Olympic dreaming: Ezi Magbegor refocuses for WNBL semi-final

Deakin Melbourne Boomers star Ezi Magbegor has her basketball career taking off in ways few 20-year-olds could imagine.

A whirlwind year that has included Olympic qualification for Tokyo 2020 with the Opals, being selected in the 2019 WNBA draft by the Seattle Storm, and a second consecutive WNBL Finals series with the Boomers.

She would be forgiven for getting carried away by such monumental achievements at such a young age, but the Craigieburn local exudes the poise and focus of a grizzled veteran.

“I’m so lucky that I’ve been blessed to be given all of these opportunities and I just have to keep working because I’m still young and hopefully still have quite a while to go in my career, and there’s a lot that I want to achieve,” she said.

“But having achieved what I have now, I’m very grateful for those opportunities.”

Magbegor landed back in Australia on Wednesday morning after a grueling final qualification round for Tokyo 2020 in France, with the Opals sealing qualification in a tense win against Brazil, sparking emotional scenes.

The trip to Japan will be an opportunity of a lifetime for the former Coburg Giants junior, who led from the front for the Opals against Puerto Rico picking up 15 points, four rebounds and three assists.

“We were heading to that qualification round without a place in the Olympics guaranteed, so coming out of that with our spot solidified was pretty special.

“Going to the Olympics has always been one of my biggest goals and to be so close to that, pretty early on in my career is exciting.

“I’m lucky to be in the group that I am, it’s a great coaching staff and a great group of players and friends around me.”

The time for savouring such a special moment will have to wait, Magbegor will have to be at her very best if the Boomers are to better their semi-final appearance in 2019 by toppling defending champions the UC Capitals.

“It’s hard being in a different country, environment and team and then coming straight back into preparations for the Finals, but we’ve got limited time, so I have to switch up quickly.

“All of our games with the Caps this season have been very exciting. We’re expecting a big challenge come Sunday, but we’ve done our preparation, it’s a massive game.

“We’ve still got a long way to go, still got hopefully two series to get through, but winning that championship would mean everything to this group.”

Magbegor has emerged as one of the Boomers most important players as they head into the semi-finals against the Capitals. She will go head-to-head with fellow Opal Marianna Tolo in a battle that may well determine which team will advance to the grand final series.

Game 1 takes place at the AIS Arena in Canberra on Sunday, 5:30pm, before the Boomers hosts the Caps for Game 2 at the State Basketball Centre on Sunday 23 February.

Both games will be live on Fox Sports and via Kayo Sports.