13 Things We Loved in the WNBL This Year
Two constants in the WNBL in recent years have been the ongoing success of the Townsville Fire and the machine-like production of Suzy Batkovic. One of only two players to score 20 points a game (21.3) and one of only a pair of players who averaged more than 10 rebounds (10.6), she was again utterly dominant in the paint, continuing to use her imposing size and unorthodox leftie game to devastating effect.
THE RIM PROTECTION OF MARIANNA TOLO
Of the league’s three elite shot blockers (With Jennifer Hamson and Ruth Hamblin), Tolo is the most mobile and an instinctive defender. Her return to the Capitals, along with her undiminished ability to swat shots and change countless others was a key reason last year’s last-placed Canberra squad improved by eleven wins and hovered on the edge of the finals this year.
THE RISE (AND RISE) OF CARLEY MIJOVIC
Increased minutes don’t always lead to increased production, but Perth’s Carley Mijovic relished the chance to become the Lynx’s second scoring option behind Whitcomb and her stats climbed in almost every category. Agile, tall enough to play the five and a good enough shooter to be a floor-stretching matchup nightmare, Mijovic was Perth’s most improved player in the 2015/16 and if anything only hastened her improvement this season. She recorded 3 times as many blocks as last year, along with more than doubling her rebounds (7.5) and assists (1.29) per game and rocketed up the points per game chart, from 28th to 13th in the league.
THE FANTASTIC STEPH CUMMING
God damn, what a basketball player. While some pros carve out perfectly respectable careers by being excellent at one thing, Cumming’s particular niche is being good at everything: outside shooting, persistent perimeter defence, dishing out assists, scoring efficiently with her back to the basket, getting to the foul line. She passed 250 WNBL games this year and has never been better, nor played with such controlled fire. “No-one ever wants to lose” she told a reporter recently, eyes grim with intensity. “You're a liar if you say you like losing".
SAMI WHITCOMB, TORMENTOR OF DEFENCES
Initially arriving in the WNBL via the Western Australian Basketball League with little fanfare, the California-born Sami Whitcomb is now the league’s MVP frontrunner. Her late-blooming game includes superior ball-handling, herky-jerky drives to the basket and pure shooting from well beyond the three-point arc. It’s a multi-faceted puzzle nobody around the league has managed to solve on a consistent basis and her continued dominance has led to a well-deserved call-up to the WNBA. As Perth coach Andy Stewart recently told local press, it’s not a question of whether she is up to the sports premier competition, “My question would be – can she dominate it?”