A 24-player squad brimming with college and WNBL experience has been selected as the process to select a squad for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup commences, with a camp to be held from May 5-7 at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in Canberra.
Nine members of the squad that secured bronze at 2018’s FIBA Asia Under-18 Championships return, with Jazmin Shelley, Ula Motuga, Isabel Palmer, Lily Scanlon, Agnes Emma-Nnopu, Miela Goodchild, Sam Simons, Ashlee Hannan, and Isobel Anstey all returning to compete to finish the journey they started in helping the team qualify for July’s World Cup.
“One of our main strengths in this squad is the depth of experience and exposure to international basketball,” Gems coach Dee Butler told Basketball Australia
“We have a large number of athletes that have competed at Under-17 and Under-19 World Cups, at Oceania and Asia qualifying tournaments as well as those within the US college system.
“We also have elite athletes with the appropriate conditioning and athleticism needed to implement repeated defensive efforts so I’m hoping our defence can be a trademark of this group.”
Motuga (Washington State), Goodchild (Duke), and Simons (Saint Mary’s) comprise three of the five-strong group of players currently plying their trade at NCAA Division I colleges, with the trio joined by Furman’s Jade Kirisome and Portland point guard Haylee Andrews. All five have proven to be integral parts of their respective sides this season, with Goodchild among the top three-point shooters in the nation, and Andrews and Simons regularly starting for their teams even at this young point in their college careers.
Seven more members of the squad have also committed to Division I colleges for 2019, led by a trio heading to national powerhouses in Oregon commit Jazmin Shelley and Texas pair Ashlee Hannan and Isabel Palmer. Shelley and Palmer represent the last two winners of the Bob Staunton Medal for Player of the Under 20 National Championships, with Palmer picking up the award in last week’s event after averaging 18.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game to lead her New South Wales side to a silver medal. Isabelle Bourne will join ACT teammate Hannan in heading to the US, having committed to Nebraska, whilst Sophia Locandro (UC Irvine), Adelaide Fuller (Davidson), and Madeline Puli (TCU) round out the contingent set to make the move across the Pacific.
The squad also contains several players with WNBL experience, including Shyla Heal, Ruby Porter, Alexandra Fowler, Chelsea D’Angelo, Isabelle Bourne, and Haylee Andrews, alongside Shelley, who was recently named WNBL Rookie of the Year for her exploits this season with the Melbourne Boomers. Heal’s return to the fray shapes to be a welcome inclusion, with the Perth Lynx guard and 2018 FIBA Under 17 World Cup All-Star having missed last year’s Under 18 Asian Championships.
Charlise Dunn is by far the youngest player on the roster, with the 15-year-old forcing her way into the conversation following dominant performances at the FIBA Oceania Under 15 Championships and Under 16 National Championships in 2018. After averaging 16.5 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.9 steals at the national championships, Dunn went on to lead the Under 15 national team with 17.2 points and 5 rebounds per contest as the Sapphires demolished the competition at continental level, winning every game by at least 60 points in securing gold.
The remainder of the squad comprises a number of players out of the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence program, including recent NBA Basketball Without Borders camp three-point champion Gemma Potter, Olivia Pollerd, Kelsey Rees, and Sara-Rose Smith, who was due to play alongside seven other members of this squad on the gold-medal winning Victorian team at the recent Under 20 National Championships before injury intervened.
“We are continually finding that the versatility of international players is increasing so we need to ensure we can cover that when selecting the team while also staying true to our own needs and style,” said Butler.
“Tournament play also presents different challenges so we have to ensure we factor that into our selection.
“This is an exciting time for this program and selection will be extremely difficult. Each athlete brings something different or unique to the squad so I’m looking forward to working with them and hopefully we can build towards a very successful tournament.”
The team edged their way to third place in the Under 18 Asian Championship in 2018, falling to South Korea in the group stage and Japan in the semi-finals before rebounding to get revenge on the South Korean side in the bronze medal playoff. Whilst the draw for the tournament will not be made until March 20, there is no doubting that the Gems will have to raise their level from that event if they are to improve on 2017’s sixth placed finish and add to their six previous medals at this level, including a gold in 1993. Usual powerhouses France and 2017 champions Russia will not be at the tournament after finishing seventh and eighth respectively at the 2018 Under 18 European Championships, but with a number of European nations on the rise, and the usual suspects, including the United States, Spain, and Canada all qualifying, competition will be fierce for the medals as the sport’s international growth continues apace.
A further camp to select the final squad will be held at a time closer to the tournament. The Under 19 World Cup will run from July 20-28 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the Gems also set to play a number of practice games against international opposition prior to the tournament.
The Australian Gems Squad for May Camp ahead of the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup:
|Isabelle Bourne||Australian Capital Territory|
|Ashlee Hannan||Australian Capital Territory|
|Shyla Heal||New South Wales|
|Isabel Palmer||New South Wales|
|Ruby Porter||South Australia|
|Kelsey Rees||South Australia|
|Samantha Simons||South Australia|
|Head Coach||Dee Butler (Victoria)|