UPDATE: Opals honour for Bendigo Spirit duo

BENDIGO Spirit stars Gabe Richards and Kelly Wilson will tour the United States with the Australian Opals.

A squad of 12 departs tomorrow with the two-week tour including scrimmages against WNBA clubs the Seattle Storm, Minnesota Lynx, Atlanta Dream and San Antonio Silver Stars.

The squad also includes Bendigo Lady Braves centre Alex Bunton, who plays for Canberra in the WNBL.

The tour gives Richards and Wilson a chance to press for selection for the World Championships in September in Turkey.

"I've been in Opals squads before but having not played for the Opals before, it's a huge honour,'' Richards said,

"Having played with Kristi (Harrower) for so long and knowing how much playing for the Opals means to her... it's a big deal.

"To be recognised as part of that group hasn't sunk in for me yet."

Wilson made her mark with the Opals against New Zealand last year and backed that form up with a superb season for the Spirit as they won their second-straight WNBL championship.

"I'm very lucky to be in the position I'm in right now,'' a modest Wilson said.

"Winning a couple of championships with the Spirit has really helped me. The hard work I've put in over the years has paid off.

"It's going to be a great experience to play in the US."

Opals coach Brendan Joyce has rewarded Wilson and Richards for their WNBL form.

“This tour is another big step for players like Kelly Wilson, Gabe Richards and (Townsville Fire’s) Rachael McCully,” Joyce said.

“These players may have thought their opportunities to be a part of the Jayco Opals program may never present themselves or have passed them by, but they have proven in the WNBL and during our training camps they are capable of playing for their country on the international stage.

“For someone like Gabe, this is her first involvement in an international tour for her country since she played at the 2003 FIBA Young Women’s World Championships, so it’s exciting to see her given an opportunity.”

Richards and Wilson paid tribute to their employers - Bendigo Toyota and Bendigo South East College respectively - for their continued support.

"Kelly and I are very lucky that our employers give us time off to go to training camps and to go on tours like this,'' Richards said.

"It's taking up a lot of time, so we are both very grateful for what they do for us."

First stop is Seattle for scrimmages on May 2 and 3 before heading east to Minnesota for a scrimmage with the defending WNBA Champion Lynx on May 5.

Venturing south, the Jayco Opals will face the Atlanta Dream in scrimmage action on May 7 and 9 before rounding out the tour at the San Antonio Silver Stars on May 11.

Opals squad for US tour: Rebecca Allen (Melbourne Boomers), Alex Bunton (Canberra Capitals), Natalie Burton (Melbourne Boomers), Laura Hodges (Adelaide Lightning), Natalie Hurst (Canberra Capitals/Canik BLD Turkey), Alice Kunek  (Dandenong Rangers), Tess Madgen (Melbourne Boomers), Rachael McCully (Townsville Fire) Carley Mijovic (Canberra Capitals), Gabe Richards (Bendigo Spirit), Jennifer Screen (Adelaide Lightning), Kelly Wilson (Bendigo Spirit).

Kelly Wilson

Kelly Wilson

Gabe Richards

Gabe Richards

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