World Cup Basketball: WNBA playoff exit opens door for Ezi Magbegor and Steph Talbot to focus on Opals

There were fears Magbegor and Talbot could miss the Opals’ opening Cup game against France on September 22 due to a clash with the WNBA playoffs.

Thankfully for Australia, Seattle lost their semi-final series against the Las Vegas Aces.

This allowed Magbegor and Talbot to immediately return to Australia to start their preparations for this month’s World Cup.

The pair arrived in Sydney on Tuesday and went straight to work alongside their teammates.

Opals coach Sandy Brondello is relieved and thrilled to have Magbegor and Talbot involved in the team’s pre-World Cup training camp.

“Steph and Ezi are here, so I’m looking forward to slowly integrating them into the team’s plans,” Brondello said.

“Hopefully, they can hit the ground running at the Cup because they are two really important players.

“Sky’s the limit for both Ezi and Steph and we’re hoping that they’ll play their best basketball in Sydney.”

It has been a busy yet successful three years for Talbot and Magbegor.

Both players have emerged as consistent performers on the WNBL, WNBA and international stages.

Talbot won the WNBL MVP in 2020 playing with the Adelaide Lightning while she has collected two All-WNBL First Team honours.

Magbegor has won two championships – one in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm in 2020 and the second a WNBL title at the Melbourne Boomers this year.

Brondello believes the Opals are well placed to succeed at the Cup in Sydney, and avenge their disappointing quarter-final exit at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“We are a team, and we want to play the right way and I think we’ve got a really well-balanced team of youth and experience,” she said.

“We want everyone to have a voice and I want them to all help each other carry the load.”

The Opals are blessed with countless leaders from the legendary Lauren Jackson through to centres Cayla George and Marianna Tolo.

Brondello doesn’t want to leave captain Tess Madgen on an “island” by herself, but she says it was a “no-brainer” to name the Barossa Valley-born guard as skipper.

“I think Tess is a natural born leader,” she said.

“It’s just her demeanour and personality. She is very selfless, and she understands the game very well.

“Tess also has a really authentic connection with her teammates, and she wants what is best for the Opals.

“It’s not about how many minutes she plays, she is very passionate and when she talks, everyone listens.”

The Opals open their World Cup campaign against France next Thursday at the Sydney SuperDome.

Get your tickets to the FIBA Women’s World Cup here

Originally published as World Cup Basketball: WNBA playoff exit opens door Opals stars to return

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