WNBA bound Liz Cambage and Jenna O’Hea, who left for the US this week, officially committed to the program, along with WNBL All-star five forward and member of the 2010 World Championship Opals team, Marianna Tolo.
“It’s a big part of us trying to rebound from the World Championships,” said Coach Graf.
“Having absolutely minimal preparation going into the Worlds was tough and that was indicative in the result — we had fatigued athletes and to get the commitment from Lauren as captain firstly and now following through with some of our emerging talent, who were a part of the World Championship campaign, is a massive step forward.”
With many of the Jayco Opals players playing back-to-back seasons over a number of years across the American WNBA, European leagues and the WNBL, Coach Graf sees the exclusivity period facilitating recovery and recuperation, as well as improving on-court performance.
“It does a few things. We had a lot of players carrying injuries because they had played lots of seasons back to back, so we’re certainly much more likely to have healthy athletes coming into an Olympic campaign.
“To have all your best players working together as a group and then to have them healthy and as well-conditioned as they can be is critical to team success.”
Basketball Australia CEO and four-time Olympian Larry Sengstock understands the importance of a solid preparation period moving into a big tournament, and is thus pleased that many of the Opals players are getting on board.
“Having all that time together will afford head coach Carrie Graf and the coaching staff the luxury of working on individual skill components and more critically, the team aspects of the game, and that’s certainly something we did not have in the lead up to the World Championships,” said Sengstock.
“The Jayco Australian Opals are one of the most successful Australian sporting teams of the last 15 years, which is why it’s critical that we provide them with the opportunity to work towards taking that success to another level and achieve something that has never been achieved in Olympic history,” he said.