BENDIGO Spirit coach Simon Pritchard has been watching Heather Oliver develop into one of the WNBL’s most versatile basketballers for the past two years.
Pritchard said the point guard’s ability to play in offence and defence meant it was a no-brainer for him to want Oliver to re-commit to the Spirit for another season.
He said the 27-year-old would be a key member of the club moving forward.
“Her junior coaches didn’t like the fact she was left-handed, but one of the great features about Heather is that she is left-handed and she is unorthodox,” Pritchard said.
“She has been a great defender over a long period, but her offensive game was really evident in the finals last year and we are really happy to have her on board for the next season.
“Her development means she will be able to play a lot more court time than what she has been in previous seasons.”
Oliver said she was excited to be able to stay with the Spirit.
“Over the past couple of months there has been an unknown as to what was going on (with the Bendigo Spirit),” she said.
“But, I live in Bendigo, I work here, so it is good fit for me to continue on with the Spirit.
“I am glad that there still is a Spirit.”
Oliver had a break-out season in 2014-2015, averaging 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
She said over the years she had learnt a lot from Bernie and Kristi Harrower as well as her team-mates.
“The role that I have means you don’t know if you are going to be on the court for one minute or 10 minutes, so you have to go out there and play your hardest,” Oliver said.
“You just try and do what you can for the team.”
Oliver has been playing with Sandhurst’s A-grade team in the Bendigo Football Netball League this year.
She decided on not playing in the SEABL competition and turning her attention to netball.
“When you play basketball all year round it is a nice break to play netball,” Oliver said.
“It complements basketball in a sense with the footwork side of it.
“There is a really good culture at Sandhurst and it has been a really enjoyable season so far.”
WNBL All-Star five Kelsey Griffin will also be playing with the Spirit for another season.
"I am looking forward to seeing all the Spirit fans in the stands for what I hope will be another exciting and successful season," she said.
"I would personally like to thank Bernie, Kristi and Kylee Harrower for everything they have done, helping me with my basketball career over the past three years."
In other Spirit news, Belinda Snell, Kelly Wilson, Tessa Lavey and Sara Blicavs will be traveling with the Australian Opals team to Europe on Wednesday.
Former Spirit stars Madeleine Garrick and Elyse Penaluna are also in the 12-person squad.
The tour will see the Opals compete against Serbia, Italy, Venezuela and world champion silver medallists Spain.
Snell said the European tour was a part of the Opals build up to the Rio Olympics.
The 34-year-old admits that despite being a part of the Australian team for several years, she still gets nervous before pulling on the green and gold jersey.
"Before games I still get that feeling of nerves, but once that disappears it shows you aren’t hungry anymore," Snell said.
"But, I still have that feeling."