THE Bendigo Spirit have filled their first import slot following the signing of exciting playmaker Betnijah Laney for the 2017-18 WNBL season.
Laney should be no stranger to WNBL fans after she spent the 2015-16 season with the Perth Lynx.
The 183cm shooting guard and small forward averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and one steal per game in 27 appearances for the Lynx that season as the Perth team advanced to the WNBL grand final series against the Townsville Fire.
Laney has spent the past two seasons in the WNBA, but was recently cut by her team the Chicago Sky.
The 23-year-old played only eight games in the 2016 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee.
But Laney believed the Spirit team and the Bendigo culture would be a great fit for her as she looked to continue her basketball career.
"I'm keen to develop my game further, to take it to the next level, and Simon (Pritchard) will certainly help me with that," she said.
"The Bendigo Spirit is known for its toughness and the girls are respected throughout the league.
"I am really looking forward to playing alongside them, especially Kelsey Griffin, and showing the amazing Bendigo crowds what we can all do."
The teaming of Griffin and Laney, who averaged 10.9 points per game during her four-year college career at New Jersey-based Rutgers University, is expected to give the Spirit one of the more exciting frontcourt combinations in the WNBL.
She averaged 16 points in her final season and in one game for the Scarlet Knights scored 24 points and had 24 rebounds.
Spirit coach Simon Pritchard hailed the signing as exciting for both the club and the city.
"It's great have Betnijah’s playmaking ability on our team," he said.
"Her combinations with Kelsey will be exciting for us. Her defence will help us with matching the size around the league this season.
“What I really like about Betnijah is her ability to play transition, push the tempo, and finish well at the rim.
"As this is our system, we hope to improve Betnijah’s game as we push ourselves to a finals appearance in 2017-18 season.”
Laney was originally drafted with pick number 17 in the 2015 WNBA draft.
Her signing is the Spirit's third for next season after forward Nadeen Payne and four-time club MVP Griffin recommitted in recent weeks.
With doubts over Kerryn Harrington continuing with the Spirit after signing an AFL Women's league rookie contract with Carlton, the club is expected to target a point guard as their second import.