FIVE-TIME championship guard Jess Bibby has hailed Bendigo Spirit star Kelly Wilson ahead of her record-breaking WNBL game this Friday, saying her name had become synonymous with success in Australian basketball.
Wilson will break Bibby's all-time WNBL games record of 394 matches this Friday night against Perth Lynx.
Bibby, who surpassed the former record held by Lucille Bailie and Rachael Sporn during the 2015-16 season, said there was no disappointment seeing her record vanish, only kind words and thoughts and pride for her former on-court rival.
"I've followed it all season and I knew at some point Kelly was going to pass me, but I didn't realise until I was sent a message (on Tuesday) it was this week," she said.
"It's the old classic .... records are made to be broken and I am very excited for her."
"I played against her a fair bit; I remember her when she was at the AIS (2002-03), then she went to Sydney (2003-04 to 2004-05), then at Bendigo, when she and Kristi Harrower formed that amazing backcourt in those championship years.
"Coming up against that backcourt was always super tough.
"Then there was more success in Townsville and obviously last year with the Caps she was winning a championship with my old team.
"I know how hard it is to play that many games and what it takes in terms of looking after your body.
"Just to stay at the top level for such a long time means you have done a lot right in looking after yourself, which is super-impressive."
Bibby, who is still based in Canberra, where she won three of her five championships and remains an avid WNBL follower, believed it was a testament to Wilson - now in her 18th WNBL season- that she was still one of the fittest players in the league.
"One of the things I remember Kristi Harrower said was that it's easier to stay fit than to get fit," said Bibby, who two of her titles with Dandenong Rangers.
"Kelly obviously plays 12 months of the year, continuing to play in SEABL (now NBL1) - it makes a difference.
"To be able to play such a long time, you have to be that fit and hopefully stay injury-free.
"It was something I prided myself on too - it's what you do away from the floor, which enables you to perform on the floor.
"Kelly's super-fit and still such an important cog in a young Bendigo team and played a huge role in a Caps championship last season.
"I couldn't be happier for her breaking the record."
With only three games remaining in the Spirit's season, Wilson is likely to end it on 397 games.
Bibby believed there was no reason why the champion point guard could not play next season and become the first player to reach 400 games.
"She's in condition and can certainly go around if she wants to - hopefully she does go past 400," she said.
"Kelly's only 35 and I played until I was 36, so if she wants to, she's probably got another couple of years in her to push it out to 450 even.
"I have no doubt she could keep going and set a mark that will be tough for anyone to reach."
Bibby felt Wilson's longevity in the sport and status as a four-time WNBL champion was not only a reflection of her immense talent and dedication, but 'how good a team-mate' she has been throughout her career.
The first two of those championships were won in Bendigo in 2012-13 and 2013-14, with the third coming in Townsville in 2017-18, before a fourth with Canberra in 2018-19.
"Her win-loss record throughout her career would be amazing," Bibby said.
"There's been a lot of success along the way ... I'm sure it would be up there with anyone's record."
Bibby, who made the transition to AFLW at the end of her basketball career, playing one season with Greater Western Sydney in 2017, extended her praise to the Spirit's Gabe Richards.
The two-time championship centre and two-time WNBL All-Star will play her 250th game for the club on Friday, and her last in Spirit colors on her home court after announcing she will retire at the end of the season.
"Gabe was another player, who was such a huge part of those Bendigo championships," she said.
"She was absolutely one of the toughest players in the league to defend, night-in, night-out.
"250 games (at one club) doesn't come along too often, so it's going to be a big night in Bendigo."
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