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LJ and Amoore - the long and short - head Opals squad

THERE's only two players missing from  the Australian Opals squad announced today for the Paris Olympic Games and one of them is injured so selectors can take something of a bow with this well-balanced crop of youth and experience, highlighted by one big name, Lauren Jackson. Oh, and Georgia Amoore.

Jackson's presence shows Basketball Australia is prepared to amend (bend?) its rules to allow the 42-year-old - she will be 43 in May - phenomenon to make the trip if selected in the final 12 by supplying her with care assistance for her two young sons.

The selection of Ballarat-born Virginia Tech US college sensation Amoore is so long overdue as to be almost embarrassing, such is her superiority to most of the point guards playing in Australia.

She has huge advocates for her in basketball icons such as NBL legend, NBA and Olympics star Chris Anstey and her college numbers - last year she took the Hokies to the NCAA Tournament's Final Four where they were beaten by eventual champs LSU - have her placed as a top five WNBA draft selection.

The fact Traralgon's superstar US college guard Jaz Shelley could not make a 26-player Opals squad was one oversight (and a massive one at that). Already a WNBL Rookie of the Year in 2018, she has been pacing Nebraska in the Big Ten Conference.

Her absence is the only blemish. Tokyo Olympian Sara Blicavs had serious back surgery on Monday and will be out of commission for much of the rest of 2024.

The groups for Paris are as follows and to advance, teams must finish top-two (to be safe), with a further two quarter-final berths going to the two best third-placed finishers.

Group A: China, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Spain

Group B: Australia, Canada, France, Nigeria

Group C: Belgium, Germany, Japan, USA

Australia beat Canada for Bronze at the 2022 FIBA World Cup in Sydney. France, as host nation and already ranked #7 in the world, also will be anything but a pushover. The match with Nigeria - the Liz Cambage Memorial clash - also will be no cakewalk but the Opals should advance to the quarters.

The squad is Rebecca Allen, Zitina Aokuso, Georgia Amoore, Amy Atwell, Chloe Bibby, Isobel Borlase, Keely Froling, Darcee Garbin, Cayla George, Shyla Heal, Lauren Jackson, Alice Kunek, Tess Madgen, Ezi Magbegor, Anneli Maley, Jade Melbourne, Lauren Nicholson, Stephanie Reid, Maddison Rocci, Lauren Scherf, Alex Sharp, Alanna Smith, Stephanie Talbot, Marianna Tolo, Kristy Wallace, Sami Whitcomb.

My final 12 for Paris would be Georgia Amoore, Bec Allen, Steph Talbot, Ezi Magbegor, Marianna Tolo, Kristy Wallace (provided she recaptures her best in camp), Sami Whitcomb, Darcee Garbin, Alanna Smith, Lauren Jackson, Isobel Borlase and Jade Melbourne but my team will not even be close to Sandy Brondello's outfit.

For starters, past experience has shown she's not a huge fan of Smith but loves Cayla George and Tess Madgen so there's a few quick obvious alterations to what the real final team will be.

I love Madgen too but worry about her ongoing knee issues. 

Bibby, 25 and 185cm, has been killing it in Poland and Froling's squad selection is another in the "long overdue" category.

The Opals squad will participate in training camps, tours and fixtures against other Olympic-bound countries in the lead up to the Games.

Mar 27

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.