Tag: tracy york

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 – 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: 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

Four first-time young guns included in Opals Squad

ANNOUNCED on Monday morning, Basketball Australia extended their list of Australian Opal players in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Asia Cup Qualifiers and Asia Cup. As the FIBA Qualification period fast approaches (November 8-16), it is still hazy whether the qualifiers for the Asia Cup will go ahead, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally headlined by the likes of Elizabeth Cambage (Las Vegas Aces), Alanna Smith (Phoenix Mercury/Adelaide Lightning), Rebecca Allen (New York Liberty) and Leilani Mitchell (Washington Mystics/Southside Flyers), Head Coach Sandy Brondello has added some younger blood to their initial 19-woman line-up.

The first of four new additions to the roster is 18-year-old newly signed Townsville Fire guard, Shyla Heal – daughter of NBL legend Shane Heal. The Heal family has tasted plenty of success on the international stage with Shane representing Australia in four different Olympic Games (1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004). For Heal however, she is now in a position to fight for that honour herself, joining the senior national team after a productive season with the Bendigo Spirit, averaging 12.1 points and over four rebounds. Heal’s progression during the campaign would see Head Coach Tracy York increase her workload tremendously. By the end of last season, Heal completed games with more than 27 minutes under her belt, becoming one of Bendigo’s top-performers at the conclusion of WNBL20.

Heal joins the Opals squad knowing a few familiar faces, lining up alongside former roommate and Bendigo teammate, Tessa Lavey. Additionally, Zitina Aokuso and Lauren Nicholson, who will suit up for Townsville next season with Heal, also made the original squad.

The second of four new additions Brondello and her staff felt obliged to place into their squad is 22-year-old and two-time WNBL champion, Maddison Rocci, of the University of Canberra Capitals.

In a recent interview with Draft Central, Rocci indicated that the goal of being selected to the national team was already on the cards but remained reserved in whether or not it would happen so soon.

“It’s obviously a dream becoming an Opal one day, whether it is any time soon or in the near future, it has always been a massive goal of mine and to represent my country at the Olympic Games,” Rocci said.

That dream became a step closer to reality for Rocci, after being selected in the final pool of players vying for a position in the finalised squad. Rocci had an outstanding performance in last season’s WNBL competition, which ultimately led to Canberra’s second title in as many years. Rocci, who for the first time in her career, earned the right to be a consistent starter for her team under the guidance of Paul Goriss, consistently played 30-plus minutes each time out. This included a 37-minute performance in Canberra’s title-clinching win over the Southside Flyers.

Individually, Rocci’s season could be categorised as a productive one, averaging nine points a game, alongside 2.3 assists and 2.3 rebounds as well. Canberra’s shooting-guard was consistent from the field, maintaining a 40 per cent shooting efficiency, which also included a three-point-shot clip of 36.1 per cent, making her one of the most reliable three-point shooters across the league.

Other Capitals’ selectees for the National Squad include their co-captains and WNBL veterans, Marianna Tolo and Kelsey Griffin, both of whom re-signed with the defending champs for next season’s three-peat bid.

The remaining two inclusions for the Opals are collegiate superstars in Victorian-born Jaz Shelley (University of Oregon) and Queensland-born Tiana Mangakahia (Syracuse University).

For Shelley going into her sophomore season with the Fighting Ducks, it was nothing short of a success with the Pac-12 side in her freshman year. She broke the program record for most three-pointers in a single game (10) and became the first freshman at Oregon to accumulate 30 points in a single-game since the 2013-14 college season. Shelley earned a Pac-12 All-Freshman Honourable Mention to conclude her opening season of collegiate play.

The 20-year-old has represented Australia on numerous occasions, participating in the 2017 U19 Women’s World Cup and the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championships, where for the first time in the nation’s history they won gold in the tournament.

Looking to the East Coast, Syracuse senior and AP All-America Honourable Mention nominee Mangakahia has earned her first National Squad selection after two terrific seasons with the Orange in New York, capped off by a record-breaking campaign in her Junior year.

Following a long list of accolades, such as being named to the All-ACC First Team, Syracuse Female Player of the Year, breaking the program record for All-Time assists (591) and becoming the fastest player in Syracuse history to reach 1,000 points, Mangakahia still has a season to play for the Orange in her Senior year. How that will take shape due to COVID-19, no one yet knows.

With many more accomplishments still yet to be talked about, it made total sense that Brondello included Mangakahia in the Opals’ preliminary squad. The 25-year-old has represented Australia in the U16, U18 and U19 age brackets in the past, but has never been selected to the Senior National Squad until now, despite attending a Team Camp in April of last year.

The full list of selected Opals can be found – HERE

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: Madgen back to Melbourne, Bendigo contract details

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

Melbourne adds a former captain to the 2021 squad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bendigo’s signings details

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

Young Guns in the WNBL: Shyla Heal

COMING off a stellar season with the Bendigo Spirit, Shyla Heal continues to drive home the message that “age is just a number”, with the 18-year-old developing into one of the Womens National Basketball League’s (WNBL) top guards and currently sits as one of the league’s biggest unsigned prospects.

As Heal’s contract with the Spirit would wind down following the conclusion of the 2019/20 season, Bendigo have at this stage tendered an extension, but it would seem that the NSW-born star is keen to test the waters of free-agency and find a more consistent role in a starting point-guard position.

In the past, Heal has openly stated her intentions to participate in next year’s WNBA draft, her development is key if she is to give herself the best chance of success but is still keen to make a championship push wherever she lands.

“Any team I play on I always want to win, I’m a competitor. Any season I go into I want to win a championship, so that’s definitely the main thing,” Heal explained. “But development is really important to me considering I’m still young and the draft is coming up. So, in summary, first, win a championship, second, get better every day.”

Following a fragmented and injury-prone second season with the Perth Lynx in 2018/19, the move to Bendigo was a suitable one, as Heal would land herself in a team that would give her a good number of minutes, thus allowing her to develop at a tremendous rate and aid her side in numerous facets of their games.

“She plays both ends of the floor really well,” Spirit Head Coach Tracy York said. “She’s a great defender and loves to defend end-line to end-line which is fantastic and not seen from a lot of guards these days, but she’s great sticking to someone like glue,” she added.

Not only does Heal’s defensive ability stand out to York, but her ability to put numbers on the scoreboard has proved beneficial on various occasions too, with York noting Heal’s scoring prowess and ability to take on defenders.

Heal’s progression throughout the season would be evident in her 21 games from last season. She averaged 9.8 points, three rebounds and 1.2 assists per game through her first 10 contests of the season. But, from Bendigo’s first matchup with the Townsville Fire all the way to the conclusion of the season, Heal’s averages increased to 14.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, including a 30-point demolition job of her old side Perth late in the season.

While Heal’s statistics would rise over her campaign, her minutes did too. Participating in 22.7 minutes per game over the first half of the season, York would continue to increase Heal’s workload, increasing her minutes per game to 27 by the end of Round 16.

Heal’s season stat line finished with 12.1 points per outing, along with 4.1 and 1.6 being the averages for her rebounding and assist categories, while shooting at a 43.8 per cent clip from the field.

As numbers would go up, the main takeaway from last season for Heal was the experience she gained each time out and going up against a high level of competition on a more consistent basis.

“Just gaining more experience against veterans like Leilani Mitchell [for example], picking up things from her game and adding it to mine,” Heal said . “Little things like that, I think were really big for me this season, especially playing behind Tessa Lavey and learning little things from her,” Heal followed up with.

However, Heal would finish the season feeling she had a lot more to offer, after the Sapphire-selectee would play a lot of the time at the shooting-guard position, as opposed to her regular point-guard spot. The Spirit finished the season equal last with the Townsville Fire, resulting in a five win and 16 loss campaign.

“This season kind of left me hungry,” Heal said. “I didn’t really play the one [point-guard] spot much, which is my usual position. So, I didn’t really get to show the league what I could actually do playing my proper position.”

Heal developed a close relationship with Lavey both on and off the floor at Bendigo, with the two being flatmates. Lavey earned herself an Opals selection to this year’s Olympic Games, with Heal lapping up all the wisdom she can from the basketball veteran.

“For me it was obviously a great friendship,” Lavey said. “I like to think she can message me at any time and ask questions and I’m always happy to help Shyla out because she’s a really good person,” she added.

Taking on a mentoring role for Heal, Lavey was able to feed off the youngster’s energy in-game, creating what was a two-way street for helping each other’s games.

“Strictly on the court, Shyla is a competitor,” included Lavey. “We fed off each other very well,” she said.

“Shyla in some games struggled a lot just to get into the game and she was really worried about that, so the things I would say to her were ‘focus on the next thing’, or if she’s not scoring I’d say ‘you can always be doing something else’,” the 27-year-old said, ultimately summarising what would blossom into a formidable partnership for the blue and yellow.

What is Heal focusing on now? For now, the 18-year-old has set various goals for herself, bearing in mind the new restrictions COVID-19 have put in place.

“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,” Heal said.

This training regiment and structure would transfer to cardio with her father [Shane], on playing fields such as ovals, for around two to two and a half hours per session, roughly six times a week, as Heal prepares to market herself to possible teams during the offseason.

But for now, in terms of decisions, all Heal can do is wait, as the rest of the league and WNBL fans await an announcement for when the Free Agency period will open.

2019/20 WNBL season team preview: Bendigo Spirit

A NEW season and a new head coach for Bendigo Spirit, who finished bottom two last season in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). With previous coach Simon Pritchard‘s contract not renewed, the Spirit opted to hire Adelaide 36ers assistant coach, Tracy York to take the club forward. The Spirit have had plenty of changes over the off-season with recruits and departures, in a bid to chance the side’s fortunes for the 2019/20 WNBL season.

Finished: 7th
Wins: 7
Losses: 14
Points: 14
Percentage: 89.15%

Last season:

It was overall a disappointing year for the Spirit, winning just 33 per cent of their games and finishing seventh overall for the WNBL season. Nadeen Payne was the highest points scorer, averaging 13.3 per game to go with her 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists, but she has since departed the club for Perth Lynx, along with Marena Whittle. Natalie Hurst has also moved on to Adelaide and will be a huge loss, while Louella Tomlinson (Southside Flyers) and Jessie Rennie (USA) have also moved on. With so much change at the club, they will be looking for the inclusions to have an early impact and shape up the season from a strong start.

New recruits:

They spared no expense in going on a huge recruiting drive to build up the Spirit team again, bringing in Tessa Lavey and Carley Ernst from Dandenong Rangers, Shyla Heal from Perth and Kelly Wilson from Canberra. After averaging just the seven points per game last season in the WNBL, but the 4.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists, Wilson had a big year for Bendigo Braves, putting together 19.3 points, 10.5 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 steals in the NBL1. Ernst (Waverley Falcons) and Lavey (Braves) were equally as influential across the season, and could be quality inclusions this season. Gabrielle Richards was a revelation last season for the Braves in the NBL1, and now has a chance to use her work off the boards (14.1 points and 9.2 rebounds) in the big league. The Spirit also picked up Kasey Burton from Melbourne, and American Marte Grays, while Alicia Froling was signed before being released after an injury mid-year.

Star player:

Rebecca Tobin. While much has been spoken about the comings and goings of the Spirit, Tobin re-signed with the club after entering free agency and will be aiming to build on her performances at the Braves in the NBL1, where she averaged 16.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.6 blocks per game in 15 matches. Last season in the NBL, Tobin averaged 10.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.7. assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks and is a steadying influence in a side where much change has occurred.