is capable of as they move along in the offseason, given he knows what his latest signee’s skills bring to the table.

“Alex is someone who can do a little bit of everything and with the way the game is going that skillset is really valuable to us,” he said

“We know Chibba’s game really well and we’re confident that she has the ability to be a real weapon for us this season.”

Sydney Uni Flames

Following the signings of Australian Opal Lauren Mansfield and the fast developing Anneli Maley, the Sydney Uni Flames became the final team to enter the Free Agency conversation, as they confirmed more signings to come in the next couple of weeks.

Mansfield, who spent her previous season with the Lynx, provided herself with what was a very respectable season. Earning solid numbers in all of the major categories, Mansfield averaged 9.6 points, 4.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals (eighth highest in the WNBL) per game.

Heading into the twilight years of her career at the age of 30, Mansfield is still aiming to refine her game further, which she addressed following the announcement of her transfer. “After speaking with Katrina, who emphasised building a good culture with a mix of young talent and experienced players, I thought Sydney would be a great fit for the further development of my basketball career,” explained Mansfield.

The latter of the Flames’ two signings, Maley, who played for the Southside Flyers in WNBL20, projects an energy around her that motivates her teammates. This attracted Head Coach Katrina Hibbert to the 21-year-old, something her side will need if they are to improve upon their sixth-place finish from last season.

“She’s known for her athleticism, energy, effort, and rebounding abilities – just to name a few,” said Hibbert.

“I’m looking forward to welcoming her into our program this season as she is a natural leader through her approach to basketball on and off the court. It’s going to be wonderful to see her continue her development and continue to blossom under a style of play that will compliment her versatility.”

The two join Lauren Scherf as the Flames’ only contracted players to this stage.

Townsville Fire

The Fire family keeps getting bigger, as they signed Wasserburg Power Forward, Megan McKay, who is coming off a tremendous season in the German Bundeliga (top Basketball competition in Germany).

An alum of the notorious Saint Mary’s College Gaels in the U.S, McKay has an extensive history of playing against top-level competitors. This included averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per contest for Wasserburg in her most recent season overseas.

Having also represented Australia in U17’s, McKay is happy to be back at home competing in the WNBL.

Head Coach of the Fire Shannon Seebohm believes that McKay will fit in well with his frontcourt, given her abilities in and around the basket.

“She is a strong interior presence and a great rebounder. She will bring a lot of energy to our team and I am excited to see her play in the WNBL and show what she is capable of,” he explained.

Stay tuned for more WNBL Free agency updates.

WNBL Free Agency: Ebzery re-signs for another year, Lynx/Fire trade shakes up FA period

FRIDAY was a busy time for the Western Australia-based Perth Lynx, as they made a couple of moves during what was an entertaining end to the second week of Free Agency talks, the latter being a trade with the Townsville Fire.

However, prior to the trade, the Lynx made sure to lock up one of their captains, Australian Opal Katie Ebzery. The club’s current MVP and one of last season’s All-WNBL First Team recipients, Ebzery made her case known last season as one of the league’s most prolific and intelligent forces throughout the competition.

During the 2019/20 season, the 178cm-tall guard cracked the league leaders in points (16.3), assists (4.2) and minutes (33.5) per game, as she paved the way to what was an exemplary season on an individual level.

Despite the Lynx’s 8-13 record last season, falling one spot out of the postseason, the duo of Ebzery and fellow signee in Sami Whitcomb puts Perth’s road to redemption in good stead come Round 1, as the Lynx’s core group of players will bring excitement and success to the West, new Head Coach Ryan Petrik alluded to.

“Katie’s work ethic is phenomenal and her attention to detail is second to none. The pairing of Ebzery and Whitcomb will not only provide fans with some exciting basketball, it sets the standard for our program off the court as well,” Petrik said.

A day later, Perth would complete their second move in a matter of hours as they welcomed home former Townsville forward and two-time WNBL champion, Darcee Garbin, whereas the Fire would also welcome home a local of their own, with Nadeen Payne being the other participant of the transaction.

The trade sees homecomings on both sides, with each player coming off strong 2019/20 seasons.

For Garbin, her past season’s stat line shone a light on her ability to contribute to the scoreboard, averaging 14.4 points per contest, as well as averaging over six rebounds. Garbin’s counterpart in Payne, saw similar totals in points and rebounds averaging 10.2 points and 4.6 boards each time out on the floor, while also accumulating almost a steal per game.

Specifically, for Payne, she joins one of the most impressive pre-season line-ups heading into WNBL20, as she stands alongside a new look Fire squad that will most likely challenge for a title next season, a team she said she looks forward to joining.

“My mum and dad still live in Townsville, it will be great to be back around my family and playing Fire colours again, I am even more excited to learn that this season is the Fire’s 20th season and cannot wait to be a part of the celebrations and back with the local community, I think our team will be one that they will be really excited to get around.”

Garbin’s signing adds to a list containing Lauren Nicholson, Shyla Heal, Mia Murray, Kate Gaze and Zitina Aokuso.

WNBL Free Agency: Nicholson to join Fire and George back in Boom Town

SINCE Tuesday afternoon, the WNBL has had its hands full with big moves in its second week of the Free Agency period. Former Defensive Player of the Year (2018/19) in Lauren Nicholson has joined what is starting to look like a serious contender in the Townsville Fire, while former Perth Lynx star, Sami Whitcomb, is set to return to the west after an overseas stint in France.

In addition, WNBL veterans Cayla George and Brittany Smart have stated their intentions for the upcoming season, with George staying put in “Boom Town” for a third consecutive season and Smart making the move to the nation’s capital to suit up in Paul Gorris’ side.

Nicholson, who has long been praised for her defensive ability, was awarded the Adelaide Lightning’s club Defensive Player of the Year Award this past season adding to what has been a very successful WNBL career to this point.

Following the move Tuesday, Nicholson lines up next to the likes of young guns Zitina Aokuso and Shyla Heal, as well as Mia Murray in Shannon Seebohms bid to bring glory back to the far-north following a sub-par 5-16 record in WNBL20.

At a glance, Nicholson was a productive force for the Lightning last season, as she helped her side to a fourth-place finish after 21 games. She would average a consistent 14.2 points per contest, while earning her keep in the rebounding and steals categories, averaging 3.4 and 1.4 in the respective categories.

In Townsville’s media release, the location of the move and the community love for the team were the critical factors in the 27-year-old’s decision, “I am so excited about the move to Townsville and joining the Fire next season, every time I come to Townsville, I love the community feeling, the crowd and its supporters are certainly the loudest and most passionate in the league. I can’t wait to get the feeling of playing at the stadium, with them supporting me, wearing the Fire colours, it will be awesome to be a part of,” said Nicholson.

Out by the Indian Ocean, the Perth Lynx have initiated their announcements regarding next season’s signees, as Whitcomb will don the red and black for the first time since the 2017/18 campaign.

Following a WNBA championship with the Seattle Storm and two seasons with French powerhouse, Basket Lattes, Whitcomb brings an abundance of success and experience to newly signed head coach, Ryan Petrik’s side.

Whitcomb averages over 20 points per game to this point in her WNBL career, as the backcourt prospect will prove to be a handful for opposing sides with the goal of helping the Lynx return to the postseason.

Down in Victoria, the Melbourne Boomers announced that co-captain George (next to Maddie Garrick) would be staying at the club for another year, as the 31-year-old WNBL Hall of Fame inductee will be a part of Guy Molloy’s 2020/21 squad.

Completing her WNBL20 season with averages of 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and four assists per game, George continues to ride a string of successful seasons in the Purple and Gold as the Boomers can look to both their team leaders for next season’s affairs.

Looking to the nation’s capital, where Gorris has added some more experience to the defending champs, as Smart has signed on for a one-year contract in the ACT, according to the club.

Coming off a minimised season (seven games), Smart would still maintain almost 10 points per game in the games she would participate in, indicating there is more to be offered by the 35-year-old.

Smart enters her sixth season in the WNBL and will look to be a guiding force for the Caps, as they look to make history and win three consecutive championships for the first time since the Adelaide Lightning dynasty of 1994-96 led by Rachael Sporn.

Draft Central can also confirm that the following Canberra signings during the Free Agency period have all agreed to one-year contracts for the 2020/21 season, per the Capitals administration.

Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin, Keely Froling, Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubillo, Alex Delaney and Tahlia Tupaea.

WNBL Free Agency: Madgen back to Melbourne, Bendigo contract details

WEEK 2 of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Free Agency period has kick-started with a bang, as it was announced Monday morning that former Melbourne Boomers captain, Tess Madgen, is set to return to her former club for the WNBL 2020/21 season. Furthermore, Draft Central can confirm the contract details of the Bendigo’s signees so far during the offseason.

Melbourne adds a former captain to the 2021 squad

Australian Opal, Tess Madgen, who is coming off a solid second season with the Townsville Fire, averaged respectable numbers across the board for Shannon Seebohm’s side throughout all 21 games.

Putting up 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists each time out on the floor for the Fire, Madgen proved herself to be one of the leading all-around forces in Australia’s top flight. She would also prove to be one of Townsville’s most reliable scorers too, as she also maintained a 39.5 per cent clip from the field.

Following Melbourne’s announcement that their former leader would be making the move down south to cooler climates, Madgen praised the club as a whole, speaking highly of the Boomers’ organisation from top to bottom.

“I am super excited to be back playing for the Boomers,” said Madgen.

“From the board, the employees, the coaching staff to the playing group it is obvious to see there is a great culture and vibe and I am really looking forward to being part of that again, it feels like a homecoming for me.

“The club has a great history, being the longest running female professional sports team in Australia and that says a lot about it as a club.

“I am excited to build on a great season the Boomers had last year and can’t wait to get to work with the girls,” she added.

Madgen, who spent time with the Phoenix Mercury (USA) and AZS UMCS Lublin (Poland), has shown nothing but improvement since recovering from an old anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and will look to be a prominent leader in Guy Molloy’s squad next season.

The move comes just days after current captain, Maddie Garrick announced that she too would sign the dotted line for Melbourne’s 2020/21 season.

Bendigo’s signings details

While Carley Ernst and coach Tracy York enter the second year of their respective contracts, the Bendigo Spirit’s administration has told Draft Central that their signings Demi Skinner, Tessa Lavey and Cassidy McLean have all agreed on one-year contracts for the 2020/21 season during the free-agency period.

WNBL Free Agency: Garrick re-signs as McLean joins Spirit

MELBOURNE Boomers have re-signed Maddie Garrick as Bendigo Spirit announced a new recruit in the two moves over the past 24 hours in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Free Agency Period. The two moves followed from a big first few days of Free Agency which saw a number of players re-signed and a couple – Shyla Heal and Tahlia Tupaea – join new clubs.

The sole signing to the WNBL on Friday was Bendigo Spirit bringing in recently-turned 21-year-old Cassidy McLean, a former young star at the club. The 178cm forward had signed on to play with Bendigo Braves in the NBL1 competition, but that was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the disappointment of not playing in what was effectively the WNBL off-season, McLean has had extra time to recover from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear she suffered in March, 2019. Talking to the NBL1 website about her move to the Braves and subsequent Spirit, McLean said she had learnt a lot living with star basketballer, Tessa Lavey.

“I was living with Tessa when I came back to Bendigo for the NBL1, but it only ended up being about three weeks,” she said. said. “That was the first time I had met Tessa and we got to know each other. She is a great person, not just a wonderful basketballer. “It will be great getting to learn from her because she has experienced so much and gone to the Olympics and played at World Cups. They are all things I’d like to do in the future.”

Last year McLean had represented Newcastle Hunters in the Waratah Basketball League after heading north at the conclusion of the 2018/19 WNBL season. Whilst the season did not go to plan, the talented youngster has had plenty of time off to gain strength in her knee and be ready and raring to go for WNBL21.

Garrick was the sole re-signing on Friday, with the 179cm guard putting pen to paper for the Boomers. She averaged 11.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals representing the Boomers in the 2019/20 WNBL season, playing all 23 games in a remarkable run of form.

WNBL Free Agency: Heal and Tupaea become first to switch teams

TALENTED teenager Shyla Heal became the first Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) player to switch allegiances for the 2021 WNBL season. Amongst a high number of re-signings for the University of Canberra Capitals – six players re-signed to the reigning premiers – Heal moved from Bendigo Spirit to the Sunshine State to take a chance with Townsville Fire.

Speaking to Heal last week, the 18-year-old has the intention of nominating for next year’s WNBA Draft, and she is determined to have a strong season with the Fire alongside another talented youngster in Zitina Aokuso. In a breaking announcement today, Sydney Uni Flames point guard Tahlia Tupaea has also headed inland and signed on with the Capitals. The talented 23-year-old who has had her fair share of bad luck through injuries since debuting at the age of 15 – the second youngest in WNBL history – will look to have a clean run in the nation’s capital.

The other big talking point was Alanna Smith returning to Australia from College to line-up with Adelaide Lightning next season. She was drafted in the first round – eighth overall pick – in last year’s WNBA Draft to go to the Phoenix Mercury after graduating through Stanford.

Given the likelihood of Brianna Turner‘s unavailability – due to the league not having imports – the power forward position is Smith’s for the taking. It allows her to team up with Lauren Nicholson and Steph Talbot in the City of Churches to try and bring Adelaide a title after being on the verge of being a contender the last couple of seasons.

The Spirit might have lost Heal over the Free Agency Period, but have re-signed Demi Skinner and Tessa Lavey, whilst Jenna O’Hea put pen to paper for another season with Southside Flyers. The Capitals re-signed six players in a spree early in the period, with Maddison Rocci, Abby Cubillo, Alex Delaney and Keely Froling joining Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo in the capital to try and mount a title defence.

Three players have also announced their retirement from the league with Adelaide’s Nat Hurst, Bendigo’s Gabe Richards and Sydney Uni’s Sarah Graham calling it a day.

Young Guns in the WNBL – Ezi Magbegor

JUST over a year ago, Eziyoda Magbegor felt like she was on top of the world, being called as the 12th pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft to the three-time champions, Seattle Storm.

A year on from that, ‘Ezi’ now awaits the upcoming 2020/21 season, as it was announced that she had been picked to the 12-player roster for the Storm’s upcoming fixtures.

Having to hear the news that she had been drafted back in 2019 here in Australia, all Magbegor could feel was a sense of relief, which would then be overcome with emotion, as she was surrounded by loved ones and friends such as her parents Patience (mother) and Appolus (father), as well as agent Bruce Kaider.

“I think I felt a lot of emotions, but I think relief was probably the main one I can remember,” reflected Magbegor. “Leading up to that point, that was one of my biggest goals, to be drafted to the WNBA.”

“On draft day, things are pretty up in the air until your name gets called,” added Magbegor. “You don’t know where you’re going to land, but having my name called in the first round, that was pretty amazing.”

For Magbegor right now, however, she is spoiled for choice in terms of offseason training programs from both the trainers at the Seattle Storm and the Australian Opals, as she tries to navigate through what has been a “different offseason than usual”, according to the 20-year-old, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’ve been able to do things at home such as bodyweight workouts, running programs on the grass, getting to an outdoor court and just hooping in my backyard. I even have a running track behind my house,” said Magbegor.

This diligence and dedication to her craft was instilled in the Wellington-born star at a young age, becoming involved in sport early on in her life.

After moving to Australia at the age of five and starting basketball at seven, handling the rock was not Magbegor’s immediate interest, but shortly after crossing the Tasman, it wasn’t long until Magbegor fell in love with the game.

“When I was in New Zealand, I played soccer, not very seriously, but more to keep myself active with my older siblings,” said Magbegor.

“How I got into basketball was, I went to Oak Park Primary School where my sister (Elo) did singing, and her singing coach owned a domestic basketball club called the Northern Rebels at Coburg. So, after my brother (Ovie) started playing, I started playing shortly after that.”

Fast forward to 2015 and Magbegor would make her international debut in the green and gold as a 16-year-old, breaking down barriers left, right and centre. Move further along to the end of 2017, and she would receive her first Opals selection to a national training camp, thus resulting in her first official appearance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Following an exemplary list of international accomplishments and a season with the Canberra Capitals, Magbegor would make her back down to Victoria under the guidance of Melbourne Boomers Head Coach, Guy Molloy, where at first, the two-time WNBL Coach of the Year mentioned he saw lots of potential.

“She’s an absolute sponge to want to learn and improve!” praised Molloy. “She has been dominant through her progression in Australian hoops due to her athleticism and physical gifts, and as we begin to turn her into a real basketballer, we’re going to see a hell of a player emerge.”

Although some of her game seemed unrefined at first, mentioned Molloy, he feels that she has made significant improvements to her game, namely her defense and shooting.

Because of these changes, she is to be well-prepared for her rookie season in the US, as she is now well equipped to face top-level talent overseas.

“She was naïve defensively when she began,” said Molloy. “Where she’s going in the WNBA, defense definitely needs to be a forte, but she has improved significantly with most aspects of her defense and she is now a lot better than where she started.”

“The second major thing was when she got to the Boomers, we really broke down and restructured her shot with the long-term intention to add a legitimate three-ball to her game because that’s the demand for what a modern power-forward needs to do, which she has certainly done. Now she’s starting to find the touch in confidence, as each season goes by to make that a bigger part of her game,” added the Boomers’ gaffer.

Not only has Molloy gone on to respect Magbegor’s game, but as a person and a professional, he has formed what he thinks is a very “strong” relationship with her, says the Melbourne coach. According to the 54-year-old, if he could sign Magbegor to an “ultra-long-term deal with the Boomers” he would, as he loves to coach her.

Zitina Aokuso, the Townsville Fire’s current Forward/Center for the side, played a season with the fellow frontcourt star in Geelong during the 2019 NBL1 season, where the two rekindled an old on-court partnership from when they were back in Canberra.

Aokuso was able to express to Draft Central what it’s like to be a peer of Magbegor’s.

“I think Magbegor is a hardworking and selfless player! She’s a very humble person on and off the court,” said Aokuso. “Playing alongside Magbegor has always been a great experience, she always pushes me to be a better player. “And playing against her is always a great competitive experience.”

Coming off Magbegor’s second season with the purple and gold, the Boomers would make the semi-finals for their third consecutive season.

For Magbegor, it was a tale of two halves in her 2019/20 campaign, but feels finding good long-term rhythm through a season is one of her primary objectives in order to continue developing to her fullest extent.

“Consistency is definitely one thing that I’m aiming to improve on,” said Magbegor. “I had a better second half of the season than the first half, but I definitely aimed to keep improving on being more aggressive when I got the ball and just being more of a scoring option for my team.”

Other little things to continue working on, like for instance running the floor, helped her side to a 16-5 record, thus securing second spot in the season standings. Following this, it would cap off a season nothing short of a success for Magbegor.

After a season averaging 13 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, while maintaining a conversion rate of more than half her field goal attempts (52.1 per cent), the WNBL would bestow Magbegor with the Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year Award (two-time recipient).

While Magbegor and the Boomers would ultimately go down to the eventual champions UC Capitals, she feels that the team that is to be set up for next season, is a real chance to take the club’s quest for a championship in almost a decade (Bulleen Boomers of 2011) to the next level.

“We’re pretty lucky we’ve kept a lot of our core group together, and a lot of us have experienced that grand final loss (2017/18), so we know what it takes to get there,” said Magbegor.

“Now we’re all in that position to go that one step further and win a championship, but going forward there’s still a lot we need to work on as a team.”

In saying this, Magbegor knows that the team did a lot of things right last season, but the first step in any successful campaign, is a good preseason.

With leaders like Cayla George and Maddy Garrick being the team’s backbone come November, the Boomers are always a good chance to push for a title.

However, whether or not the Boomers can make that next step come to fruition, time will tell. But for Magbegor, the next step is her rookie season in the WNBA with Seattle, as she awaits the next steps regarding travels over to the States.

WNBL opens up Free Agency period, Jackson praises league

The Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) had announced earlier this morning that the Free Agency Period for the WNBL 2020/21 season would begin from 1pm AEST and that all eight of the WNBL’s clubs could begin contract negotiations with their Unrestricted Free Agents from this afternoon.

This season’s current Free Agency headliners are in abundance, as numerous Opals representatives are on the block to possibly re-sign with their original teams or test the market for a new location. The list comprises of superstars like Alice Kunek (Sydney Uni Flames), Tess Madgen (Townsville Fire) and Darcee Garbin (Townsville Fire) just to name a few.

We know the futures of three players from last season, as veteran superstars Nat Hurst (Adelaide Lightning), Gabe Richards (Bendigo Spirit) and Sarah Graham (Sydney Uni Flames) have all announced their retirements following the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Another group of players for WNBL fans to keep an eye on, are those who played last season in the WNBA, as per league sources, Liz Cambage (Las Vegas Aces), Bec Allen (New York Liberty), Alanna Smith (Phoenix Mercury) and Sami Whitcomb (Seattle Storm) are all also possible signees for the upcoming season, which could beef up the competition tremendously in terms of skill, ability and profile.

To make keeping track of movements of the players and who’s available on the market, the WNBL has created a list of all of the league’s current Free Agents, and a Tracker to log all the moves that said Free Agents make during the offseason.

2020-21 Free Agent List: Click Here

2020-21 Free Agency Tracker: Click Here

In the midst of the league’s announcement this morning, Basketball Australia’s Head of Women in Basketball Lauren Jackson chimed in to promote and express her pride in the WNBL and the level of play the league is responsible for. Here’s what she had to say.

“The WNBL should be considered the template for how to develop world-class athletes for both domestic and international honours while delivering a product which is envied by the rest of the world.

“We are entering an extremely exciting period for Australian women’s basketball, with the delayed Tokyo Olympics in July 2021 and Sydney set to host the 2022 Women’s Basketball World Cup. With the Opals currently ranked number two in the world and the Gems finishing with the silver medal at last year’s FIBA 19s World Cup, never has there been a greater opportunity for Australia to claim that title as the world’s best women’s basketball nation.

“In addition to the sensational Australian talent who have either re-signed or on the Free Agency List for next season, the WNBL could welcome back some of our homegrown superstars including the likes of Liz Cambage and Alanna Smith, which would be phenomenal for the WNBL.”

With the season to begin on November 20, each club now has a clearer picture on the timeline they have to work with and prepare their rosters for WNBL 2020/21.

Broadcasting details for next season are soon to be announced in “due course”, says the league.

Capitals make it back-to-back re-signings with Griffin returning

GOING back-to-back is nothing unusual for the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals, with the reigning premiers having taken out the last two Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) titles. But in the off-season, the Capitals received a huge boost with back-to-back signings after co-captain Kelsey Griffin joined her leadership counterpart, Marianna Tolo in pledging her allegiance to the club for the 2020/21 season.

A past Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner in the WNBL, Griffin is a massive signing in Head Coach Paul Goriss‘ arsenal for the team to try and win a third consecutive premiership. Whilst much re-signing is still to be done across the league, the Capitals have secured their two leaders ahead of the season, an important first step in looking ahead to WNBL21.

“The success that Kelsey has had during her time here at the UC Caps is testament to her hard work, willingness to sacrifice and her winning mentality,” Goriss said to the UC Capitals website.

“The backbone of our team is Tolo and Griffin. “They provide the on-court grunt, leadership and work ethic that drives others to be better. “They both have different styles of leadership that works for them but they are both so critical to our success.”

“Kelsey has proven her worth in the WNBL and with the UC Caps with her determination and never give up attitude alongside her basketball IQ. “She continues to drive for excellence on court, in the gym, with her diet and preparation.

“This driving force is what makes her exceptional and a winner. She continues to play a very high level, and nobody out-works her. “We are privileged to have Griffin back again on court with the UC Caps and in the Canberra community.”

Griffin only managed the 16 games last season due to injury, but still put up a remarkable double-double average of 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds for the Capitals. Along with this, Griffin managed a solid 2.9 assists and huge 2.9 steals and 1.0 blocks. Fully fit, there is little doubt Griffin could be the best player in the league, and the 188cm forward could be a catalyst in leading her side to more glory next season.

With little doubt she would re-sign with the Capitals, the Opals star was excited about the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, but the postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic has helped her recover from shoulder surgery.

“This down time has been incredible for reflection,” Griffin said. “I have had a good chance to slow down and re-prioritise what is important to me. “It’s been really good for me.”

“It’s been great to hear the WNBL will be going ahead in November, I think it is one of the best competitions in the world and therefore is the perfect preparation for anyone wanting to be in their best form heading into an Olympics.”

The WNBL season tips off in November with the full fixture yet to be released.