May 27, 2021
With eight former Olympians on the roster, Opals eye first Olympic Gold
How Australia's roster stacks up in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics
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The Australian Women’s National Basketball Team, better known as the Opals, has announced its roster for the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and basketball fans everywhere will recognize players on this competitive roster.
Led by four-time Olympian and Phoenix Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello, the Opals will rely on experienced veterans to capture Australia’s first Olympic gold medal in basketball.
Highlighted by eight former Olympians, including six current WNBA players, this roster enters the Games with experience, versatility and a chip on its shoulder: the Opals were narrowly defeated by Serbia in the final seconds of a quarterfinal game, 73-71, at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Let’s take a quick look at the Australian National Team:
Front and center for Team Australia is WNBA star Liz Cambage. With her 6’8 frame and power, Cambage makes her presence known on the court. She leads the Opals with the most Olympic experience, entering her third Games this summer. Back in 2012, Cambage became the first-ever woman to dunk at the Olympics (see here!). The three-time WNBA All-Star is currently averaging 13 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest for the Las Vegas Aces.
Alongside Cambage are centers Ezi Magbegor, Cayla George and Marianna Tolo. Magbegor, a two-time WNBL Youth Player of the Year and current player on the Seattle Storm, is making her first Olympics appearance. George and Tolo competed in the 2016 Games for the Opals.
Rebecca Allen will play an important role on offense for the Opals this summer. Making her Olympic debut, Allen has incredible length and shooting ability. Nicknamed “Spida,” Allen is a six-year WNBA veteran and is currently averaging 7.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest for the New York Liberty.
Seattle Storm’s Stephanie Talbot will be returning to the Olympics this summer for her second straight Games. Alanna Smith, a former standout at Stanford and two-year WNBA veteran with Brondello’s Mercury, will be making her Olympic debut.
13-year WNBA veteran Leilani Mitchell brings a lengthy resume to this Olympic team. The two-time WNBA Most Improved Player is playing in her second straight Olympic games. Mitchell currently competes for the Washington Mystics and is averaging 2.4 points and 3.6 assists per game.
Katie Ebzery and Tessa Lavey also played on the 2016 Olympic team. Tess Madgen is an Olympics rookie, but still brings 10+ years of WNBL experience to this roster.
Jenna O’Hea, a forward/guard, will guide the Opals as team captain. The 33-year-old last played on the national team in 2012 for the London Games.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions with this announcement,” O’Hea said in a press release. “To say I’m excited is an understatement but there’s also a huge sense of relief. It’s been a difficult 24 months with the delay of the Games and I’m proud of each and every Opals squad member for their strength and resilience throughout this process. The 12 of us are ready to come together and compete for that elusive Olympic gold medal.”
The Tokyo Olympics were originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the games were postponed until this summer.
The Opals have a long history of success in international basketball, winning five straight Olympic medals from 1996-2012 (three silvers & two bronze). In Team Australia’s most recent FIBA international showing, Brondello and the Opals took home a silver medal in the 2018 World Cup, falling to Team USA in the finals, 73-56.
Coach Brondello is considered one of the best shooting guards in Australian basketball history. Brondello won two bronze medals at the World Championships and two silver medals and a bronze at the Olympics with the national team. Heading into her first Olympics as a head coach, Brondello has put together a roster of accomplished athletes to compete against the world’s best basketball teams.
“Every selection process is a difficult one as we have so many quality players in our squad, but I feel we have named a very balanced team that will be able to adapt to any style of play we will confront in Tokyo,” Brondello said in the press release. “We have good size, speed, toughness, versatility and experience, which will all be required in a high-pressure situation as the Olympics.”
Team Australia is currently ranked No. 2 internationally and will compete in Group C against Belgium, Puerto Rico and China at the Olympics. The Games will tip off on July 27.