These are the global connections that could give the Australian Opals a valuable edge in its quest for the FIBA Women’s World Cup.
Successful on-court partnerships between the Opals and internationals stars forged on home soil in the WNBL and right around the world in other leagues will be put to the side for the next nine days as players and coaches become arch “frenemies” in Sydney.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Sandy Brondello coaches, and coaches against, some of the best women’s basketballers in the world as boss of WNBA team New York Liberty.
But that all changes when she dons the national uniform as coach of Australia and the USA become a powerhouse opponent.
The New York ties run seriously deep in this World Cup campaign several players and coaches involved across four countries.
Brondello coaches Australians Sami Whitcomb and Bec Allen at New York and the Opals.
Two Liberty players feature in the USA team, Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney, while livewire guard Marine Johannes will represent France and towering 208cm centre Han Xu China.
The WNBL has attracted some amazing talent from abroad during its 42-season history and there are plenty of familiar faces returning to Australia but this time for a World Cup.
Kia Nurse is the only import to win the WNBL’s MVP award (2019-20) and the two-time Canberra championship player returns to the court from an ACL injury for Team Canada.
Her national teammates Kayla Alexander (Adelaide Lighting, 2018-19) and Bridget Carleton (2019-20) also have experience in the WNBL.
Carleton played at Townsville Fire that season with Belgium guard Julie Vanloo.
Laney had three stints in the WNBL including with Dandenong, where she played with Opal Sara Blicavs, and Perth Lynx with her current Liberty teammate Whitcomb.
Perth has been a destination club for imports including Ariel Atkins (2019-20) who played with former Opals point guard Leilani Mitchell at Washington Mystics.
Nurse won two titles with Canberra during her dominant stint Down Under.
On court, when the star guard wasn’t knocking down triples she was getting the ball inside to Opals veteran Marianna Tolo for two seasons and was coached by Australian assistant Paul Gorris who is also assistant coach with WNBA team Atlanta Dream.
Atlanta this season signed Opals young gun Kristy Wallace who was on the Caps roster with Nurse and Tolo in 2019-20.
EYE OF THE STORM
Australia has long enjoyed powerful links with Seattle Storm with the likes of Lauren Jackson, Tully Bevilaqua, Katrina Hibbert, Jenna O’Hea and Abby Bishop all excelling at the WNBA club.
In the 2020 Covid bubble season, Aussies Ezi Magbegor and Whitcomb played in a Seattle championship with Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.
The Americans won a gold medal together in Tokyo last year and will again be a formidable force for a USA team on a 20-game World Cup winning streak.
Magbegor and fellow Aussie Steph Talbot played for Seattle, who reached the WNBA Playoffs, this season.
Originally published as FIBA World Cup: Globetrotting Opals know what to expect when head-to-head with the best