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February 25, 2011 at 4:22 PM

The fight over Aussie Liz Cambage begins

CambageGraf.jpgA rumble down under is brewing and it has nothing to do with last night’s dinner. Tulsa Shock owners and newly-appointed assistant coach Teresa Edwards and scouts for the Minnesota Lynx have been spotted in Australia, getting a closer look at phenom Liz Cambage (pictured left by the Daily Telegraph). The Lynx have the first and fourth pick in the upcoming April 11 draft while the Shock select second in the first round.
Like in the NBA, the WNBA is fawning over size. Mainly Cambage’s 6-foot-8 stature and wealth of potential, especially since she’s only 19. Yet, while the WNBA is jockeying for position to possibly draft the Aussie, should she throw her name in, former Storm assistant coach Carrie Graf (pictured right) is again throwing salt in the game. Graf would like Cambage to forgo the WNBA and continue to train.
“Every player is different,” the Opals coach told Australia’s ABC Sport in a televised feature. “My view as national coach is our emerging talent Opals, they develop their game in this country. And clearly from an Opals perspective, we want to have our team together as much as we can in the lead up to the London Olympics. We’ve told Liz that, we feel that she’s in a great program to develop her game…The WNBA isn’t going away, it’s going to be there for a long time. There’s an Olympics around the corner that she’s going to be a big part of and I’m sure she’ll make a decision that feels right at the time.”
Graf has repeatedly stated she wants her players to remain home to form cohesiveness and improve under her watch. Her influence has Storm forward Abby Bishop skipping the upcoming season.

No disrespect to Aussies, but how can staying in Australia help them beat the Americans in London 2012? In a week where Australia’s biggest star Lauren Jackson gushes her fortune in being drafted by Seattle, it’s very peculiar that Graf doesn’t have faith the WNBA would help her plight. Does she remember the World Championships? Lack of playing time together wasn’t the only problem.
Cambage needs to build strength and get more of a competitive fire, from what I’ve seen of her game. Playing in the Western Conference would instill that in her by the end of June. And think of what a monster she’d be in London. (Yes, I’m detaching myself as an American and thinking of the epic games it could create) Solo training may work in boxing, but in basketball you should play the best whenever possible. Plus, what’s wrong with having a few national team training camps in America as the Americans have done overseas in the past?
More and more the battle over the Aussie players sounds like pride over who cultivated the next star. That’s a shame for the game and players like Cambage. The woman’s game is global. Swin Cash wouldn’t have a three-point shot if she didn’t travel to China. Svetlana Abrosimova wouldn’t be as versatile if she didn’t play for Geno Auriemma. And Jackson wouldn’t be as physical if she didn’t play in the WNBA.
And Graf is wrong. The WNBA won’t be around forever. At least not without stars. Cambage has the personality and game to be one of them, further shining light on Australian basketball.
Injuries aside, I don’t see the harm in that. So why hold her back?

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