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Opinion

Perth Lynx WNBL season preview

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31st December, 2021
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In the 2020 WNBL hub season, the Perth Lynx had four wins and nine losses and finished in seventh position on the ladder.

However, with the squad they have assembled this season I would expect them to rocket up the WNBL ladder.

If you live in or near Ballarat, jump on board the Lynx when they are based in Ballarat during January. They will provide you with plenty of quality basketball.

Departures
The Lynx have lost two stars to retirement. Katie-Rae Ebzery won the Perth Lynx MVP award in 2019-20 and was named in the All-WNBL First Team in each of the last two seasons.

Ebzery led the Lynx for points and assists in 2020. Ebzery has been a stalwart for the Opals, winning a silver medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup and playing in two Olympics. Ebzery announced her retirement after the Tokyo Olympics.

Katie Ebzery of the Lynx.

(Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

Another retiring player, Kayla Steindl, played a number of years with the Perth Lynx following stints with the Townsville Fire and Adelaide Lightning. She was a valuable long-range shooter for the Lynx.

In her final season, Steindl averaged 18.63 points and 9.26 rebounds per game in NBL1 West and helped her team the Joondalup Wolves reach the grand final. She was selected in the All-NBL1 West First Team. Steindl is married to inaugural Tassie JackJumpers NBL captain Clint Steindl.

Three other players were not re-signed by the Lynx from the 2020 WNBL hub season. Jessie Edwards was the West Coast Waves Rookie of the Year in 2013-14.

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Edwards led the University of Minnesota Gophers in each of her three seasons in blocks. Edwards had previously been a development player at the Adelaide Lightning. Edwards played the 2021 NBL1 West season with the Cockburn Cougars.

Jewel Williams played for the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and was named a State Basketball League All-Star in 2019, averaging 14.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Williams was a Lynx Development and Academy player prior to being part of the squad in the hub season.

Nes’eya Parker-Williams made her WNBL debut for the Lynx at the age of 17. Parker-Williams has previously played for the Perth Redbacks. For the 2020 West Coast Classic, Parker-Williams joined the Joondalup Wolves.

Returning players
Darcee Garbin was the second leading point scorer for the Lynx in the 2020 WNBL season, averaging 16.5 points per game. Garbin was one of just three players with prior Opals experience in the team that won bronze at the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.

Garbin averaged 10.5 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game during the tournament. Garbin also won bronze at the 2019 Asia Cup.

Garbin has previously played in the WNBL with the AIS, West Coast Waves (in a previous stint in Perth) and Townsville Fire. Garbin won two WNBL championships while at the Fire.

Darcee Garbin

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Garbin’s sister Sophie recently signed with the Collingwood Magpies, after winning two Super Netball titles with the NSW Swifts.

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In the 2020 WNBL season, Alex Sharp led the Lynx for rebounds with 7.9 rebounds per game and was the fourth highest scorer in the team averaging 8.9 points per game.

Sharp also made an impact for the Opals in the Asia Cup. Sharp averaged 6.5 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game during the tournament. Sharp had a double-double against Chinese Taipei (11 points and ten rebounds) and scored 12 points against the Philippines.

From Melbourne originally, Sharp played college basketball for Wake Forest. Sharp averaged 18.95 points, 13.30 rebounds and 5.25 assists per game for the Willetton Tigers in the NBL1 West season. Sharp was awarded the NBL1 West MVP and NBL1 West grand final MVP in the Tigers’ championship-winning team.

Ashleigh Isenbarger made her WNBL debut with the Lynx before a stint with the Melbourne Boomers. Isenbarger was a standout player for WA at junior level. Isenbarger won the Boomers’ Most Improved Player Award in 2017-2018.

Isenbarger has played with the Lakeside Lightning for a number of years, including a SBL championship in 2018. In the 2021 NBL1 West competition, Isenbarger averaged 18.23 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Lightning.

Alexandra Ciabattoni won the WNBL 2015-16 Rookie of the Year when playing with the Adelaide Lightning. Ciabattoni played with the Lynx in 2017-18 before plying her trade in Italy.

Ciabattoni played in the WA State Basketball League with the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Rockingham Flames and played in the then SEABL competition with Albury Wodonga Bandits and Hobart Chargers.

Ciabattoni injured her ankle just before the 2020 WNBL hub season but still managed to average ten points and three rebounds per game for the Lynx. In the NBL1 West season, Ciabattoni averaged 20 points, 5.94 rebounds and 3.88 assists per game for the Rockingham Flames.

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Tayah Burrows returns for the Lynx. Burrows was set to commence her college career at Washington State. However, due to the uncertainty around COVID-19, Burrows decided to stay in Australia.

Burrows was awarded the 2020 Perth Lynx Youth Player of the Year after shooting 36.8 per cent from the field and averaging 1.8 assists per game. She is a former Southwest Slammers junior. Burrows averaged 17 points, 5.2 assists and 4.53 rebounds per game for the Rockingham Flames in the 2021 NBL1 West.

wo hands compete for a basketball at tip off

(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Emma Clarke made her WNBL debut in the WNBL 2020 hub season. Clarke graduated from Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence in 2017 before joining the University of Colorado.

Clarke averaged nearly ten points and five rebounds per game as a sophomore at Colorado Buffaloes during 2019-20. Clarke averaged 16 minutes per game for the Lynx in 2020.

Forward Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard is a Kalgoorlie native who has come through the WA State Pathway Program. Clinch Hoycard has also played at the University of Hawai’i.

Clinch Hoycard returns as a development player for the 2021-22 season. Clinch Hoycard averaged 15.71 points, 6.61 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game for the Warwick Senators in NBL1 West.

Recruits
On Christmas Day, Perth Lynx and WNBL fans were given the perfect present when the Lynx announced the return of Sami Whitcomb.

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Whitcomb, who hails from California, played college basketball for the Washington Huskies and played in Germany with ChemCats Chemnitz and Wolfenbuttel Wildcats.

When Whitcomb arrived in Perth her career really took off. Playing with the Rockingham Flames, she won two State Basketball League (SBL) championships, three MVP awards, two grand final MVPs and was the three-time SBL scoring champion.

Whitcomb’s form for the Flames was too good for the Lynx to ignore. In her first stint with the Lynx, Whitcomb was named to the WNBL All-Star Five on three occasions. In 2017-18, Whitcomb was a key factor in the Lynx finishing the regular season on top of the ladder.

Whitcomb has won two WNBA championships with the Seattle Storm. In her first season with the New York Liberty, Whitcomb averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and shot at 47 per cent from the field and 42 per cent from the three-point line.

Whitcomb has also won a silver medal for the Opals at the 2018 World Cup and a bronze at the 2021 Asia Cup. The Asia Cup shows Whitcomb’s dedication. On the Thursday prior to the Asia Cup, Whitcomb was playing in a WNBA playoff game for the New York Liberty in Phoenix.

Less than four days later, the Opals and Whitcomb were playing their first match against Chinese Taipei in Amman, Jordan. Whitcomb finished the tournament with averages of 17.5 points, 7.5 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game, and was rightfully rewarded with selection in the All-Star Five.

(Wikimedia Commons)

Jackie Young was a member of the USA’s Olympic gold medal winning 3×3 team at Tokyo. Young won a National Championship with the University of Notre Dame. Young was selected as the number one pick in the 2019 WNBA draft.

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In the 2021 WNBA season, Young averaged 11.3 points and four rebounds per game and shot at 48.8 per cent from the field for the Las Vegas Aces. Young spent the last WNBA off-season playing in Israel.

Dallas Wings guard Marina Mabrey was a championship-winning teammate of Young at Notre Dame. Mabrey was drafted at the 19th pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. In 2020, Mabrey was traded to the Wings.

In the 2021 WNBA season, Mabrey averaged 12.9 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Mabrey shot at 40 per cent from the field and 34 per cent from the three-point line. It will be difficult for opposition teams to shut down both Whitcomb and Mabrey from deep. Mabrey has also previously played in Latvia and Israel.

Lauren Scherf has plenty of WNBL experience with a number of teams. Scherf commenced her WNBL career with the Dandenong Rangers, where she won the WNBL Rookie of the Year.

Scherf then joined the University of Canberra Capitals, where she won a championship in 2018-19. Scherf most recently played with the Sydney Uni Flames. In the 2020 WNBL season, Scherf averaged 11.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for the Flames.

Scherf was another member of the Lynx who excelled for the Opals at the 2021 Asia Cup. Scherf averaged 9.3 points and 7.7 rebounds and achieved a double-double in the semi-final against Japan (12 points and 15 rebounds).

Mia Satie, Emma Gandini and Mia Jacobs have also signed with the Lynx as development players. Satie is a guard who averaged 10.64 points, 4.88 rebounds and 3.29 assists for the Perry Lakes Hawks in 2021 NBL1 West. Satie also played three years of college basketball with the Pepperdine Waves.

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Gandini was awarded the 2021 NBL1 West Defensive Player of the Year. Gandini averaged 10.85 points, 6.33 rebounds, 3.19 steals and 2.71 assists per game.

Gandini won the NBL1 West championship with the Willetton Tigers with Lynx teammate Alex Sharp. Gandini was also announced in the WA State Basketball League All-Defensive Five in 2019, when she averaged three steals per game.

Jacobs had a standout 2021 Nationals campaign with the WA Metro team. Jacobs was invited to attend the Basketball Australia National Performance Camp at the Centre of Excellence.

Forward Jacobs averaged 9.94 points and 6.11 rebounds per game in the 2021 NBL1 West for the Eastern Suns. Jacobs has signed a letter of intent to join the La Salle College Explorers in Philadelphia. Jacobs’ sisters Amy and Claire are already playing at La Salle.

Prediction
The concerns I have for the Perth Lynx are that they have given all other teams a month’s head start, will have a condensed season compared to other teams and may not play in Perth until later in the season, if at all.

However, Perth have done a great job of replacing retired stars Ebzery and Steindl. The Asia Cup quartet of Whitcomb, Garbin, Sharp and Scherf and quality imports Young and Mabrey will bring plenty of joy to their fans back home in Perth.

Predicted finish: third.

I made my ladder predictions prior to the signing of Sami Whitcomb. With the addition of Whitcomb, don’t be surprised to see the Lynx hold the WNBL trophy aloft.

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