Mangakahia ready to set WNBL alight
After leaving Australian shores as a teenager, Sydney Flames recruit Tiana Mangakahia has been hooping all around the world.
But despite enjoying her time in the United States and Europe, the 27-year-old always knew she’d return home sooner rather than later.
“The WNBL has always been something in the back of my mind that I wanted to play in but after going to college, many other doors were opened around the world,” said Mangakahia, who did a training camp with WNBA side the Phoenix Mercury in 2021.
“But when Shane [Heal] reached out to me, the timing and fit at the Flames just felt right, so I jumped at the chance to come back to Australia.”
The Queensland product, who is in remission after a battle with breast cancer (which is profiled in episode two of Blazing The Trail), will form one of the WNBL’s most potent backcourts – alongside Australian Opal Shyla Heal and fellow recruit Vanessa Panousis.
Those three’s cohesion, along with the rest of their Hoops Capital side, has benefitted greatly from their intense WNBL23 pre-season at Auburn PCYC – which is now entering week four.
“I enjoyed every second of pre-season and can already see a number of improvements in my game, not just on the court with my skills but also in terms of speed and strength thanks to our time in the gym,” the 2022 NBL1 North women’s MVP said.
“There’s still plenty of work to do though, with the coaches and I agreeing I need to be more dangerous and active on offence when I don’t have the ball, as well as constantly staying in my defensive stance – which will allow me to pressure the ball up the court easier.”
With the entirety of Heal’s squad, who will play four trial matches over the coming weeks, now on deck, Mangakahia is witnessing firsthand how dangerous this team can become during the regular season.
“With the squad we have on the floor, I have no doubt we can win the championship, which is our main goal first and foremost,” the Syracuse alum said.
“Everyone in our group is on the same page and working towards the same goal – constantly pushing one another to be the best versions of ourselves we can be.
“To that, from a personal perspective, I’m ready to play whatever role the team needs me to do to win, which if I succeed in, should help me continue to grow as a player.”