The Australian Opals have completed their first camp under head coach Sandy Brondello with the squad embracing a new era for the team as they prepare to compete as a part of the Asian Zone at the FIBA Asia Cup, held in India from July 23-29.
Lauren Mansfield, Kelsey Griffin and Alex Bunton will make their Opals debut at the FIBA Asia Cup.
Mansfield and Griffin are coming off starring roles in the WNBL last season with the University of Canberra Capitals and Bendigo Spirit respectively while Bunton has impressed during her time in Russia.
“Lauren continues to improve her game with each season and fits our system,” said head coach Sandy Brondello.
“Kelsey is a very versatile player and has a high basketball IQ while Alex has impressed the coaching staff with her mobility and strength at both ends of the floor.”
The WNBL will also be represented by Dandenong Rangers’ team mates Steph and Sara Blicavs as well as Melbourne Boomer Maddie Garrick.
Four members of the Rio Olympic team have been named in Tessa Lavey, Katie Ebzery, Laura Hodges and Marianna Tolo while three-time Olympic medallist Belinda Snell and London bronze medallist Abby Bishop round out the team.
“I was impressed with the players’ ability to learn and apply new individual and team strategies to their games,” said Brondello.
“It was a difficult decision in naming the final team but we feel they will be able to play against all the contrasting styles of the opponents we will face at the FIBA Asia Cup.”
“The system is built on a strong defensive unit playing team defence at all times, getting stops and rebounds and running for easy baskets in transition.”
Commitments to the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA will preclude Brondello from attending the FIBA Asia Cup.
However, her leadership throughout the camp has enabled a seamless integration of two additional assistants that will join Cheryl Chambers and Paul Goriss on the Opals coaching panel.
“I am excited to formally announce the addition of Penny Taylor and Olaf Lange,” said Brondello.
“Penny and Olaf bring diverse knowledge, experience and teaching skills which the players can draw upon and the players have shown they are keen to learn from all of our coaching team.”
“Olaf is globally respected throughout Europe and the US and he also coached Logan in the WNBL for two seasons before accepting prestigious offers in Europe.”
“His knowledge of my system is a valuable tool to the players and members of the coaching staff in aiding its application.”
“In addition, Penny is the one of the most respected Opals of all time.”
“She has delivered an incredible legacy as a player and now, having been working with me at the Mercury as an assistant, she has an intimate knowledge of my system that the players can tap into.”
Taylor and Lange were both excited about the opportunity to be involved in the Opals’ first foray into the FIBA Asia Cup later this month.
“I am thrilled and honoured to be joining the prestigious Opals program as an assistant coach,” said Lange.
“I have always admired Australian basketball for its ability to produce talent and I couldn’t be more pleased about the opportunity to coach these outstanding female athletes and to work alongside some of the best coaches in the women’s game.”
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to continue my journey with the Opals,” added Taylor.
“I look forward to being a part of an extremely impressive coaching staff with worldwide experience and knowledge of the game.”
“Helping the players have an enjoyable, fulfilling and successful experience as an Opal is my top priority.”
The Opals will now fly out for India on July 17 before their first game on July 23. Stay tuned for news from FIBA on broadcast details.
The Australian Opals FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Schedule (all times AEST):
July 23: Australia vs. Korea at 3.30pm
July 24: Australia vs. Philippines at 5.45pm
July 25: Australia vs. Japan at 5.45pm
July 27: Quarter-Finals
July 28: Semi-Finals
July 29: Bronze and Gold medal games
The Australian Opals FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Team:
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