Opals coach moves on from Cambage for Cup

Murray Wenzel |

Australian women’s basketball coach Sandy Brondello will not attempt to woo Liz Cambage back for the World Cup but says she will keep an eye on Lauren Jackson’s basketball return.

Brondello is coaching the Opals in Serbia’s World Cup qualifying event, Australia going down to the hosts on Sunday morning after beating Brazil to open their campaign.

They’ll finish against Korea on Monday morning, the result irrelevant given the Opals’ place at Sydney’s showpiece event in September is already assured as hosts.

Australia are ranked No.3 in the world but have a point to prove after a disappointing quarter-final Olympic exit that came after Cambage’s withdrawal on the eve of the Games due to mental health concerns.

The star centre was reprimanded by Basketball Australia last month, after an investigation into a physical and verbal altercation with Nigerian players during a warm-up game before the Tokyo Olympics.

A low-grade punishment left her available for World Cup selection, but Cambage said in December she had “zero” interest in competing for Australia again.

Cambage completed the WNBA season with the Las Vegas Aces after the Olympics and has signed with the Los Angeles Sparks, while Brondello is now coaching the New York Liberty.

“We want players who are committed to wearing the green and gold,” Brondello told ABC Radio.

“That’s the most important thing, and Liz wasn’t and that’s OK.

“We support Liz in that. She’s helped us, had a great World Cup (in 2018, when she made the team of the tournament and the Opals won silver) but it’s changed now.

“My job is to focus on the players we do have and getting the right preparation, unlike leading into Tokyo.”

A potential replacement at centre for the Opals has emerged in Jackson, the 40-year-old returning to the NBL1 with Albury-Wodonga in a potential run-up to the World Cup.

“We’ve put too much pressure on Lauren Jackson at the moment; she’s said she wants to come back and play in front of her young sons in her home town,” Brondello said of arguably the greatest women’s player in history.

“We shouldn’t miss any steps there. Let’s see how Lauren comes back; if she gets anywhere close to what Lauren Jackson was when she did retire you might consider her.”