With the WNBL effectively banning clubs from recruiting overseas imports for the upcoming 2020/2021 season due to COVID-19, the focus will be on local basketball talent.
For the University of Canberra Capitals, who are seeking their third WNBL title in a row when the season tips off on November 20, it’s a big void to fill without Canadian star Kia Nurse – who was the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) last season – and French guard Olivia Epoupa, MVP of the grand final series.
This is the first time I can remember a Capitals side not having at least one import, with players from a range of nationalities usually playing for the team.
The upcoming campaign brings back memories of the AIS team who won the 1998/1999 WNBL championship with a side made up entirely of Australian players.
Mind you, those Australian players went on to become greats of the game: Lauren Jackson, Suzy Batkovic, Penny Taylor and Belinda Snell, to name just a few members of that team.
The UC Capitals have signed the nucleus of their championship-winning team minus Nurse and Epoupa. Nurse was never going to return, but Epoupa was open to coming back.
Co-captains Marianna Tolo and Kelsey Griffin are back in a tremendous boost to the club, alongside Maddi Rocci and Keely Froling, who were impressive last season.
Also returning are rising stars Abby Cubillo and Alex Delaney, while Gemma Potter will play for the Capitals if her commitments with the University of California don’t eventuate.
The Capitals this week also locked in 23-year-old point guard Tahlia Tupaea, who played for the Sydney Flames since debuting in the WNBL at the age of 15 – the second youngest debutant in the league’s 40-year history.
Tupaea has also been a prominent member of the Australian junior program representing the Gems, for a three-year period. She was also drafted in the WNBA in the US in 2017.
Coach Paul Goriss has been scouring the free-agency list, which came out on Thursday, 4 June, searching for Australian talent yet to be secured.
Of most interest will be the recruitment of a point guard in the absence of Epoupa.
I have been impressed by Goriss’s comments this week, as he strives to recruit players keen to play in Canberra.
The success of the UC Capitals program and alignment with the University of Canberra makes the club an extremely attractive option.