WHILE she suspects life for the Australian Opals will be tough without Liz Cambage, Bendigo Spirit coach Tracy York is far more excited by how our national women's basketball team will respond when its Tokyo Olympics' campaign gets underway next week.
York, like all Australian basketball followers, is encouraged by the earliest signs, following the Opals' stirring 70-67 victory over the USA women's team in their pre-Olympics exhibition game on the weekend.
It was the Opals' first win over Team USA in 11 years.
Down to 11-players following Cambage's decision to withdraw from the Olympic team due to mental health concerns, the Spirit coach believed Saturday's hit-out against the world champions offered an exciting and strong glimpse into what lies ahead for the Opals in Japan.
"It was a brilliant result for us, the US was always going to be hard to beat, especially once we get to the Olympics," she said.
"Having to readjust without Liz and life without her makes it really tough.
"It's going to be a different style of game. While we have some amazing players, you just don't know what the size of opposition teams is going to be.
"They all would have had some sort of bigs Liz would have matched up well against, but obviously Ezi (Magbegor), in particular, stepped up and was fantastic the other night.
"It's probably her time to shine, along with everybody else.
"I hope for the girls, their medal chances are still intact and they can move forward as a group really well together."
York's comments came on the same day Basketball Australia announced it is investigating Cambage for 'a breach of the integrity framework and code of conduct'.
In a statement issued on Monday, the governing body confirmed the two-time Olympian was being probed for an incident that occurred during a scrimmage between Australia and Nigeria.
"As Liz has withdrawn from the Olympic Games due to mental health reasons we will not make any comments on the status of the investigation until the matter is concluded," it read.
"The investigation is being managed by Basketball Australia's Integrity Division."
Rising Opals star Magbegor stepped up in Cambage's absence against Team USA, to finish with a team-high 17 points, five rebounds and three steals at centre.
With Cambage, who was the Opals leading scorer and rebounder at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, unable to be replaced under Olympic rules, York tipped a more even spreading of the load among the remaining 11 Opals.
She is excited by what this will mean for the two Spirit players in the squad, Leilani Mitchell and Tessa Lavey, and also Tess Madgen, who has spent this NBL1 season with the Bendigo Braves.
York backed all three players to make an impact.
"Lei is just a class act, playing at Olympic level and WNBL level for however long now, and having been in the WNBA for over 10 years now," she said about Mitchell, who finished with a team-high five assists, six points and three assists against Team USA.
"Those two just complement each other so very well; they're both different types of guards. Lei is generally a pure point guard and Tessa can play both spots, off-guard and point guard.
"For us, being in the Australian team and getting all that experience and exposure and then bringing that to the Spirit is very exciting.
"They are clearly both talented players and fully deserve their spot in that Australian team. I can't wait to start watching them next week.
"I think Lei is that type of person, who plays well with anybody and everybody, and in any situation.
"Tessa is very quick and can be full-court defensively and in the offence as well.
"You would think, with such a versatile group, and now being down to 11, you couldn't go wrong with any one of those 11. Let's hope they all get their share of court-time and get their opportunity."
Mitchell, whose three-pointer late in the contest put the Opals in front for good against the USA, and Lavey, the Spirit's 2020 season MVP, are both competing at their second Olympics, while the Tokyo Games will be a first for Madgen.
The Opals will compete in group C of the women's basketball and are being captained by former Bendigo Spirit player Jenna O'Hea.
Opals Olympics schedule (all times AEST):
July 27 - v Belgium (6.20pm).
July 30 - v China (10pm).
August 2 - v Puerto Rico (10pm).