With the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championships fast approaching, the Australian Gems squad has been whittled down to just 15.
Having qualified for the event after crushing their FIBA Oceania opponents in Fiji in December last year, the last 15 players vying for a place on the World Championship team will assemble at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence for a selection camp from 4-7 June from which the final team of 12 will be selected.
Held from July 22-30 in Udine and Cividale del Friuli, Italy, the FIBA U19 World Championships will be the first chance that the Australian women’s program has at attempting to replicate the magic of the Sapphires who stormed their way to gold at the FIBA U17 event in 2016. The 2017 Gems may well boast a number of World Champions from that successful side too, with eight players from that gold medal winning squad remaining in contention; Jazmin Shelley, Abby Cubillo, Monique Conti, Sam Simons, Kiera Rowe, Ezi Magbegor, Rebecca Pizzey and Lara McSpadden. Conti, Shelley and Magbegor were all named to the All-Star Five in the qualifying event in Fiji, and all three are likely to feature for the Gems in Italy as well.
UCLA commit Chantel Horvat finished the FIBA Oceania qualifying event as the tournament’s leading scorer, averaging 18.6 points per game, with her 60.3 field goal percentage ranking second. She will be a front-runner to make the team, as is another to impress in the qualification event; Zitina Aokuso. After a nine-point, 17-rebound effort in the final, Aokuso earned the games’ MVP honours.
Mississippie State bound Chloe Bibby is another likely candidate to make the final team for Italy. She is currently starring for Bendigo in the SEABL after spending last season in the WNBL with runner-up Dandenong. She joins fellow WNBL players Chelsea Brook and Anneli Maley who were both on the Adelaide Lightning roster last season, with Maley also set to join Morgan Yeager at Oregon for the 2017-18 college basketball season. Conti also featured for Melbourne in the WNBL this past season, while Lara McSpadden suited up for Sydney Uni.
The Gems secured a dream draw earlier this year, grouped with 11th ranked Japan, 14th ranked Hungary, and Mexico who come in at 18th. The Gem’s world ranking of 7 is based on past performances at that level and does not factor in the U17 World Championship win by the Sapphires in 2016.
With a talent-laden squad, it will be a difficult final team selection for head coach Paul Goriss.
After winning bronze medals in 2013 and 2015, the Gems last won gold in 1993 led by tournament MVP Michelle Brogan who went on to play for the Opals and enjoy a long and illustrious WNBL career. Following the gold medal performance of the Sapphires in 2016, Goriss and his assistants will firmly have gold in their sights this time around.
Australian U19 Squad for Training Camp
|Brook||Chelsea Abbey||29/07/1998||South Australia|
|Cubillo||Abby Lorna||18/05/1999||Northern Territory|
|McSpadden||Lara Gweneth||2/04/1999||New South Wales|
|Simons||Samantha Kate||31/01/2000||South Australia|
|Yaeger||Morgan Page||18/04/1998||South Australia|
Schedule | U19 Women’s World Championships (all times AEST)
July 22 | Australia vs. Japan @ 9:30pm
July 24 | Australia vs. Mexico @ 12:15am
July 25 | Australia vs. Hungary @ 10:00pm
July 26 | Round of 16
July 28 | Quarter-Finals
July 29 | Semi-Finals
July 30 | Bronze and Gold medal games