National basketball star Liz Cambage has made her long-awaited return to the court in a practice match against Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence in Ballarat on Saturday.
The Melbourne Boomers’ marquee recruit took a year off from the sport after the 2016 Rio Olympics.
While Cambage has trained with the Boomers ahead of the opening of the Women’s National Basketball League season on October 5, the match marked the first time spectators could see her in action.
Ballarat Basketball’s Jacob Borner said it was great to see Cambage dominating on the Minerdome floor.
The 203cm center had a double double at three-quarter time despite playing only about half the game.
“She had a massive impact,” Borner said.
While the Boomers came away with a big victory over BA CoE, Borner said the exhibition match had been about giving Australia’s basketball up and comers some exposure at the elite level.
“These are the youngest female athletes in Australia, the most promising and talented we have,” Borner said.
“They’re all potential Opals (players)… and they are playing against players like Maddie Garrick, who has donned the green and gold, and Liz Cambage.”
The Boomers also found time to make an impact on the community.
Garrick ran a clinic for Yuille Park Community College students on Thursday, before a meet and greet on Friday where the entire Boomers squad signed autographs and posed for photos with Ballarat fans.
On Sunday, the Boomers hosted an hour-long clinic for Ballarat Basketball’s junior elite program.
“They were really hands on, they made the kids work really hard and pushed them through their paces,” Borner said.
“To have role models impact you as a youngster, it really keeps them in tune with their aspirations.
“And to have someone like Liz Cambage come over and give you a quick little lesson and correct your shot, that’s something you will never forget and you can’t put a price on.”
Meanwhile, gold medal coach Kristen Veal and superstar Lauren Jackson led seminars for members of the basketball community.