Credit: Michele Couling Photography
The Phoenix Mercury today narrowed their roster to 11 after releasing 2020 WNBL stars Sara Blicavs and Olivia Epoupa.
As the WNBA prepares for a possible return to play in 2020, preparation for a potential 2020 return to play, the Mercury reduced their roster to 11 at the direction of the league.
Having accepted training contracts with the Mercury back in April, Southside Flyers star Blicavs and University of Canberra Capitals point guard Epoupa were not alone in being cut. Phoenix's 2020 WNBA Draft picks Te’a Cooper and Stella Johnson were also waived by the organisation.
Blicavs and Epoupa are ultimately victims of the COVID-19 global pandemic, with travel restrictions and social distancing measures in place, they never received the opportunity to earn a place on the roster with training camp never eventuating.
A versatile 6'2 forward, Blicavs averaged 13.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in 25 games for the Southside Flyers who boasted one of the besting starting lineups in the WNBL in 2019/20. She played on a team boasting Seattle Storm centre Mercedes Russell, former Mercury point guard Leilani Mitchell, and current Australian national squad members Jenna O’Hea and Bec Cole. The stretch forward shot 37.1% from three-point range on the season, with her team just one win away from clinching the championship.
Epoupa played an integral role for the Capitals in capturing their ninth WNBL championship in 2020, with the 5’5 guard averaging 9.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and a team-best 6.7 assists across the season. The pocket-rocket floor general lifted to another level in the Grand Final series, claiming the Rachel Sporn Medal for being named the Most Outstanding Player in the Championship Series.
The French national led the WNBL in in steals with 3 per game, was second in the league in assists, while she also ranked a remarkable tenth in the league for rebounding despite her diminutive stature. Together with New York Liberty guard Kia Nurse, they formed one of the most formidable back courts in the league.
Despite Blicavs and Epoupa's release by the Mercury, Phoenix will still boast an Australian flavour if the WNBA season is able to get underway. Led by Opals head coach Sandy Brondello, 2018 FIBA World Championship silver medallist Alanna Smith has been retained, while Brianna Turner (Adelaide Lightning) and Sophie Cunningham (Melbourne Boomers) both played in the WNBL last season. Also on the roster is Nia Coffey who played in the WNBL with Adelaide during the 2018/19 season.
Stephanie Talbot, who was traded to the New York Liberty, will not join the team for the 2020 and remain based in Australia according to team reports.