WNBL October wrap upNovember 1, 2012
Forget what you read in any Australian Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season preview as the first month of the season has proved to be a rollercoaster full of twists and turns. Here’s your wrap up of what’s happened in the WNBL during October.
The Bendigo Spirit is legit
Sitting a top of the WNBL standings as the only undefeated team in the league is the Bendigo Spirit, who hold a 6-0 record.
If you’re going to tell me you predicted their unbeaten start to the season, you’re lying.
The Spirit went into the season undermanned with an injury to big name recruit Renae Camino and without their second import, after parting ways with injured forward Kathleen Scheer. At the same time, the WNBL schedule held no favours for Bendigo; who faced the long Adelaide-West Coast road double in round one and a double header against last season’s grand finalists, Bulleen and Dandenong, the following week.
Leading the Spirit’s charge has been ageless point guard Kristi Harrower (20.2ppg) and forward Gabrielle Richards (19.2ppg), who stand as the league’s top two point scorers at the end of October. The pair has been so dominant; they were recognised as the WNBL’s players of the week in the first three rounds of the season, with Harrower getting the nod in round one and Richards in rounds two and three.
Heading into their bye round at the start of November, during which the team looks set to welcome Camino and newly signed import Kelsey Griffin (Connecticut Sun) to their line up, the Spirit look set to continue to make a lot of noise this season.
Here come the reinforcements
It appears teams hadn’t quite finished wheeling and dealing when the season tipped off.
While the first month of the season saw WNBA credentialed imports Laurie Koehn (Logan Thunder) and April Sykes (Sydney Uni Flames) make their respective debuts, little did fans know two of the WNBA’s top three 2010 draft picks were also set to join the party; with Connecticut Sun forward Kelsey Griffin signing with the Bendigo Spirit and Minnesota Lynx guard/forward Monica Wright set to join the reigning champion Dandenong Rangers.
While Griffin has arrived in Bendigo and is settling in with her Spirit teammates, Wright is expected to arrive in Australia in mid November.
The ailing Sydney Uni Flames, the only winless team going into November, called in some local reinforcement of their own with the surprise signing of former WNBL MVP Rohanee Cox. After a solid season with West Coast in 2011/12, Cox was rumoured to have retired. Despite being winless, her presence at least gives Sydney fans something to smile about.
Fans of the Townsville Fire on the other hand will be sad at the news 2011/12 WNBL all star Shanavia Dowdell has decided to return to the US. The Fire is said to be looking for a replacement for their departing import.
With these major player movements, you can see why I said to forget those season previews!
An ever improving state of play
There’s no questioning the race to the play offs in recent WNBL seasons has been hotly contested, but overall it’s great to see the standard of play continue to evolve.
When you take a look at the league’s playing stock, there are two interesting statistics of note amongst our nine teams:
- Eight teams have line ups which boast at least one Olympian, with countries represented including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
- Eight teams feature players (be they Australian or American) who have either been drafted by or played in the WNBA.
In addition to having the bulk of the Australian Olympic team from London playing in the WNBL, this season we’ve also seen much higher credentialed imports hitting our shore.
Given the improving standard of import signings this season, including four current American WNBA players, I took the opportunity to ask Minnesota guard/forward Monica Wright more about her decision to play in Australia over Europe.
As the number two pick in the 2010 WNBA draft, Wright joins Alana Beard as the highest non Australian WNBA draft picks to play in our national competition. Here’s what Monica had to say.
HT: Why did you choose to come and play in the WNBL rather than returning to Europe?
MW: I chose to come play in the WNBL because it was an awesome opportunity to play in a high caliber league in a great country. I've always wanted to visit Australia and I've heard great things about the league so this opportunity almost seemed perfect.
HT: Had you heard much about the league previously?
MW: The only thing that I heard about the league was that it was very professional and had a great level of competition.
HT: What are you looking forward to most about your season in Australia?
MW: I am looking forward to making great relationships with my teammates and of course winning games.
So there you have it, a recap of what has been an eventful first month in the 2012/13 WNBL season. And to think, all this has happened while we’re still waiting for Lauren Jackson to make her long awaited return to the Canberra Capitals.
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Good summary. It has definitely been a wild first month in the WNBL. Lots of drama, and also lots of quality basketball (Waves & Flames aside...)