Basketball Australia have announced the Australian Opals roster for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The tournament is the final step for the Aussies to stamp their ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and will take place from February 6th to February 9th in Bourges, France.
The Opals are the top seed in their group and ranked 2nd overall on the FIBA World Ranking, but will face some stiff competition from Brazil (15th), Puerto Rico (23rd) and especially the home side, France (5th). The top three teams from each group will advance to the Olympics in July.
The Aussies will be anchored by the dominant presence of Liz Cambage, who will have no shortage of scoring options surrounding her — Katie Ebzery ranked in the top 10 in points per game in the ongoing WNBL season as an example.
Meanwhile, Nicole Seekamp is distributing left, right and centre with the Adelaide Lightning, leading the WNBL with almost 8 assists per game after breaking the WNBL record with 20 assists in Round 12. She'll prove a vital asset as the Opals try to keep the ball on the move.
Opals head coach Sandy Brondello said of the team selection, "with the final pre-Olympic qualifications in February we have chosen a well-balanced, versatile and tough group that is, most importantly, filled with players who are in good form. This will be vital with the limited preparation that we will have leading into these important games.
"We are confident of achieving our goal of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics and look forward to continued improvement with the more time we have together."
Alanna Smith, having returned to action following injury in the WKBL, has also been brought back into the fold after playing an important role in the Opals silver medal run back at the 2018 FIBA World Cup.
Anything less than an Olympic medal will obviously be a disappointment for this powerhouse of a team, though they will have to remain diligent to prevent being undone by cold streaks like the one that allowed Japan to triumph in a huge upset in the Asia Cup semi-finals last year.
If you want to catch the games, FIBA will be live streaming the action on their YouTube channel on the following dates (AEDT):
7 February | 4:00am vs France
9 February | 5:30am vs Puerto Rico
10 February | 12:00am vs Brazil
Opals Team for Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Rebecca ALLEN | Arka Gdynia (Poland) / New York Liberty (WNBA)
Elizabeth CAMBAGE | Shanxi Xing Rui Flame (WCBA) / Las Vegas Aces (WNBA)
Katie-Rae EBZERY | Perth Lynx
Cayla GEORGE | Deakin Melbourne Boomers
Ezi MAGBEGOR | Deakin Melbourne Boomers
Leilani MITCHELL | Jayco Southside Flyers
Lauren NICHOLSON | Adelaide Lightning
Jenna O'HEA | Jayco Southside Flyers
Nicole SEEKAMP | Adelaide Lightning
Alanna SMITH | Incheon Shinhan Bank S-Birds (WKBA) / Phoenix Mercury (WNBA)
Stephanie TALBOT | Adelaide Lightning / Minnesota Lynx (WNBA)
Marianna TOLO | University of Canberra Capitals