Following the conclusion of their camp in Canberra and a 3-0 series whitewash against China, the Australian Opals squad of 12 has been named for the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup to be held in Bengaluru, India from 24-29 September.
The squad includes a trio of WNBA stars, including recently named Most Improved Player Leilani Mitchell of the Phoenix Mercury. She links with Rebecca Allen (New York) and Stephanie Talbot (Minnesota) as those returning to the Opals fold after playing in the US.
Superstar centre Liz Cambage was unavailable for selection due to he commitments with the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA playoffs, with her team currently trailing the Washington Mystics 0-2 in the semi finals.
The void in the middle will be filled by the likes of veteran Cayla George and rising star Ezi Magbegor. The latter demonstrated her capabilities in amassing 20 points in their final exhibition win against China this week.
Australia will look towards the Asia Cup with gold as the goal, having lost the 2017 final to Japan in a thrilling encounter.
“Definitely. We have high expectations for ourselves,” Head coach, Sandy Brondello said. “Everything is important now, we’re leading into the Olympics with all of these qualifications. If we finish number 1, it gives us a better ranking and a better group for the November qualifier.”
China will join the Philippines and New Zealand in Group B with the Opals. Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei and India will make up Group A.
Since losing to Japan in the final of the 2017 event, the Opals have gone on to win silver at the 2018 FIBA World Cup. They enter the event as the highest ranked team, coming in at number 3. China is the next highest nation ranked at 7, while defending champion Japan is ranked 10.
The Opals will begin their Asia Cup campaign against the Philippines on Tuesday, tip-off is at 5:45pm (AEST).
All Opals games will be LIVE on Fox Sports channel 507.
Australian Opals for 2019 FIBA Asia Cup
Rebecca ALLEN | New York Liberty (WNBA) / Arka Gdynia (Poland)
Abby BISHOP | Townsville Fire
Sara BLICAVS | Southside Flyers
Katie EBZERY | Perth Lynx
Darcee GARBIN | Townsville Fire
Cayla GEORGE | Melbourne Boomers
Ezi MAGBEGOR | Melbourne Boomers
Leilani MITCHELL | Phoenix Mercury (WNBA) / Southside Flyers
Lauren NICHOLSON | Adelaide Lightning
Jenna O’HEA | Southside Flyers
Nicole SEEKAMP | Adelaide Lightning
Stephanie TALBOT | Minnesota Lynx (WNBA) / Adelaide Lightning
Opals FIBA Asia Cup schedule
24 September: Opals vs Philippines – Tip-off at 5:45pm (AEST)
25 September: Opals vs New Zealand – Tip-off at 5:45pm (AEST)
26 September: Opals vs China – Tip-off at 8:00pm (AEST)
27 September: 2nd and 3rd place teams to play (Winner of groups advance)
28 September: Semi-finals
29 September: Medal games