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Westbeld debuts, Hodges returns

NEW Adelaide Lightning import Kathryn Westbeld has big shoes to fill, but coming off an NCAA championship and another in Puerto Rico, she’s confident it’s “three times is the charm” in the WNBL where she debuts tomorrow against Southside.

And while Westbeld will have her first run in Lightning colours - albeit not the team's regular colours - four-time Olympian Laura Hodges will return for the first time since 2017.

Westbeld, 23 and a 188cm "big", replaces Crystal Langhorne who had surgery last month in the US for her knee injury and will not return in Season 2019-20.

A teammate of current Lightning import Brianna Turner at University of Notre Dame, Westbeld was instrumental in the Fighting Irish's 2018 NCAA championship success, before this year claiming her second championship crown with Atenienses De Manati in Puerto Rico.

NOTHING LIKE A DAME: Notre Dame teammates Brianna Turner and Kathryn Westbeld, lethal.

Arriving on gameday last Friday, Westbeld sat through the 57-71 home loss to Melbourne Boomers but will make her first on-court appearance against the league leading Flyers.

“I’m really excited to be here,” she said.

“I’d heard great things about this league, that there were a lot of WNBA players in it and that it is very tough.”

Westbeld had a training contract with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks before playing in Puerto Rico.

She replaces Langhorne, who opened the season with an impressive 20-point, 13-rebound double-double in Adelaide's 89-79 win over Sydney Uni Flames before pulling up sore, having aggravated a pre-existing knee injury which required surgery.

“I know I’ll be trying to fill some pretty big shoes,” Westbeld said.

“But I think I will be a smooth fit for Adelaide. The team and Bri (Turner) and the entire coaching staff have been working with me.”

Westbeld said coach Chris Lucas had her on a fast-track with the team’s offences and she had adjusted now to the time difference, having flown from Dayton, Ohio to Dallas, to Los Angeles, to Sydney and Adelaide.

“Kathryn is exactly the player I was expecting,” Lucas said. “She suits our group. I’m confident she’ll bring some balance back to the group and help our defensive rotations too.”

Westbeld will wear the same number 33 she wore en route to her college and Puerto Rican championships. It has been her number staple since taking up the sport.

Cracking the WNBA, however, is not a burning desire for the talented rebounder.

“I’ll kind of just see where the wind takes me,” she said.

“I mean, I was preparing for life after basketball when I left college and look what happened.”

What happened was contracts to play in Spain, Puerto Rico and now Australia.

Lightning warrior Hodges, who returned to the line-up this season after a two-year hiatus with a season-ending injury, then the birth of her daughter Ava, also will be a welcome sight on court at The Lighthouse, Titanium Security Arena.

Hodges, 36 this month, has been missing since the season tipped off with a calf injury but has been cleared to reurn, meaning Lightning will be at full strength for the first time in 2019-20.

Tip-off time is 5pm.

*Lightning will wear their orange uniforms supporting the UN initiative to end violence against women and girls. In this WNBL round and also Round 8, home teams will be wearing orange as part of the initiative. 

Nov 30

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