Basketball Australia has finalised the Gems team that is set to compete at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup next month.
The squad of 12 is full of familiar names, with 10 players from last year’s gold medal winning team at the FIBA Oceania Championships returning. Monique Conti, Jazmin Shelley, Maddison Rocci, Kiera Rowe, Chloe Bibby, Ezi Magbegor, Abby Cubillo, Samantha Simons, Lara McSpadden and Zitina Aokuso make up that contingent.
Rounding out the team is the highly talented Anneli Maley, who has committed to the Oregon Ducks, and Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (CoE) scholarship holder Rebecca Pizzey.
Already talented, the teams is also experienced. Adding to the pedigree of the squad, eight players from the gold medal winning Sapphires team from the 2016 FIBA Under-17 World Championships made the cut – Conti, Cubillo, Simons, Shelley, Rowe, Pizzey, Magbegor and McSpadden.
While the team is talent-laden, the omission of Chantel Horvat, the leading scorer at the FIBA Oceania tournament, has caught many by surprise.
“Selection was not easy with the quality of the squad but we are really excited about the depth and versatility of the team,” head coach, Dee Butler, said in an official release.
“The team has a wealth of experience underpinned by their development at the CoE through their state based high performance programs while some have previous World Championship involvement.
“We are really looking forward to the exciting challenges in our pre-World Cup tournament in France and then our ultimate objective to medal at the World Cup in Italy.”
Butler has replaced Paul Goriss as coach, with the latter taking up an assistant role with the Opals.
The Gems will enter the tournament as one of the favourites, especially considering the dream draw they have in the group stage. Australia will open the event on July 22 against Japan, who are ranked 11 in the world, ahead of contests against world number 18 Mexico and 14th ranked Hungary.
The most updated FIBA rankings don’t take into account the Gems’ triumph at the Oceania tournament last year, so Australia slots in at number seven.
It has been 14 years since the last time the Gems won gold at the U19 World Cup, after bronze returns in 2013 and 2015. With a team overflowing with talent, Australia will be aiming for a top-placed finish this year.
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