BENDIGO Braves’ hopes of a championship repeat have been boosted following the return of their dynamic duo Gabe Richards and Kelly Wilson.
The veteran pair, who combined for 70 points in the Braves’ 119-96 SEABL grand final win over Launceston Tornadoes last season, have become the second and third players from the 2018 championship team to re-sign with the club for the 2019 NBL1 season.
They join Nadeen Payne, whose return was announced earlier this month.
Wilson will rejoin the Braves on the back of winning her fourth WNBL championship on the weekend with Canberra Capitals, while Richards will enter the season refreshed after taking a season off.
Richards said she was ‘champing at the bit’ to return to basketball, especially given the fact that her great friend and long-time teammate, Kelly will be joining her.
“I’m really excited about 2019 with the Braves. Having a gap year from WNBL as shown me how much I love to compete and how much my basketball family means to me,” she said.
“It’s special for Kell (Wilson) and I to be able to announce our signings together.
“We have had such a long and successful basketball journey together it just felt right to announce together, that we’ll be going around again for a crack at another title.”
Richards and Wilson shared the court as recently as last month, when both were awarded life membership of the WNBL before the Bendigo Spirit’s final season game against Canberra.
A championship win in Canberra capped another amazing WNBL season for Wilson, who moved into fourth on the all-time games played list and again led the league in assists (6.19 per game).
The 34-year-old point guard, who won two of her four national titles with Bendigo Spirit, said it was always her intention to return to the Braves once her WNBL commitments were complete.
“Bendigo is home, so to be able to come home, play with the Braves and suit-up with Gabe again, was always on the cards,” she said.
“We had such a great time last year winning the SEABL title, with an amazing group, it made sense for us to try and repeat that.”
Braves coach Megan Moody said the signings of Richards and Wilson were a crucial piece of the puzzle for her.
“Kelly and Gabe are the most formidable duo in the league,” she said.
“They just know where each other are going to be and how to make it work.
“Aside from that they epitomise the word leadership with undeniable experience and basketball IQ, we are so lucky to have them back in Braves uniforms.”
The duo were at their very best on the grand final stage against Launceston, with Richards turning in a MVP-winning performance with 43 points and 24 rebounds, while Wilson scored 27 points, dished out 20 assists and had three rebounds and two steals.
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