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SA's 'Magnificent 7' Opals


SOUTH Australia has seven players in Sandy Brondello's Opals squad for the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup as Australia chases Gold in its recent topsy-turvy run of top-two podium finishes.

Since Brondello was handed the reins of Australia's national women's team, it has finished with Silver at the previous Asia Cup, Gold at the Commonwealth Games, then Silver at last year's FIBA World Cup.

It is time again for Gold at the Asia Cup from September 22-29, though whether Brondello coaches at that tournament - she has just started the WNBA season with Phoenix Mercury and the tournament falls during playoffs time - remains to be seen.

Brondello's husband Olaf Lange coached the previous Asia Cup tournament for the Opals in 2017 but he now is committed to Russia's national program. 

The Opals will join Brondello in Phoenix from July 20-28, following their first camp at the Gold Coast last month, for Asia Cup team selection.

The FIBA Asia Cup tips off an important three-year cycle for international women’s basketball.

The Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Asia begins in November, with the Opals competing for one of four spots that gets them to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in February, 2020.

LOOK OUT! Tyro Alanna Smith has an Opals starting spot in her sights.

Then Australia would take on qualifiers from the rest of the world to determine the final 12 spots at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

If that process sounds overblown and even somewhat ridiculous, given the Asia Cup already will give FIBA which nations in the region are ranked 1 to 4, then you have read it correctly.

(It is just FIBA being FIBA. Inconsistent, erratic, stupid. Just revisit the Philippines making it to the men's World Cup after the nonsense against Australia in the qualifiers for evidence of FIBA's feeble management.)

South Australia has seven players in the current group - namely Abby Bishop, Cayla George, Tess Madgen, Lauren Mansfield, Stephanie Talbot, Nicole Seekamp and Alex Wilson.

MAC Adelaide Lightning's Lauren Nicholson also made the cut, with Dandenong Rangers guard Bec Cole - a member of Australia's Gold Medal-winning FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup team - probably the unluckiest omission.

“This is a very strong squad with a good mixture of experienced and up-and-coming younger players who we are excited to evaluate,” Brondello said.

“The camp allows another great opportunity for us to continue to work on our system and chemistry as a team.”

STEPPING OUT: Emerging Opals Gold Medallist Darcee Garbin, ready to take the next step up.

It will mark the first time WNBA players such as Liz Cambage, Rebecca Allen, Sami Whitcomb and Alanna Smith will be back in the green 'n' gold since winning Silver at last year's FIBA World Cup in Tenerife, Spain.

No less than 11 players from that unit are in this squad.

Darcee Garbin, Zitina Aokuso, Nicholson, Tahlia Tupaea, Tiana Mangakahia and Wilson are looking for their first roles in the senior Australian team.

“Any time you can have your top players available is beneficial for our growth as a team,” Brondello said.

“While the WNBA players will not be involved for the full camp as it falls around the WNBA All-Star weekend, it will be great to have some contact with them to get familiar with the Opals style.

“We are also welcoming back players who missed the Gold Coast camp due to injuries and overseas commitments.

“The FIBA Asia Cup is important, as every tournament we play is a part of us continuing to develop our game and to gain more experience playing against different styles.”

The location for the Asia Cup is still up in the air.

The Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals 2019 FIBA Asia Cup selection camp squad: Zitina Aokuso (JCU Townsville Fire), Rebecca Allen (New York Liberty, WNBA), Abby Bishop (KSC Szekszárd, Hungary), Sara Blicavs (Dandenong Jayco Rangers), Elizabeth Cambage (Las Vegas Aces, WNBA), Katie Ebzery (Perth Lynx), Darcee Garbin (JCU Townsville Fire), Cayla George (Deakin Melbourne Boomers), Tessa Lavey (Bendigo Bank Spirit), Tess Madgen (JCU Townsville Fire), Ezi Magbegor (Deakin Melbourne Boomers), Tiana Mangakahia (Syracuse Orange, USA), Lauren Mansfield (Perth Lynx), Leilani Mitchell (Free Agent), Lauren Nicholson (MAC Adelaide Lightning), Jenna O’Hea (Free Agent), Steph Talbot (Minnesota Lynx, WNBA), Nicole Seekamp (MAC Adelaide Lightning), Alanna Smith (Phoenix Mercury, WNBA), Marianna Tolo (University of Canberra Capitals), Tahlia Tupaea (Brydens Sydney Uni Flames), Sami Whitcomb (Seattle Storm, WNBA), Alex Wilson (Brydens Sydney Uni Flames).

NEW FACE: Tiana Mangakahia, 24 and a 168cm PG from Queensland is an exciting newcomer.

May 29

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