Three of the top ten draftees in the 2021 NBA draft were from teams not in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) program.
Being on the eve of the WNBL finals, now is a good time to pay tribute to one of the great clubs of the modern era – not just in women’s basketball, but in Australian sport.
That club is the Canberra Capitals. Over 12 years, the Captials dominated the WNBL, appearing in nine grand finals and winning seven.
Unfortunately, the club has just completed a tough season, winning only its second game on Saturday night to collect the wooden spoon.
While the Capitals managed a rare win against Bendigo, the night ended in tears as loyal fans farewelled coach Carrie Graf, and club legend Jess Bibby.
In attendance to mark the occasion were Canberra sporting luminaries such as former Raiders captain Alan Tongue, ex-Cannons star Cal Bruton and former Wallaby Joe Roff.
Graf had 15 years in charge at the Capitals. Her winning record is outstanding, having coached 271 wins (a league record) of 421 games for a 64 per cent winning record.
Carrie won seven championships in total, including one with the Flames, and took the Opals to an Olympics gold medal in 2012.
Bibby started her career with Dandenong 20 years ago, winning rookie of the year in her debut season. Jess spent ten seasons at Dandenong before playing a further ten seasons with the Capitals, and along the way was drafted to the Liberty in the WNBA in 2000.
Bibby won five championships in total – two with Dandenong and three with the Capitals – and ends her career holding the WNBL record for most games played and most three pointers.
One player who was not there on Saturday night, but marks the changing of the guard in equal measure, is Lauren Jackson.
Lauren is an icon of Australian sport, and perhaps the best-known Australian female athlete of the last 20 years.
Not only did she star in the WNBL for many years, winning five championships, she won three WNBA Most Valuable Player awards, as well as multiple honours with the national team.
Unfortunately, Lauren has been hampered by a recurring knee injury since the 2014-15 season, and has only turned out for the Capitals a handful of times since, officially retiring from club duties mid-season.
She retains slim hopes of making Rio, but it’s not looking good.
As we end this acknowledgement to the Capitals, and its coach and stars, it’s worthwhile quoting Carrie Graf’s reminder of how much the WNBL as a whole has achieved over a 35 year period:
“We’re seeing changes in cricket, AFL, netball, but in a lot of ways women’s basketball set some of the standards early.”