Tag: maddison garrick

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 Women’s Round 14 review: Bendigo Braves reclaim top spot

WITH two wins separating seventh from eighth in the National Basketball League (NBL)1, very few spots remain for a finals opportunity with four teams still contesting for eighth. The Bendigo Braves and Geelong Supercats have cemented their positions in the top-two, earning double chances with the Ringwood Hawks and Kilsyth Cobras still able to drop out of the top-four in the final round.

The Bendigo Braves opened the round continuing their monstrous win-streak, adding their tenth consecutive win (94-49) against the Albury Wodonga Bandits. The loss puts Albury in tough spot for next week, finishing the round in 9th position below Waverley Falcons who boast six consecutive wins. Tessa Lavey led scoring for the Braves, amassing 22 points, five rebounds and three assists in the win, while Rebecca Tobin (16 points, 13 rebounds and five assists) and Kelly Wilson (13 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists) both snared double-doubles. For the Bandits, Emilee Harmon was the only player to record double-digits, with 12 points, eight rebounds and two assists, alongside Jessie Edwards with nine points and four rebounds. Following their win at home, the Braves quickly found their 11th consecutive win and top spot after beating the Knox Raiders (79-96) on the road. Bendigo’s impressive second term (12-28) decisively took Knox out of the game, despite keeping close for the remaining terms. Again, Tobin was immense in the victory, snaring a huge double-double with 21 points and 22 rebounds, alongside teammates, Wilson (17 points, six rebounds and 10 assists) and Gabrielle Richards (13 points and 11 rebounds), who also finished with double-doubles. For the Raiders, Rebecca Ott led scoring with 19 points, three rebounds and six assists, with Briahna Whatman also impressing with 15 points and seven assists.

In the game that followed, the Raiders fell again to another impressive win streak, making six consecutive wins for the Waverley Falcons at Waverley Basketball Centre. The loss drops the Raiders to fifth, putting their second chance opportunity on the line as finals approach, while the Falcons hold the last spot in eighth. Carley Ernst (24 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Tegan Cunningham (22 points, seven rebounds and two assists) led scoring for the Falcons, with Kelly Bowen (12 points, 12 rebounds and five assists) finding a double-double for the game. Marena Whittle led scoring for the Raiders with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists, with Maddison Wild (14 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Ott (13 points, eight rebounds and five assists) finishing similarly impressive. In the game prior, the Waverley Falcons defeated the Ballarat Rush (76-83) on the road, ending Ballarat’s finals chances. Ernst earned a double-double, amassing 23 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the win, while Cunningham (17 points and eight rebounds) and Renae Mokrzycki (20 points, six rebounds and two assists) both impressed at the board. For the Rush, Chanise Jenkins came close to a triple-double, recording 33 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists from 40 minutes in the loss. Hsi-Le Bao also cracked double figures with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists.

The Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence put on their most impressive round yet, opening up with a tight 90-86 win on the road against the Eltham Wildcats. The Wildcats opened the half better than Basketball Australia, taking a 52-41 lead into the main break. Though it wasn’t enough, with the visitors dropping Eltham to a 34-point half to close out the game, snaring an impressive four-point victory. Kelsey Rees (16 points and seven rebounds) and Sara-Rose Smith (16 points, six rebounds and two assists) led for Basketball Australia, while Jade Melbourne (14 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Kobe King-Hawea (14 points, six rebounds and four assists) followed close. For Eltham, Chelsie Schweers (22 points and five rebounds), Alice Kunek (18 points, four rebounds, three assists), Chelsea Brook (16 points, nine rebounds and three assists) all impressed in the loss. In Basketball Australia’s second outing, they beat the Hobart Huskies (67-73) for consecutive victories. Melbourne impressed again with 18 points and three assists, with Olivia Pollerd (12 points, three rebounds and two assists) putting together a strong game from 17 minutes. For the Huskies, Ellie Collins led with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Nikki Greene followed close with a double-double on 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Basketball Australia managed to double their total wins from three to six this round, beating the Southern Sabres (79-80) for their third consecutive win in overtime. With both sides out of contention, it simply becomes a battle to stay off the bottom. Melbourne was impressive again, recording a double-double with 29 points and 14 rebounds, while Smith stood up to record her first double-double of the round with 18 points and 10 rebounds. For the Sabres, Rachel Jarry also picked up a double-double 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Amy O’neill managed 25 points with five rebounds in loss.

The Ringwood Hawks continue to make a great case for a top-four finish, currently sitting as one of two teams in the top-six not coming off a loss. Their 89-68 win over the Launceston Tornadoes takes them to third place – one win ahead of fourth. Antonia Farnsworth came close to a triple-double for the Hawks with 24 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, while Megan Mullings followed close with 17 points, four rebounds and four assists. For Launceston, Stella Beck (21 points and 11 rebounds), Stephanie Gardner (14 points, eight rebounds and four assists) and Sarah O’neill (12 points, three rebounds and three assists) all held up well in the loss. In Launceston’s second outing, they managed a solid win over the Diamond Valley Eagles to stay off the bottom of the table. Gardner (24 points, six rebounds and six assists) and O’neill (19 points, nine rebounds and four assists) impressed again, with Brooke Brown (19 points and 11 rebounds) stepping up to record a double-double in the win. For Diamond Valley, Hope Terdich stood up to record 32 points and 14 rebounds, with Shelby Cheslek (21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists) also hitting a double-double and Alex Wilson (17 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists) coming up big with a triple-double in the loss.

In a battle for top-four, the Nunawading Spectres fall to the Kilsyth Cobras (72-80) in a tight game at home. The loss makes it difficult for the Spectres to break into top-four territory in sixth with seventh threatening, while the win for the Cobras has them contesting in fourth. Lauren Nicholson had a big night for the Cobras, recording 32 points, seven rebounds and four assists, with Kara Tessari (11 points, two rebounds and three assists) and Sarah Boothe (10 points, seven rebounds and two assists) also impressing on the night. For the Spectres, Maddie Garrick led scoring with 25 points, while Kathleen Scheer (11 points and seven rebounds), Rebecca Pizzey (11 points and six rebounds) and Rachel Brewster (11 points and three rebounds) combined well in the loss.

In Kilsyth’s second outing they faced a 71-78 loss at the hands of the Frankston Blues. The Blues keep their finals hope alive with the win on the road, putting the Cobras’ second chance in jeopardy for next week. Shereesha Richards put on a big performance with 30 points and 19 rebounds and Taylor Lee came close to triple-double territory with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. For the Cobras, Nicholson (25 points, nine rebounds and five assists), Alison Downie (14 points and eight rebounds) and Klara Wischer (12 points, 11 rebounds and three assists) were strong in the loss.

The Dandenong Rangers sit two wins ahead of eighth in seventh after collecting a tight win over the Albury Wodonga Bandits. This loss, and the one to the Braves, puts Albury’s finals hopes in jeopardy – nursing three consecutive losses at a pivotal moment in the season. Rebecca Cole led scoring for the Rangers, racking up 37 points, three rebounds and seven assists alongside teammate Colleen Planeta who had 21 points with six rebounds. For the Bandits, Edwards impressed once again with 31 points, while Hanna Zavecz followed close with 24 points.

In the final game for the round, the Melbourne Tigers faced off against the Hobart Huskies where they kept their final hopes just in reach with 102-75 win. Monique Conti recorded 36 points, six rebounds and 12 assists on her way to a double-double. Teammates, Briana Gray (25 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Molly Mathews (19 points, seven rebounds and two assists) were similarly impressive. For Hobart, Sharna Thompson notched up 29 points from 33 minutes, while Tayla Roberts, Nikki Greene and Tayla Stevenson all finished with eight points.

Round 14 results:

Bendigo Braves (94) defeated Albury Wodonga Bandits (49)
Eltham Wildcats (86) defeated by Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (90)
Hobart Huskies (67) defeated by Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (73)
Nunawading Spectres (72) defeated by Kilsyth Cobras (80)
Albury Wodonga Bandits (87) defeated by Dandenong Rangers (90)
Ballarat Rush (76) defeated by Waverley Falcons (83)
Knox Raiders (79) defeated by Bendigo Braves (96)
Ringwood Hawks (89) defeated Launceston Tornadoes (68)
Diamond Valley Eagles (85) defeated by Launceston Tornadoes (93)
Kilsyth Cobras (71) defeated by Frankston Blues (78)
Southern Sabres (79) defeated by Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (80)
Waverley Falcons (83) defeated Knox Raiders (65)
Melbourne Tigers (102) defeated Hobart Huskies (75)