WHILE plenty of Tracy York's focus is centering on the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, where Bendigo Spirit stars Tessa Lavey and Leilani Mitchell will represent the Australian Opals, the WNBL coach is finding a lot more to enthuse about in the performances of her players in Australia's domestic leagues.
Following a brilliant free agency period, during which the Spirit added genuine star power in the form of brilliant point guard Mitchell, the league's 2020 season leading rebounder Anneli Maley, two-time WNBL champion Maddie Garrick and rising star Megan McKay, there's a feeling from York that pre-season training can't come soon enough for Victoria's only regional WNBL team.
The third-year coach could not be happier with the progression of her players during the current NBL1 season, despite the competition going into recess in Victoria and New South Wales following the announcement of lockdowns in those states late last week.
York said both Bendigo Braves Spirit-listed players Piper Dunlop and Cassidy McLean had performed strongly at NBL1 level.
"It's really unfortunate with the lockdowns, they were meant to have a double-header last weekend with the Braves (against Geelong and Ringwood) and obviously this weekend will be cancelled as well now," she said.
"It's been a pity, they've only had one or two games since the previous lockdown, but both had performed really strongly within their group."
Dunlop is averaging 9.58 points and seven rebounds per game, while McLean is posting similar numbers with averages of 9.75 points, 5.08 rebounds and 2.25 assists for the Braves, who are third on the ladder with a 10-2 record.
As important as any inclusion for the Spirit this season, Maley is continuing to put up monster numbers on the boards for Eltham Wildcats.
The 21-year-old pulled down a phenomenal 30 rebounds in a July 9 win over Dandenong Rangers and has twice finished games with 29 rebounds and 27 once for a season average of 24.45.
Maley is also proving a threat on the scoreboard with 17.36 points per game.
"Those rebound numbers are crazy," said York, who's looking for Maley to have as strong as an impact as she had with Sydney Uni Flames last season (12.1 rpg).
Elsewhere in the South, Garrick (21ppg and 7.20rpg) has been one of the bright spots for a struggling Hobart Chargers (1-15), while Demi Skinner is averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 rebounds for the ninth-placed Ringwood Hawks (7-4).
York is further delighted to see New Zealand native Mary Goulding posting strong numbers with East Perth Eagles in the NBL1 West competition.
The 24-year-old, who made her WNBL debut with the Spirit in the 2020 hub season, is averaging 22.66 points, 11.25 rebounds and 3.25 assists through 12 games for the Eagles this season.
Currently second in the league in scoring, Goulding produced an equal season-high 35 points and 17 rebounds in the Eagles' most recent clash, which resulted in a 12-point win over Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
Also playing out west, Megan McKay, who has joined the Spirit on the back of her impressive debut WNBL season with Townsville Fire, is averaging 15.91 points, 11.88 rebounds and 2.66 assists for Perry Lakes Hawks.
The power forward contributed 21 points, nine rebounds and two steals in her team's July 16 win over Lakeside Lightning.
York said gun recruit Mitchell, who is making her second Olympic Games appearance with the Opals, would return to her WNBA team, Washington Mystics, at the end of the Olympics and return to Australia sometime in late-September or early-October.
The Spirit plan to start pre-season training in late September.
"It will be exciting to get the group together," York said.
"Fingers crossed we get something like a normal season in."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: