BENDIGO Braves have scored a coup ahead of the 2020 NBL1 season, luring WNBL star Abbey Wehrung away from one of their main rivals.
Wehrung joins the Braves after a stellar season in the inaugural NBL1 competition with Knox Raiders in which she averaged 14.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
Her signing extends the 24-year-old's stay in Bendigo, where she has spent the past two WNBL seasons with the Spirit.
Wehrung, a former Ballarat junior, said staying close to home was a big factor in her decision to suit up for the Braves.
💥WELCOME ABBEY!💥— Bendigo Braves (@Bendigo_Braves) January 15, 2020
Having spent 2 seasons on the WNBL scene here in Bendigo, Abbey Wehrung will continue her stay in Bendigo for the NBL1 2020 season. #JoinTheTribe 🏀
📸 Akuna Photography@NBL1HQ@WNBL#NBL1#basketball#sport#bendigo#braves#bendigobasketballpic.twitter.com/4e8es2BK5b
"I'm super excited to be sticking around Bendigo and playing for the Braves in the NBL1," she said.
"This place is really becoming a second home for me.
"The competition is going to be stronger than we've already seen and I believe we are going to be a really exciting, talented team to watch.
"I hope everyone gets around us with loads of support."
Wehrung, who missed the Spirit's weekend loss to the Perth Lynx with a quad injury, is averaging 10.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists this WNBL season.
Her numbers are nearly identical to those posted in her first season with the Spirit in 2018-19, which she finished with averages of 10.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
New Braves women's coach Mark Alabakov, who has had the opportunity to work closely alongside Wehrung this WNBL season as an assistant to Spirit coach Tracy York, said he was excited to have the guard as part of the Braves program.
"Spirit fans will know her well from her time in our WNBL program and we look forward to investing time into her game and working together with her as she continues to emerge as one of the most electric athletes in our sport nationally," Alabakov said.
"Abbey has the size, length, experience and exceptional athleticism to be a high impact player for years to come."
Wehrung is the Braves' second signing for this season, following that of her former Spirit team-mate Cassidy McLean.
An expanded NBL1 competition for 2020 will include the establishment of north and south conferences following a landmark agreement between the NBL and Basketball Queensland.
Under the new format, the NBL1 North will replace the former Queensland Basketball League, with 13 clubs participating in the men's and women's competitions.
The Braves will now feature in an 18-team NBL1 South competition, which has expanded to include former SEABL powerhouse Mount Gambier Pioneers.
NBL chief operating officer Andy Crook said discussions were ongoing with Basketball South Australia, Basketball Western Australia and Basketball New South Wales about introducing the NBL1 concept in those states.
Basketball Victoria chief executive officer Nick Honey said: "It's exciting to see the next phase of NBL1's expansion begin this year with NBL1 becoming NBL1 South.
"From where Basketball Victoria and the NBL started last year, it's brilliant to see the model expand to other states," he said.
The NBL1 South season tips-off on April 18.
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