Melbourne Boomers and Bendigo Spirit will open their Women’s National Basketball League pre-season accounts at Ballarat’s Minerdome on Saturday night.
The Boomers will be without four key players as Jenna O’Hea, Ezi Magbegor, Cayla George and Steph Talbot compete in the FIBA Women’s World Cup as part of the Australian Opals squad.
But coach Guy Molloy said fans might get the opportunity to see WNBA point guard Lindsay Allen, who arrived in Melbourne on Thursday.
Rising stars Maddie Garrick and Kalani Purcell, and emerging talent Monique Conti and Jaz Shelley are all expected to take to the court.
“Lindsay Allen is just a phenomenally good point guard, if she suits up she is someone to keep an eye on for sure,” Molloy said.
“Once we get our players back, I’m not expecting it to be a seamless integration. It could well be the girls we are putting time and effort into now are the ones that we rely on early in the season.”
Molloy said the Ballarat pre-season game had become a tradition and an important initiative to promote WNBL in regional Victoria.
Boomers players Ash Grant and Chelsea D’Angelo spent Friday at Miners Rest Primary School and Phoenix Community College running clinics with students.
“We’ve had a few good trainings this week, so we’re looking forward to just getting on court and playing and gelling together,” Grant said.
D’Angelo said the game would be an opportunity to showcase what some of the emerging talent could do.
The Spirit will be just one player short with an import yet to arrive from Canada.
Bendigo coach Simon Pritchard said Ballarat fans could look forward to seeing recruit and former Ballarat Rush star Abbey Wehrung, along with veteran player Louella Tomlinson.
He said both teams would treat their first pre-season clash as a chance to teach and measure what the players had taken on board so far.
While the game would help his players, he said it would also benefit Ballarat.
“For girls who want to play WNBL, they have to see it – you can’t be it if you can’t see it,” Pritchard said. “We want the Ballarat girls to see WNBL-standard basketball, we want them to be motivated by it so they share the dream to play WNBL basketball.”