Tag: Cayla George

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: 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: 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.

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.

NBL1 South Women’s team summary: Nunawading Spectres

IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Nunawading Spectres, a side that reached the final four from sixth before running into eventual premiers, Kilsyth Cobras.

2019 in Review:

Finished: 6th (Preliminary final loss)
Wins: 12
Losses: 8
Home: 6-4
Away: 6-4

What went right:

  • Out-performed their pre-finals ranking by making the final four
  • Six players averaged double-figure points
  • Three starters played every game
  • Scoring (79.4 points per game and 47.4 per cent two-point accuracy, ranked fifth overall, as well as 33.9 per cent three-point accuracy ranked third overall)
  • Blocks (3.4 per game ranked equal fifth overall)

The Nunawading Spectres had a really strong overall side which featured six players who averaged double-figure points across the journey. Of those six, three were starters who played every game of the season, and were able to lead the scoring charge for the team. Offence was a clear strength for the Spectres, as they went on to be ranked in the top five for total points, two-point and three-point accuracy which made them hard to stop when they were on fire. As well as getting the job done offensively, they were tight defensively, denying their opposition on average 3.4 times per game with strong blocks. Despite finishing sixth with 12 wins from 20 games and just a solid win-loss record at both home and away (6-4), the Spectres stood up in the finals series, knocking out Ringwood Hawks in straight sets and advancing to a preliminary final. Additionally, the Spectres had an abundance of youth on the team and were setting up for a huge future.

What went wrong:

  • Preliminary final
  • Discipline (17.2 personal fouls per game, ranked fifth overall)
  • Turnovers (12.5 per game ranked 14th overall)

The last three quarters of the preliminary final are something the Spectres would like to have back after only trailing the eventual premiers by a point at quarter time. Unfortunately Nunawading was simply outplayed in those final three terms, scoring 38-60 to go down by 23 points at the final buzzer. Statistically throughout the season the Spectres were generally solid across the board, but could do with a few tweaks of cleaning up both their discipline and turnovers with a top five finish in both personal fouls and turnovers.

Kathleen Scheer

One of only two players above 25 years of age, Scheer guided her young side throughout the season and was a consistent performer across the board. Of those players to take to the court in 10 games or more, Scheer recorded team-highs in points (14.5), rebounds (8.0), assists (3.3) and blocks (1.4). The 190cm forward was bale to provide a reliable source of scoring when fouled and sent to the line with a 77.4 per cent efficiency rate, whilst she was okay from the field with 46.3 per cent success.

Rebecca Pizzey

One of plenty of young talents, the then 20-year-old lit up the NBL1 season by matching it with many of her more experienced opponents on her way to a strong contribution off the boards. Finishing the season with 11.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, Pizzey became a great aide teaming up with Scheer in the forward half of the court, and was more accurate as well despite a lower volume of shots, shooting at 53.8 per cent from the field, 65.2 per cent from the line and 33.3 per cent from long range.

Rachel Antoniadou

Remarkably one of the older group at just 22-years-old entering the 2019 season, Antoniadou was the third player to play in all 23 games. She was elite from the free-throw line with 40 makes from 46 attempts, and also provided her team with great value from long-range, putting down 35 threes from 99 attempts. She averaged 11.2 points. 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game in a solid season from the 173cm pocket rocket.

Young Gun:

Chelsea D’Angelo

There is a Melbourne Cup field of worthy entrants in the Young Gun category, but D’Angelo showed for Adelaide Lightning in the 2019/20 season what she had developed during the NBL1 season. Whilst she only started on 10 occasions from 19 games played, she averaged the 14.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals in a real balanced season. Capable of shooting from anywhere, she was strong from the line with a 78.8 per cent accuracy, and left little doubt that the young gun has a huge future.

Christmas list for 2021:

A playmaker to base the offence around. Looking at how the season panned out and the performance of all players, it was clear the Spectres had a really even team and did not rely upon one shooter, Aside from the players already mentioned, Maddie Garrick only played the eight games and Eliza Chilcott finished with 13 as both averaged double-figure points. With the highest points scorer being 14, adding a real dominant player to lead the offence would have been the cream on top. Perhaps someone like a Cayla George would be a perfect addition for this side.

Summary:

The Nunawading Spectres were like a jigsaw puzzle that you could see had almost all the pieces to be complete. They just lacked that final piece to take them to the next step, and if they can bounce back, bring in George and reload for 2021, then this side will be a real danger and deserve to be up in the top couple of teams in terms of premiership contention.

NBL1 South women’s team summary: Hobart Chargers

IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Hobart Chargers’ women’s side that finished 14th overall, but fell away at the end of the season.

2019 in Review:

Finished: 14th
Wins: 6
Losses: 14
Home: 3-8
Away: 3-6

What went right:

  • Promising start to the season, winning four of the first five matches
  • Defensive rebounds (28.8 per game, ranked second overall)
  • Managed continuity within the team as four players played 20 games, including three starters
  • Were competitive throughout most matches in the first half of the season

The Hobart Chargers were full of excitement starting off the NBL1 South women’s season, winning four of the first five games. The win over Nunawading Spectres would prove to be the best of the lot as the other two sides – Sandringham Sabres (twice) and Diamond Valley Eagles would finish in the bottom three during the season. The remaining two wins came later in the year over another bottom four side in fellow Tasmanian team, Launceston Tornadoes, as well as an upset five-point win over Melbourne Tigers. They managed to keep relative continuity within the team, as four players got on court in every game, and three of those were the Chargers’ starters. Furthermore, in the first half of the season, the Chargers were largely competitive with a number of tight losses that could have changed the confidence of the team. Statistically, rebounding was the Tasmanian-based side’s strength, ranking second overall for defensive rebounds with 28.8 per game.

What went wrong:

  • Won just two games between May and July, both in Tasmania and defeated just one finalist
  • Offensive rebounds (8.4 per game ranked 17th overall)
  • Ball-handling (16.6 turnovers per game, third highest overall and 3.1 steals per game, ranked 18th overall)

Unfortunately for the Chargers, there was a lot that went wrong, particularly once it hit May. After a promising start, Hobart lost 11 of the last 13 games to end the season, and there were some unfortunate blowouts including Kilsyth Cobras (50 points), Melbourne Tigers (27) and Waverley Falcons (34) in the last three weeks. It is no surprise that the Chargers would have fallen off the pace without star, Cayla George who dominated for two rounds before having to fly back to the United States and play for her WNBA club, Dallas Wings. Statistically, the Chargers also ranked low in offensive rebounds and steals, and high in turnovers which meant the side could have improved its ball-handing ability.

Top Players:

Ellie Collins

Whilst George was the star, the Australian Opals talent only managed the two games, and that meant Collins picked up the slack on the scoring end. She finished with 16.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game in what was a sensational season. She also averaged more than 50 per cent from two-point range, though her three-point (30.3) and free-throw (66.7) accuracy could be improved. She spent 34.1 minutes on court across the 20 games, which was absolutely sensational.

Tayla Roberts

Roberts also played 20 games in a consistent year, finishing just behind Collins in terms of points, with 13.8 per game. She had an identical accuracy from two-point range with 51.8 per cent from a whopping 222 attempts, whilst she achieved an 82.1 per cent accuracy from the foul line, though the two-point jumper was her specialty. Along with her point-scoring ability, Roberts averaged the second most rebounds for her side for the whole season, pulling in 6.9 per match, as well as dishing off a handy three assists and blocking a shot each game on average.

Nikki Greene

The premier rebounder in the side, Greene was a late inclusion to the team and was aimed to replace George in that role close to the post. She did her best, recording 10.8 rebounds – including 8.9 off the defensive end – to finish the season with a double-double. To achieve that, she also sank 12.8 points per game in her 16 matches, and averaged almost 30 minutes on court. Picking up 1.8 steals and a block per game, she provided the presence and added an important element to the side that was lost with George’s departure.

Young Gun:

Sharna Thompson

There were plenty of young guns on this list with a young, developing team, but Thompson was the pick of the bunch with the teenager playing in every match in 2019. Not only that, she had the second most minutes on court behind Collins, with 33.3 per game, and averaged 15.5 points. Her accuracy from two-point range could improve (41.3 per cent), but her three-point accuracy (32.3 per cent from 158 attempts) was a highlight in her game. She was the long-range deadeye and along with almost three assists and a steal a game to go with four rebounds, she gave everyone a glimpse of what she is capable of in the future.

Christmas list for 2021:

A premier player to cap off the list. One might look at the Chargers’ results and put a line through their season, but as they showed at the start, the difference between having a “Cayla George” on court and not is night and day, and realistically, they just need that extra piece of the puzzle to genuinely worry some sides. George averaged a lazy 25.5 points and 17.5 rebounds – not a typo – in her two games, and finding someone like that, who can fill that kind of void would provide the Chargers with a huge boost.

Summary:

Hobart Chargers had a disappointing year aside from the first month, but they had a lot of young, developing players coming through. No doubt they will be better for the court time and depending on how the Chargers’ list shapes up for 2021, they could be a competitive unit again with a few tweaks to the side.

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #6 – Back-to-back overtime thrillers shape finals series

WITH no basketball on for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we continue with number six, looking at back-to-back overtime games in Round 13 and 14 that ultimately shaped the WNBL finals series at the expense of the Melbourne Boomers.

#6 Heartbreak for Melbourne Boomers as Flyers and Capitals both win in overtime

They might have been five days apart, but Melbourne Boomers’ back-to-back losses in overtime against fellow top three sides, Southside Flyers and University of Canberra (UC) Capitals in January ultimately shaped the finals series. With the Boomers needing a win to remain clear of the sides, as history would tell us that a victory could have handed them the extra home final against the Capitals. They went down 2-1 in the semi-finals and lost the two on the road, while winning at home, something that might have altered the WNBL Finals Series. They finished on the same amount of wins, but the head-to-head which went in the Capitals’ favour thanks to the heart-breaking 76-75 loss at the National Convention Centre in Round 14 proved to be the ultimate dagger to the heart. That game, along with the Round 13 thriller at the State Basketball Centre (which saw the Flyers defeat the Boomers 75-73) shaped the top three and locked in the finals spots even with a couple of weeks remaining.

In the Boomers-Flyers match, Melbourne got off to a great start to lead by four points at quarter time, five at the main break and six by the final change. Unfortunately a slip up in just one quarter can cost at the elite level, and it proved the case with Southside winning the final term 20-14 to draw level and force overtime. There, the Flyers took it out with an 8-6 overtime to win 75-73, despite a double-double from Ezi Magbegor (24 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and three blocks) and a cameo from Cayla George (13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals). Instead it was four players recording 15 points or more for the Flyers, with Mercedes Russell (21 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) the top player, as Leilani Mitchell (21 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals), Jenna O’Hea (19 points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals) and Rebecca Cole (15 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals) all shared around the spoils.

Five days later it was instead the Boomers playing catch-up in a scoreline that was eerily similar to the first game. The Capitals raced out of the blocks to lead by six points – the same score as the final term in the previous match – before the Boomers roped them in over the next three terms to not only draw level, but go up by six points with 43 seconds remaining. An unsportsmanlike foul in between a couple of baskets saw the Capitals drag it back level at the final buzzer. Unfortunately for Melbourne, it was a similar story as the Caps’ reigned supreme with a 10-9 overtime to win 76-75. Kia Nurse (23 points, seven rebounds) and Marianna Tolo (22 points, nine rebounds) dominated, as Keely Froling (12 points, nine rebounds) was solid and Olivia Epoupa was the best across the entire court picking up a ridiculous eight points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six steals. For the Boomers, it was Stella Beck (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Magbegor (14 points, four rebounds) who shared the load with top scorer, Sophie Cunningham (22 points, two rebounds). As hindsight would show, this game ultimately helped the Capitals win the semi-finals series and go back-to-back in the 2019/20 WNBL season.

Top 10 WNBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:

#10 – Ezi Magbegor wins second Rookie of the Year award
#9 – Bendigo Spirit breaks road drought
#8 – Mercedes Russell stars in debut season
#7 – Southside’s flying first season
#6 – Back-to-back overtime victories shape finals series

Draft Central’s Top 10 2019/20 WNBL memorable moments: #10 – Magbegor claims second Rookie of the Year award

WITH no basketball on for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at the brighter side of the sport that brought plenty of memories throughout the 2019/20 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season. Over the next couple of weeks we will countdown Draft Central‘s Top 10 memorable moments from the season. Some are individual events, others are season views, and even a couple are decisions that panned out for the better. Today we begin with number 10, a young star who continues to shine brightly on the national stage.

#10 Ezi Magbegor claims Betty Watson Australian Youth Player of the Year for the second time

Formerly the Rookie of the Year Award, 20-year-old Ezi Magbegor took home her second rookie award after triumphing in the 2017/18 season when playing for the University of Canberra (UC) Capitals and now she has taken out the award in Melbourne Boomers’ colours. Building on from her successful year with the Geelong Supercats in the NBL1 where she averaged 18.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals an 1.6 blocks per game and made the NBL1 All-Star Five, Magbegor took her game to another level again at national level. In 23 games, Magbegor put up numbers of 13.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 blocks per game for the Boomers, shooting at greater than 50 per cent from the field, as well as 78 per cent from the free-throw line. While not a known three-point shooter, the 193cm forward-center still recorded five makes from 11 attempts. Despite her season, Magbegor just missed out on being named in the WNBL All-Star First and Second teams, mainly due to the fact the likes of fellow bigs, Mercedes Russell and Cayla George putting out tremendous years.

Magbegor was initially eyeing off representing the 2020 Olympics and joining her WNBA side, Seattle Storm for the 2020/21 season. No doubt many will hope that it is not the last time Magbegor runs out in the WNBL, but her future is bright and even with likely delays to those events – the Olympics is set to be pushed back to 2021 – no doubt the power forward-center will be a feature of the title-contending Storm team for years to come.

2019/20 WNBL season review: Melbourne Boomers

IT was a solid season for the Melbourne Boomers who made it all the way to finals, but fell at the last hurdle against a rampaging University of Canberra (UC) Capitals. While they were strong at home winning seven out of 10 games, their ability to win on the road made them a formidable outfit notching up eight wins. Despite their best efforts it was simply not enough to take the final leap into the grand final.

Ladder: 3rd
Win-loss: 15-6

Before the beginning of the season, Boomer fans were up and about. Coming off a playoff run that ended in the semi finals, Melbourne added a whole lot of talent to the roster in hope to go one better and claim that all elusive premiership. Stella Beck was coming off a noteworthy NBL1 season collecting 10 rebounds a night, making her a handy inclusion in the side. Boomer fans were similarly eager to find out if Americans, Sophie Cunningham and Rachel Brewster, were up for the challenge and ready to guide their side to victory. Both coming out of American colleges, the WNBL would certainly be quite the adjustment. Fans were also looking forward to seeing the development of Antonia Farnworth, who had some much needed experience with the Hawks in the NBL1. Although, one question that was never answered all season was how would Paige Price go in an WNBL game. The six foot tall, 16 year old ‘prodigy’ got moved up to the senior level after a great season in the NBL1 with the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence averaging 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. But the rising star only entered one game for limited minutes. With such a fresh roster, the Boomers did have to say goodbye to some key contributors such as former captain Jenna O’Hea, who took her talents to Southside, as well as Stephanie Talbot who departed for the Lightning. Richmond AFLW star Monique Conti left midway through the season to focus on her football club leaving a sizeable hole in their roster considering the impact she had off the bench. They also parted ways with Sarah Boothe and Jazmin Shelley, both in pursuit of playing overseas. 

After just coming short of playing in the grand final, the new faces added a certain level of confidence that the team could get over the line in 2020. Led by one of the most decorated and experienced coaches in WNBL history, Guy Molloy had a challenge on his hands. With O’Hea gone, the team had Madeleine Garrick to look up to as team captain. All season long, the Boomers were in good hands as the two-time WNBL champion could not be left open, draining 52 three pointers. Garrick was a major reason why the Boomers were first for steals in the league, swiping the ball off opponents 1.8 times a night, which was only tied with Cayla George. Ezi Magbegor, George and Cunningham would make up a stellar trio on offence, all averaging over 11 points a game. But Lindsay Allen would be the recognised star of this season. At only five foot eight, Allen starred averaging 14.8 points a night, the team’s most. The Boomers have plenty of depth, with more than one choice on the fast break, but this abundance of options can be costly at times with players looking to share the load rather than just take control. Renowned for their team like mentality it was sometimes their downfall, often over sharing the ball which resulted in turnovers. 

But the Boomer’s might just have their future superstar already.  At only 20-years-old, and standing at six foot four, Magbegor won Youth Player of the Year this season, for her second time. An award handed to the most outstanding young player in the league. The award has been given to the likes of four-time MVP, Lauren Jackson which if that is any indication, means big things ahead for Magbegor who is only at the beginning of her career. The scoring load was evenly shared between their stars as reflected in the league scoreboard with no player making it inside the top 10 points scorers for the season but that did not stop them from marching into finals and snatching one win off eventual premiers, the UC Capitals. Melbourne had a season for the ages and while the finals loss will linger it is fair to say that the Boomers are well and truly building towards something if they can keep that winning momentum going heading into season 2020/21. 

2019/20 WNBL: UC Capitals take down Boomers in style

COMING in with the same regular season record whilst previously splitting the series down the middle with a win each, this game was deeply consequential and fortunately it lived up to the hype. But it was the Canberra Capitals who secured the ‘W’ and the grand final hopes, eliminating the Melbourne Boomers in a memorable clash at the AIS Arena.

UC Capitals (77) defeated Melbourne Boomers (64) 

Starting the game with a three pointer from MVP Kia Nurse, the intensity ran high from the very beginning. Capital’s Kelsey Griffith and Nurse came out hot leading the charge with eight points a piece to end the first quarter. All of a sudden, Boomer fan’s fell dead silent as beloved sharp shooter Stella Beck landed awkwardly when going up for a rebound with Griffith, holding her ankle in pain. She inevitably had to be carried off the court and would not return, adding to the already surmountable pressure to come through with a victory. However this would be an important turning point in the game as the Boomers, motivated to win for Beck, matched the Capitals 22 points in the third quarter. After a tech foul was handed out to Capital’s Nurse for flopping, a Boomers late game run push was imminent. The Boomers would carry on with this momentum going on a admirable seven point run in the fourth quarter, making it a ‘must watch’ four point elimination game in favour of the Capitals. However Olivia Epoupa would have the play of the game with a gut wrenching three pointer, diminishing all hopes of a Boomers comeback. With little time left, every fan on both sides knew the Capitals were safe. 

The story of Game 2 where the Boomers left victoriously was one of their impeccable defence all game, finishing with a whopping eight blocks to the Capitals 0. However this game was another story as the Capitals came out of the gate with three blocks, and had more points than the Boomers coming off forced turnovers and from the fast-break. Nevertheless, the Capitals struggled all game to fire from long range, shooting only 14 per cent from behind the three point line. But instead of trying to fix something that was not working, the Capitals got their buckets in the paint. Capital’s coach Paul Gorris’ decision to play out the rest of the game the more traditional way, led the Capitals to get 44 of their 77 points just from the paint. Definitely a deciding factor for the Capitals to get over the line. 

The UC Capitals efforts were commendable, relying heavily on their starting core to get them on the scoreboard. In fact the Capitals bench only contributed five points for the entire game, a statistic that the Capitals coaching staff must address before the grand final. Marianna Tolo was the undisputed star of the game putting up 20 points while grabbing seven rebounds. Capital’s Maddison Rocci was slightly disappointing offensively, playing the second most minutes on the floor but only putting up four points. However the Capitals having a consistent superstar in Kelsey Griffith always comes in handy in tough games like this as she put up 19 points and nine rebounds. Olivia Epoupa was also remarkable, flirting with a triple double with 11 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. 

Boomer’s Sophie Cunningham did her best to keep the team from elimination putting up 14 points and five rebounds. Unfortunately she seemed to be the only light in a dark game for Melbourne, being the only player on the team to score double digits. While the last game was won off the backs of Lindsay Allen and Ezi Magbegor scoring 25 and 17 respectively while pulling down five and nine rebounds together. The Capital’s defence was too much to handle for the dynamic duo, as Allen only had nine points with Magbegor scoring just eight. Although, Boomer’s Cayla George did dish the rock successfully acquiring 12 assists.