International talent to feature in WNBL this season

September 19, 2023 | WNBL news

Talent from the US, Canada and Japan will take to the court this Cygnett WNBL season as all eight clubs boast two imports for the first time in years.

You need to go back to Becca Tobin and Marte Grays in 2019-20 to find the last time Bendigo Spirit had internationals on their roster while the Southside Flyers, who have opted for one import in two of their first four campaigns, will feature a pair for the first time in club history.

And while some WNBA talent is returning and there’s a sprinkling of new faces around the country there’s an emerging trend with NBL1 imports earning contracts off the back of eye-catching form in Australia.

The UC Capitals and Perth Lynx know this formula well having unearthed US-born talent Nicole Munger and Robbi Ryan, who both impressed in their debut seasons, in 2022-23. Munger returns to the nation’s capital while Ryan has used the league as a springboard to a contract in Sweden.

Cassandra Brown (Mount Gambier Pioneers to Townsville Fire), Mehryn Kraker (Rockingham Flames to Bendigo Spirit) and Paige Bradley (Hobart Chargers to Sydney Flames) will follow on the same path in #WNBL24.

Brown is one of three Canadians in the league with her national squad team mate Emily Potter joining the Lynx and Ruth Hamblin (formerly Perth and Adelaide) back on court for a third WNBL stint, this time with the Spirit.

Monica Okoye will make history as the first Japanese import to play in the league.

The Tokyo Olympic silver medallist, who also won silver for her country at July’s FIBA Asia Cup in Sydney, now takes her game and wealth of experience to Canberra. She also spent the NBL1 season playing for the Geelong Supercats.

Familiar faces and proven games are headed back to Australia this summer, none bigger than Tiana Hawkins who won a championship and was crowned Rachael Sporn Medallist as Grand Final MVP in an incredible first WNBL season with the Fire.

Adelaide Lighting coach Nat Hurst has opted with a tried-and-true formula when it comes to her imports, headlined by the return of Brianna Turner to the city of churches. In her first season with the Lighting in 2019-20, the 27-year-old forward was runner-up to Kia Nurse in the Suzy Batkovic Medal and returns to Australia bigger and better after another four years in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury.

Sydney’s reigning MVP Jocelyn Willoughby, who averaged 15.1 points per game last season, is coming back to the Australia but will suit up for the Lightning.

Centre Mercedes Russell (Seattle Storm) was part of the Flyers inaugural team in 2019-20 and the Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year is soaring back Southside and will take to the court with teal recruit Jasmine Dickey (Dallas Wings guard).

Melbourne Boomers have had great success with their imports, the likes of Rachael Sporn Grand Final MVP Lindsay Allen and reigning league leading scorer Tiffany Mitchell, in recent years and have recruited strongly again with Los Angeles Sparks star Jordin Canada and veteran and WNBA champion Jantel Lavender Boom-Box bound.

Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald will wear red all year round as the new WNBA face at the Lynx, while 2021 WNBA No.17 selection Didi Richards, who played two seasons for New York Liberty, adds WNBA pedigree to the Flames.

Credit to @DeanAndrews7777 who tweeted a great snippet about the upcoming season’s WNBL imports that prompted this story.