Kelsey Griffin grabs chance with Australian Opals

KELSEY Griffin has been involved and shone in plenty of big occasion games during her stellar US college career at Nebraska and in the WNBL with Bendigo Spirit.

But the Spirit's four-time MVP admits she will be more nervous than usual when she makes her debut for the Australian Opals at this month's FIBA Asia Cup.

Her selection in the 12-player Opals squad has come 19 months after Griffin became naturalised in a citizenship ceremony at Bendigo Stadium in November 2015.

The 30-year-old said representing Australia was one of the furthest things from her mind when she joined the Spirit six rounds into their 2012-13 championship winning season.

"It hasn't been one of my goals, but to be given the opportunity has been so amazing and I'm so excited to be a part of it," she said.

"I am so thrilled and honored to be able to represent Australia, but also the Opals tradition.

"I'm learning more and more about it and it's something I'm excited to be a part of."

The Opals Asia Cup campaign tips-off in India against South Korea on July 23.

They will play the Philippines the following day before a July 25 clash against Japan.

Quarter finals are scheduled for July 27, ahead of semi-finals on July 28 and the gold and bronze medal games on July 29.

Eight teams will view for honours in two groups of four, with China, North Korea, Chinese Tapei and New Zealand comprising group B.

The Opals start the tournament as the highest-ranked country involved, currently fourth in the world.

Griffin was expecting a tough challenge in India, with the Opals squad containing two other debutantes in Canberra Capitals WNBL star Lauren Mansfield and Alanna Smith, who has been playing US college basketball with Stanford University in California.

"The top four teams qualify for worlds in 2018, so it's going to be massively important," she said.

Griffin, who was one of the last players cut from the Opals squad ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, has already shared the floor with many of her Opals teammates.

The team for India includes two of her former Spirit WNBL championship teammates Maddie Garrick and Sara Blicavs.

The tournament also marks the return to the Opals line-up of another former Spirit star Belinda Snell, who played alongside Griffin in the 2014-15 WNBL grand final won by Townsville.

A three-time Olympian, Snell's international career appeared over when she missed a spot in Rio, but after a stellar WNBL season with the championship winning Sydney Uni Flames, the veteran guard is back in favour.

"When you play as big of a role as Snelly did in Sydney winning a championship, you'd be crazy not to invite her to camp," Griffin said.

"She had a great camp - she's been there more than anyone else.

"Her leadership will be huge going into the Asia Cup."

Griffin said there would be obvious nerves associated with making her national team debut, but was confident they would subside quick enough.

"I've told myself in big games that if I am really nervous, that means I care and I can usually channel those nerves into a highly competitive spirit," she said.

Griffin was naturally also looking forward to the 2017-18 WNBL season.

The Spirit will start the season with a pair of new imports in former Perth Lynx star Betnijah Laney and fellow American Rachel Banham, a former WNBA top four draft pick.

"It's amazing how quickly this off-season has come and pre-season is just around the corner, Griffin said.