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Storm ties highlight preliminary Opals roster

Sami Whitcomb. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Sami Whitcomb. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

When Basketball Australia released the preliminary 16-player roster for the Opals ahead of last month’s FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in Bengaluru, India, it had a distinctly Seattle flair.

A quarter of the selections boast Storm ties, with guard Sami Whitcomb joining first-round pick Ezi Magbegor, and former players Abby Bishop, and Jenna O’Hea (not to mention one-time guard Sandy Brondello at the helm).

Whitcomb said there’s still plenty to like about Australia’s roster.

“I think even when you look at the group without those players, they’re fantastic international players,” she said. “It’s girls that have a lot of experience playing overseas, playing for Australia in previous tournaments. I think it’ll be a really strong group.”

It would be the 31-year-old’s second National Team nod since becoming a naturalized citizen, winning a silver medal in last year’s Women’s World Cup. As an injury-replacement for Leilani Mitchell — joining the team just days after winning a WNBA championship with Seattle — she averaged eight points and nearly four rebounds a game. 

But she isn’t lamenting the possibility that her WNBA commitments could keep her stateside, saying she’s “Storm-focused.”

“It’s always a bummer to miss out on something like that, but there are more opportunities down the line,” she said.

In Whitcomb’s case, FIBA rules also factor in. Only one naturalized player is allowed on national team rosters, putting Whitcomb behind Phoenix’s Leilani Mitchell.

Even if Whitcomb ultimately doesn’t participate, the Asia Cup may provide a glimpse of the Seattle’s future in 20-year-old Magbegor. The 6-foot-4 forward helped lead the “Emerging Opals” to a gold medal in the World University Games in July, and is nearly five years younger than any other selection on the preliminary roster.

“Her ceiling is incredibly high,” Whitcomb said. “She’s very raw, she’s very athletic. She plays with a lot of — I kind of want to call it grace, she’s very smooth out there. … She makes things that are hard look really easy.”

Whitcomb also has her eyes on competing next summer in Tokyo, though she cautioned how much basketball is left to play before then.

“As close as it is, it’s a long ways away in terms of other competitions that come before that, and a lot can happen in that amount of time,” she said. “ … It’s the goal, it’s what I hope will happen, but ultimately you just take it tournament by tournament, opportunity by opportunity.”

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