Gems squad named for tilt at Under-18 Asian Championships

A Gems team overflowing with Under-17 World Championship medalists will represent Australia in the nation’s first appearance at a FIBA Under-18 Asian Women’s Championship in October and November in India.

The roster features five players from the Sapphires’ bronze-medal winning team at last month’s Under-17 World Cup, as well as three members of the 2016 gold medal-winning Under-17 World Cup side, as the team looks to secure not only Asian Championship success, but a spot at next year’s Under-19 World Cup.

Isobel Anstey, Agnes Emma-Nnopu, Ashlee Hannan, Isabel Palmer, and Lily Scanlon will make their second appearances in national colours in the space of four months after securing bronze medals at the Under-17 World Cup in Minsk in July, with Scanlon in particular one of the standouts of the tournament despite coming in slightly under the radar, averaging 11.7 points per game. Meanwhile, Jazmin Shelley and Samantha Simons will be embarking on a campaign that will hopefully culminate in a second Under-19 World Cup for the pair after both were part of the Gems side that finished 6th in 2017. Fellow Sapphires gold medalist Miela Goodchild returns to the national program for the first time since the 2017 Under-17 Oceania Championships where the Queenslander played in a team also featured two other members of this squad in Western Australia’s Emma Clarke and ACT’s Isabelle Bourne.

The remaining two players on the roster, Ula Motuga and Kobe King-Hawea, may not have suited up for the national team to this point, but still possess impressive credentials. Motuga is one of four players on this roster, alongside Goodchild, Clarke, and Bourne, currently in a power conference college program in the US, having signed with Washington State. While King-Hawea was invited to the NBA Basketball Without Borders camp in 2018 alongside an impressive list of names that featured teammate Jazmin Shelley as well as NBA-bound phenom Josh Green and recent gold medalist at the men’s Under 18 Asian Championships, Kody Stattmann.

With the Asian Championships serving as the qualification for next year’s Under-19 World Cup, the Gems’ first goal in the tournament will be to reach the semi-finals and book their ticket. However, the ultimate objective will be to replicate the Emus success in the men’s competition earlier this month and bring home the gold.

The Gems will start among the favourites for the competition, having defeated New Zealand 81-60 in last year’s Under 17 Oceania Championship final, but they will certainly not have things their own way. Japan may have stumbled at the recent Under-17 World Cup, falling at the quarter-final stage, but they are a program that is definitely on the rise, and have reached the last six finals of this competition. China are also set to pose a significant threat, having reached the last 12 finals and winning 10 of those, dating back to 1992. Those two teams will certainly not be in any mood to relinquish their dominance to either of the new teams on the block, but Australia, and also New Zealand, possess the weaponry required to shake things up in a major fashion.

Although the draw is yet to be released, those four teams will surely be split evenly across the two groups, therefore ensuring that if the tournament plays out as is expected on paper, the Gems will join China, Japan, and New Zealand in the final four.

Gems Asian Championship Squad

Isobel ANSTEY (Victoria) Isabelle BOURNE (ACT) Emma CLARKE (Western Australia) Agnes EMMA-NNOPU (Victoria) Miela GOODCHILD (Queensland) Ashlee HANNAN (Queensland) Kobe KING-HAWEA (Victoria) Ula MOTUGA (Queensland) Isabel PALMER (New South Wales) Lily SCANLON (Victoria) Jazmin SHELLEY (Victoria) Samantha SIMONS (South Australia)

Coach: Dee BUTLER