Coach Paul Goriss says the UC Capitals aren’t surprised by the impact of their boom rookie Jade Melbourne, who will look to continue her Chemist Warehouse WNBL education on Saturday after finishing her high school exams.
Heading into the clash with Brydens Sydney Uni Flames in Cairns, Canberra have reeled off three straight wins, after suffering an opening game overtime loss to Adelaide Lightning.
The strong start to a quest for a third straight title has comes despite fitness issues to a number of players.
Superstar forward Kelsey Griffin and new recruits, guards and former Flames’ Brittany Smart and Tahlia Tupaea all missed the first two games.
In addition, veteran centre Marianna Tolo remains on restricted minutes.
The injuries have opened up opportunities for younger players, especially Australian junior representative Melbourne, who only signed for the Caps earlier this month.
Melbourne, who turned 18 back in August and sat her final Year 12 exam on Friday, has been arguably the pick of the rookies across the competition.
She has averaged 11.5 points per game, shooting at 51 per cent from the field and almost 78 per cent from the free throw line.
After going scoreless on debut, Melbourne has contributed more offensively with each game.
She tallied 12.14 and then 20 in her last appearance against a star-studded and previously unbeaten Deakin Melbourne Boomers side.
“I expected great things from Jade because I’ve seen her at the Centre of Excellence training and we’ve had some scrimmage games against the Centre of Excellence, so I knew fully well what she could do as a player,” Goriss said.
“I think that probably she’s surprised people around the country or in the WNBL because they don’t know of her.
“She is a great player now, but she’s only going to continue to improve and get better and better in each game that we play, but also really excited about her future and what she can do in Australian basketball as well as for herself.”
Happy with his team’s defence, Goriss is looking for their offence to lift now that all his players are available.
Sydney (1-3) have lost to three strong clubs in Melbourne, Jayco Southside Flyers and JCU Townsville Fire, with their sole victory coming over the last-placed winless Villawood Properties Bendigo Spirit.
“Having played some of the top teams and we come up against the back-to-back champions, it gives us an opportunity to really test where we are five games in,” Flames’ coach Katrina Hibbert said.
“We’ve reset our goals, we’re 0-0 in Cairns, a new city, new opportunities.
“We’ve had some video review to show areas where we can continue to improve, in particular defensive consistency and disruptiveness and intensity for 40 minutes.”
Adrian Warren is a freelance contributor to WNBL.com.au
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames vs UC Capitals
Saturday 21 November 2020
8:30pm AEST / 9:30pm AEDT
Live on Kayo