Tag: Bendigo Spirit

WNBL Player Spotlight – Bendigo Spirit – Alicia Froling

A PLAYER born and raised in the far-north tropics of Townsville; Alicia Froling got her first taste of Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) in her hometown amongst the Fire’s roster from 2011 to 2014. She now looks to make her return to the League after five years of NCAA basketball in the States and one year off due to injury with the Bendigo Spirit.

The experience of playing at a professional level in her earlier years proved handy, as the young Australian talent shook up the American Athletic Conference for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in Dallas, Texas. She became the first player in SMU women’s basketball history to accumulate 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and receive All-American Athletic Conference Third Team honours in her senior year.

After five years of college ball (redshirted in her fourth year due to injury), Froling made her way back home and head coach of the Spirit Tracy York knew she wanted the tenacious forward to be a part of her roster for the 2019/20 season. The only restriction for this move, however, was the fact that Froling would not actually suit up for Bendigo in WNBL20, as she recovered from a season-ending wrist injury that saw her sidelined for the entire campaign. Nevertheless, Bendigo’s administration was more than eager to hold on to the 24-year-old the season after.

“Given her career in college, she’s an elite rebounder and defender,” York stated. “That’s just massive to be able to have someone with good possession play and of her calibre as well, so we definitely wanted to jump on that and get her back with us this year.”

Not only does Froling’s game appeal to York, but the 191cm-tall prospect’s laid-back attitude is also a key attribute. “She’s a very chilled person, she will sit in the background and quietly smile, she will talk if you ask her questions and she takes it all in,” York said. “Everyone has different personalities, but I think she’s very excited. It has been a long time coming for her, obviously after finishing her college career and I think she’s ready to get started, and maybe start a little bit of competition with her twin sister Keely so we will see.”

Froling herself indicated excitement in returning to the WNBL, noting the level of competition the League has on offer, as well as praising York and her staff for the squad she has pulled together during the offseason.

“I’m really excited to be playing with Bendigo this WNBL season. After missing last season due to injury, I am even more excited to finally get to play in Bendigo, and in one of the best leagues in the world,” Froling said. “Tracy has put together a great team l and I’m looking forward to getting together with the group and seeing what we can achieve,” she concluded.

Froling remains up in Townsville for now, being trained by her father Shane as well as receiving regular check-ins by way of York’s notorious Zoom sessions, as teams continue to wait for announcements regarding “return to play” procedures from the WNBL.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Bendigo Spirit – Tessa Lavey

WHILE few familiar faces will return to Bendigo’s side next season, coach Tracy York and her staff have managed to hold on to one of their cornerstone pieces from last year in Tessa Lavey and will look for another productive campaign from the national-level guard. Spending over four seasons away from the Spirit serving time with both the Perth Lynx and the Dandenong Rangers, Lavey made her return to her former club for the 2019/20 season and displayed all the extra experience she gained while away.

After receiving a consistent starting role in the Spirit’s rotation, Lavey produced exceptional numbers in all 21 contests of last season. She maintained over 10 points per game in addition to 3.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists on a nightly basis. Her manner of shooting stabilised at a frequently high level, falling just under a 40 per cent conversion rate from the field (39.6) and three-point range (38.4).

Stated often as a crowd-favourite of the club, the re-signing was a big move for the club. “It was exciting for me and Mark [Alabakov],” York said. “She’s clearly got a lot of talent and she’s a really good person, and that is really key. She’s really coachable, she doesn’t bring any drama to the group, she’s very funny and everybody just loves Tessa,” York added.

After her successes in WNBL20, the national Opals side saw fit to nominate the 27-year-old to the 23-player shortlist for next year’s Olympic squad as well as Asia Cup Qualifiers. Being a frontrunner to make the final cut amongst the guards available, York indicates Lavey still needs to be slightly more of a producer and a facilitator for the side on the offensive end, a player similar in some respects to the likes of Leilani Mitchell suggested the Spirit’s coach.

“At that starting guard spot, she does need to be more of a scorer and a distributor, which is what her feedback from the Opals has been to her in taking on that point-guard role,” York said.

“In that last game of last season against Townsville she had 21 points and watching that game back again it was just her normal style of basketball. She got out on the break, she hit a couple open threes, she got a couple of drives and that’s the thing that I said to her which is ‘that is what we’re looking for’ and I’m sure that kind of thing is what the Opals are looking for as well.”

During her announcement, Lavey voiced her excitement for re-signing for another year in Bendigo, focusing on her love of the fans and what the club has to offer. “I’m really excited to announce that I’m staying in Bendigo for WNBL21. The program has some exciting things coming its way, I can’t wait to be involved,” Lavey said.

“I’m also super keen to get to work and push for Tokyo and I believe Bendigo can really give me all the opportunity to get there. I am looking forward to seeing everyone at the games when it’s safe to do so. Never underestimate our fans support at home,” she added.

Lavey will be one of the must-see players for next season’s WNBL campaign, as many will be eager to see what the national-level guard is capable of in what will surely be another impressive year.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Bendigo Spirit – Amelia Todhunter

TO kick off Bendigo’s player spotlight series, Draft Central looks at the Spirit’s newest addition to their leadership group in 32-year-old and Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Champion Amelia Todhunter. The Albury-born country superstar will once again head to the bush, announcing in mid-July that she would be joining Tracy York’s side for WNBL21.

Todhunter, who has had her fair share of WNBL action throughout her productive career, will be moving to her fourth club dating back to 2007 where she initiated her career at the Dandenong Rangers for three seasons. Following the 2009/10 campaign, Todhunter made the move to Dandenong’s crosstown rivals, the Bulleen Boomers (now Melbourne), where she found her only taste of championship glory. While Todhunter played limited minutes in both the semi-final against the Canberra Capitals and the grand final rematch, the then-youngster provided a positive presence coming off the bench, helping the franchise earn their first ever title.

After two seasons with the short-lived West Coast Waves franchise in Perth (later became the Perth Lynx), Todhunter returned back to Victoria to serve sizeable stints with both the newly formed Melbourne Boomers and again the Rangers. The move to the Spirit came about as a result of a couple of factors according to head coach York, with the first being the delayed Free Agency period, and the second being the restriction of imports for next season.

“Her name came up and I spoke to her a few times as well as a couple of other people,” York said in an interview with Draft Central. “Her experience, leadership, maturity and the fact that she’s a great defender, which ticks a big box for me, and from then on it was a no-brainer after we started talking.”

Todhunter has indicated to York that she understands if she is not given a starting role on a consistent basis, despite having over 200 WNBL games to her name. But the veteran guard still believes she has a lot to learn under her new coach, she told the Bendigo Advertiser.

“I am so excited to be playing for the Spirit,” Todhunter said. “I’ve known of Tracy around the league both WNBL and NBL, so I am thrilled to learn and grow even more from Tracy’s knowledge and experience.

“This year I want to be 100 per cent true to who I am as a player and person. I want to combine my basketball skills and experiences with my knowledge in well-being to help grow each player and create strong chemistry within the team.

“On court, I am excited to get out there and play my role. I want to positively impact the team by bringing my relentless defence, hard-work, and dedication to the game while maintaining my fun, energetic nature,” Todhunter finalised.

York further stated the importance of Todhunter’s level of experience, highlighting she was the perfect fit into the team’s system and is excited to see what she can bring to the table and how she can ease developing players into the national limelight. “Her mindset is not about just herself,” York said. “It’s about how she can make others get better and help young players develop in the long run.”

Todhunter will bestow her cache of knowledge upon an extensive list of young prospects next season. These include the likes of a recovered Alicia Froling, second year Bendigo players Cassidy McLean and Demi Skinner, former Melbourne Boomer Paige Price, as well as Development Players Piper Dunlop and Georgia Pineau.

WNBL Player Spotlight – Canberra Capitals – Keely Froling

FOR whoever Paul Goriss decides to replace Kia Nurse’s role in the starting five rotation, it will be a monumental ask to say the least. As it stands, Keely Froling’s increased presence in the frontcourt seems to be a likely option for the 24-year-old, after re-signing for one more season with the two-time championship side.

The chance to go for the team’s third title in as many seasons was one of the primary factors for Froling, while completing the later stages of her physiotherapy degree in the nation’s capital was another. Nevertheless, Froling proved in WNBL20 that she is ready for a bigger role in the team, following the untimely absence of captain Kelsey Griffin due to injury.

After seeing a dramatic increase in court time against the Bendigo Spirit in mid-December, a 30-point, 10-rebound and three assist showing instilled confidence in Goriss, reassuring the head coach he had made the right decision during the homestretch of last season with his captain absent.

“Keely has a similar DNA to Kelsey in that she’s a warrior and she’s prepared to play whatever role she needs to play,” Goriss said to Draft Central. “The game that stood out to me is when she got the broken nose and came back on to the court to make the game-winning shot. That shows the toughness of her and the all-around character Keely has. No matter what, she wants to win, she wants to compete, she wants to get better and she will do anything to do that,” Goriss explained. Froling would summarise an excellent season overall, displaying 12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and close to one and a half assists per contest over 18 regular season games.

While Froling makes the most of her offseason back at home in Townsville, Goriss is working away to enhance the full effect of his frontcourt as he feels that signings like Froling and new-comer Mikaela Ruef will drastically improve the side’s depth down low and around the ring.

“Keely can swing between the three and the four which is good if we want to play tall or small ball,” Goriss said. “We could have done something similar last year if Ruef was available, but it has served us well in the prior two seasons for our sides. I do think we have one of the better frontcourts in the league with our depth and our size and I also love our flexibility, where each player provides something a little bit different as well,” Goriss added.

The environment of the Canberra Capitals is frequently referenced by all its players, whether past or present, that the club breeds a competitive nature in its squad. This rings true for Froling personally, as she believes that returning to the squad is what is best in her Olympic preparations for 3×3 basketball. “Playing and training every day in an environment that is really high performance that we are lucky enough to have at the Caps, is going to help immensely. Just being able to get back on the court and play at a high level is what is going to help the most,”  Froling said in an announcement by the club.

WNBL Player Spotlight: Townsville Fire – Nadeen Payne

FILLING Townsville’s power forward position is someone that has probably spent the most time out of all her teammates in the tropical Queensland city. Nadeen Payne, who was born in Townsville, will return to the Fire for the first time since the 2011/12 season after almost nine years away from the Sunshine State.

Following her initial two seasons with the Fire, Payne moved to South Australia to become a member of the Adelaide Lightning. After two seasons with the Lightning, the 27-year-old headed back to Queensland to become a part of the South East Queensland Stars’ inaugural season. It was after the Stars organisation went defunct after one season that Payne would then call Bendigo home for the next three years, plying her trade with the Spirit and their NBL1 affiliate, the Braves, during the off-seasons before heading out west in 2019.

After a solid season with the Perth Lynx during the WNBL20 season averaging 10.2 points per game alongside an average of 4.6 in the category of rebounds, Payne proved herself a severe threat to opposition sides. Notable performances last season included a 22-point and six-rebound performance against Adelaide, as well as a 10-point and 10-rebound double-double against the eventual champions, University of Canberra Capitals.

It was finally announced by the Fire on June 19, that the Townsville product was heading back home and Payne expressed her elation instantly, “I am really excited to be coming home, I can’t wait to play for Shannon [Seebohm], I have really enjoyed my conversations with him and the team he is putting together sounds great, I think we will surprise a lot of people when the season starts,” Payne said.

“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.”

While Head Coach Shannon Seebohm realises that Payne possesses a unique skillset as a power forward that can shoot the ball, he finds that her ball-handling is at an elite level for players at her position.

“The thing that I knew of, but has still surprised me since I’ve been here, is her ability to put the ball on the floor as well,” Seebohm mentioned. “She has really good balance and she’s been working really hard on her finishing and her strength around the rim, as well as playing with a bit more force.”

“I feel like her skillset is going to be really suited to what we want to be able to do, and she’s going to help make other players better as well,” Seebohm summarised.

WNBL Player Spotlight: Townsville Fire – Shyla Heal

FOR Townsville Fire head coach Shannon Seebohm, the challenge of acquiring new faces for next season’s squad would need to start somewhere, and that somewhere was country Victoria.

Rising through the ranks of Tracy York’s side down in Bendigo, Shyla Heal was the immediate selection for Seebohm to initiate his team’s formation, and it was more than just her natural ability on the court that peaked the gaffer’s interest.

“The first thing that stands out with Shyla is actually off the court and how badly she wants to be a pro, how badly she wants to have success at the highest level and her unbelievable work ethic,” Seebohm said. “She has a ton of potential at the point guard position in the WNBL, but also potentially the WNBA and hopefully playing for the Opals for quite a long time.”

Regarding the process in acquiring Heal, Seebohm sees a perfect fit in how Heal would slide perfectly into his side’s offensive tactics.

“In terms of on the court and what we looked at with recruiting her, I want to put my point guards into a lot of ball-screen situations and I think Shyla’s skillset being able to create her own shot in a variety of different ways and then create for her teammates is something that stood out to me,” Seebohm said.

“I really hope that we are gonna be able to continue to unlock her potential in the WNBL and she’s gonna have a really big season this year.”

For Heal, after a quiet season in Perth for the 2018/19 season, she came to the forefront of the Spirit’s offence in the latter half of the WNBL20 campaign. She would also end the 21st game of the competition averaging highly respectable numbers, maintaining 12.1 points per contest, as well as over four rebounds and 1.6 assists each time out on the hardwood. She also strung together consistent performances from the field, converting on many of her attempts, averaging a stellar 43.8 per cent clip as a whole, 37.8 per cent from three-point range and 84.9 per cent from the free-throw line.

For Heal though, she has been working extremely hard to prepare her body for a season that will be a step-up in terms of intensity and participation. In an interview with Draft Central back in late-May, Heal outlined what she was primarily focusing on during the offseason.

“At the start of corona, I said I’m going to focus on building heaps of muscle and getting stronger through stair running, weights in my garage and all that stuff,” said Heal.

With Heal training with Australian basketball legend and father Shane, the structure and regimen of their training sessions recently shifted primarily to Shyla’s cardio at the local sports fields. But now that players can start to train on basketball courts in NSW, the Heal duo has been hitting the court a lot more lately, as preseason preparations start to ramp up.

WNBL Free Agency Update: Lynx and Spirit

TO round out Draft Central’s WNBL Free Agency updates, we look at the team out west and the team out back, as the Perth Lynx and the Bendigo Spirit prepare for what will hopefully be bounce back seasons, after each of the sides missed out on postseason action in WNBL20.

PERTH LYNX

The Perth-based side were looking to make a big splash into the Free Agency pond from the get-go. To do this, newly signed Head Coach Ryan Petrik pursued the signing of WNBA Seattle Storm star, Sami Whitcomb. Whitcomb, who committed to three seasons with the Lynx between 2015 and 2018, will make her return to the club for next season under her new coach.

Following Whitcomb’s announcement, Petrik started to compile his core two days later. The re-acquisition of current Australian Opal Katie Ebzery would be the club’s next move, after the 30-year-old would finish sixth amongst league leaders in scoring (16.3 points per game) and 10th in the category of assists (4.2 per game).

Perth-native Darcee Garbin and familiar face, Alex Ciabattoni would be subequent moves for the Lynx. Garbin would be one of the two participants in a two-way trade between the Lynx and the Townsville Fire, as Nadeen Payne would head east to north Queensland. The latter of the two new additions, Ciabattoni has in the past donned the Red, Grey and Black, after a successful 2015/16 season where she would be rewarded with the Rookie of the Year accolade, which was followed by two more seasons before heading overseas to play in Italy.

The pattern of new signings for the side became more consistent, once Perth consolidated their essential picks. The weekly signings kicked off with defensive anchor in Maddie Allen, who averaged 1.8 blocks per contest last season (second only to Adelaide’s import Brianna Turner). A week later, Petrik would announce the addition of one of the League’s most promising young prospects in Nas’eya Parker-Williams, hoping to increase her minutes three-fold compared to her past campaigns.

Two out of Perth’s final three roster alterations came by way of returning college hoopers. The first of which being University of Minnesota alum, Jessie Edwards, who would lead the Gophers in blocks each season during her time in the States. Concluding her three seasons in Minneapolis, Edwards would finish sixth all-time in blocks and ninth all-time in offensive rebounds. The second college recruit of the signing period came by way of Wake Forest’s Alex Sharp, who completed a spectacular career with the Deacons accumulating over 1000 points and 900 rebounds during her time in North Carolina.

The most recent piece of the puzzle was the re-signing of 19-year-old guard Tayah Burrows, who has decided to spend another season in the WNBL before heading off to the States to commence her college career, which will be key to helping Coach Petrik get his new team to a winning record.

Contracted:

Jewel Williams

Re-signed:

Katie Ebzery
Maddie Allen
Nas’eya Parker-Williams
Tayah Burrows

Signed:

Sami Whitcomb
Darcee Garbin
Alex Ciabattoni
Jessie Edwards
Alex Sharp

 

BENDIGO SPIRIT

Head Coach Tracy York has once again had her hands full this offseason, as the combination of renewing her assistant coach’s contract and not having access to imports this season, has resulted in a major facelift for the Bendigo squad heading into the WNBL21 season.

The staff from Bendigo would kick off the Free Agency period, as the team obtained the first signature of the season, with the re-signing of Demi Skinner being the first move made across all eight sides in the competition. After Skinner, would be another re-signing, as Opal nominee Tessa Lavey committed to the side for a second straight season.

With York securing the majority of her core unit, herself and assistant coach Mark Alabakov could start to shop around for fresh new talent to join their ranks and would look to an individual who is keen to make a return to the WNBL. Cassidy McLean’s first season with the Spirit in the 2018/19 season would see her average 3.1 points, 1.8 rebounds and an assist in her debut campaign, however, after sustaining a knee injury that would see her miss the 2019/20 season, she is raring to go for a more successful 2020/21 fixture. Next up would be Indiana University commit and former Melbourne Boomers development player, Paige Price. The daughter of legend Bulleen Boomer, Simone Gloster, Price looks to gain more professional experience before starting her career in the Hoosiers’ program overseas.

Other youngsters to join the fray would be long-time member of the Bendigo Braves’ NBL1 squad Piper Dunlop (Development Player), former Fordham University sharpshooter and New Zealand Tall-Fern Mary Goulding, as well as 23-year-old Shelby Britten.

York’s final two acquisitions of the offseason included Alicia Froling (twin sister of Canberra Capitals’ forward Keely Froling) as well as long-time competition veteran, Amelia Todhunter, who hopes to bestow her invaluable experience to younger players during the later stages of her championship-winning career. Meanwhile, Carley Ernst (Bendigo’s only contracted player prior to the signing period) hopes to pull together this new team and get the Spirit off the bottom of the WNBL standings after a lacklustre 2020 ending.

Contracted:

Carley Ernst

Re-signed:

Demi Skinner
Tessa Lavey

Signed:

Cassidy McLean
Paige Price
Piper Dunlop
Mary Goulding
Shelby Britten
Amelia Todhunter
Alicia Froling

Picture: Seattle Times

Young Guns in the WNBL – Paige Price

IN what has been a busy few weeks in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) Free Agency period, the Bendigo Spirit have made their intentions known for next season with numerous signings over the last couple of months.

According to Spirit General Manager Ben Harvey back in late-June, Bendigo will be focused on adhering to their “development philosophy” for next season, as the franchise looks to gather positive results in the WNBL21 campaign. With this in mind, the recruitment of 17-year-old Paige Price seemed the perfect fit as she prepares for her second season in the WNBL and stint with the University of Indiana next year.

For Price, her introduction to the game originated from her family and their involvement in basketball from the day she was born. Simone, Price’s mother, was no stranger to the Australian basketball scene having played 135 games in the WNBL with the Bulleen Boomers while her father’s (Adam) coaching and love for the game provided a good basis and teaching point for Price.

But, perhaps the biggest influence for Price’s initial attraction to the game of basketball, was her older brother, Aden.

“My whole family was pretty much into basketball when I was growing up,” Price said. “But, with Aden playing at a high level with Victorian state teams, I always went and watched his games. And me sitting courtside with dad, he always made me watch the leaders of that team to make sure I knew what I was doing when I was growing up and playing. But yeah, he definitely influenced me, because we were always outside practicing and he was always getting me better.”

While playing for fun in her younger years was good for Price, she soon realised her hunger to succeed and elevate her game would arrive before her eventually. That stage came at the age of 12, as Price realised she could start to create options in various situations of a game and project the qualities of a team-leader.

After hard work and serious dedication to her craft, it was a few years later that Price started to make noticeable headway in Australia’s junior pathways. This came after being selected as the captain of Vic Country’s U16 State Championships side and then leading the team to a silver medal in 2018. She once again lead the Vic Country side in Under 18’s, establishing herself as one of the top-prospects for her age outside Melbourne’s metropolitan area.

From there and even before, the accolades started to accumulate, winning numerous Victorian Junior Basketball Association and state titles with clubs like the Melbourne Tigers, Knox Raiders, the Dandenong Rangers (in which she became a Development Prospect for the WNBL side as a 14-year-old) and the Southern Peninsula Sharks.

The next step for Price, however, came a year later when the youngster’s career became international. She was selected to lead the Australian Under 15’s side at the FIBA Oceania Championships in Papua New Guinea, under the guidance of Bendigo Head Coach, Tracy York, who recites nothing but positives for her former captain.

“Paige can shoot the three, but she can also get to the rim if she needs to,” York said. “She reads the play well, she’s very coachable and she’s an athletic type of player, which definitely bodes well for her.”

Described by York as a really good relationship between captain and coach, the two helped lead the side to a convincing 60-point demolition job of New Zealand in the Gold Medal match. This rounded out a successful international campaign, as Price was named in the tournament’s All-Star Five.

“I think as you would like to do with all your players, but it doesn’t always happen, is you want to gel well together with them,” York said. “But with Paige, she’s coachable, she likes seeking advice, asking what she can work on and she’s very mature for her age, so she was able to lead that Under 15 group very well,” she continued.

“She likes the way I coach, and I like the way she plays and then everything else becomes quite easy along the way, whether you’ve got a hard game or an easy game or whatever it is,” York concluded.

For Price, finding out that she was representing her country was something that she remembers very vividly, as it is something she had been pursuing since she was very young. “It was an incredible feeling representing Australia,” Price reminisced. “Because it makes you feel like you’ve done something special and you actually have a chance to make an impact in the basketball world.”

Having achieved the feat of representing her country, it was time to look to bigger and better things from an individual perspective, as Price started advertising herself to numerous Division One NCAA institutions in Year 10, the earliest one can start applying here in Australia. But it was not until 2019 that the offers started to come in for the teenager, prompting Price and her father to fly to the U.S for unofficial visits on the Pacific Coast and in the Deep South.

Price visited Arizona State, Oklahoma, UCLA among others (she also visited Duke prior to the trip as a part of a NPP side that competed in a tournament earlier). But, it was the collective-goal mindset of another college in the Mid-West that grabbed the Melburnian’s attention.

Price considers herself a very big person on “family culture” says the soon-to-be Bloomington-resident, as opposed to some of the individuality of some other schools, which is why she was drawn to what the University of Indiana had to offer from a team-based perspective.

The Hoosiers, a Big 10 member of the NCAA Division I Collegiate Basketball system, exudes historical importance in the history of basketball within the United States, with citations of Women’s Basketball going as far back as 1891 in what was known as the “Maxwell Era”. This making the fact that Price will be the first ever Australian to enrol with the institution even more impressive.

While the women’s team is yet to win the National Championship, they have competed in the ‘Big Dance’ six times, getting as far as the Second Round in the tournament for the third time in the program’s history just last year. Furthermore, Indiana is currently seeded at Number 20 in the AP rankings nationwide.

An additional factor to Price’s commitment, was the blossoming relationship that she and Head Coach Teri Moren have started to grow the few times they have communicated.

“We were definitely friendly straight away and I could talk to her about anything,” Price said. “We had a connection that just clicked instantly, as well as with Assistant Coach Glenn Box. They definitely made me feel comfortable and they were super welcoming and friendly, and they had a warm personality which is exactly what I was looking for.”

The Zoom call with the rest of the team was the deciding factor for Price, as later in the same day with her parents beside her, she made the decision that she would be wearing Red and White come the Fall semester next year in Bloomington.

Looking back to the present, Price prepares for her upcoming season with Bendigo, hot off the heels of her debut season in the WNBL as a Development Player with the Melbourne Boomers. This came after a year with the Australian Institute of Sport’s Centre of Excellence program in the NBL1 competition as a Scholarship Holder.

Provided she only made two on-court appearances during the WNBL20 season, the six-foot-two prospect considers that initial season in the WNBL essential in preparing for the style of play she can expect overseas and in her development as a professional too.

“Just training with those professional bodies and the experience of those players, it definitely helped my game a lot,” Price said. “It also gave me an insight into the level that I have to be at in order to make an impact in a top-league like that.”

The women in Guy Molloy‘s squad last season always held each other accountable, and that was something Price was a big proponent of. But in terms of individuals that had a profound effect on her, Price appreciated the leadership and motivation that Boomers’ captains Cayla George and Maddie Garrick brought to the table. As well as the camaraderie that grew between fellow rising stars like Chelsea D’Angelo, Penina Davidson and Monique Conti.

Now, Price looks ahead to the WNBL21 season in Bendigo, once again under the guise of coach York. But this time the case has been made by the gaffer, now going into her second season of her contract, that minutes are not guaranteed for most of the squad, and being one of the younger inclusions in the side, this includes Price.

“It will definitely be a ‘work for what you get’ scenario for all of us, but I’ll definitely be taking the challenge on,” Price stated. “I love working hard and especially going against these bigger bodies I’m definitely going to enjoy it as well.”

But like so many others who strive to compete at the top level, a lot of sacrifice and time goes into this mission, especially by those around you. The same goes for Price and her family, as she remains grateful for everything her family has done to help her develop into the player she is today.

“I definitely could not be where I am today without them,” Price said. “For example, I used to train with my sister Ebony when I was younger. So, just things like that and having that kind of support I’m lucky to have, as well as my parents always driving me to be the best that I can be.”

Price is currently finishing her Year 12 studies and will join the Spirit later in the year, once COVID-19 restrictions ease.

To read the Hoosiers’ statement following Paige Price’s commitment – Read Here

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.