Former Washington state champion Leilani Mitchell (Kennewick HS) is another step closer to clinching a spot on the Australian national team. She was named to a 17-player roster that will open training camp Sunday (Mitchell’s 29th birthday) in prep for the FIBA World Championship’s this fall.
Mitchell was born in Richland, Wash. but her mother Eleanor Madjic is Australian, qualifying Mitchell for the country’s national team. Eleanor died of breast cancer in 2009. One of her wishes was to see her daughter play in Australia. Mitchell completed her first season last fall for the WNBL’s Dandenong Rangers, playing alongside Storm F Jenna O’Hea.
“I kind of told myself that I was coming here to play for her,” Mitchell told her WNBL team’s website.
“I’ve always been proud of my Australian background,” she continued. “I think it would be a great honor to represent either country because I am both Australian and American.”
Mitchell skipped the 2014 WNBA season with the New York Liberty to participate in the camp and spend time with family. She’s made an impression on first-year Opals coach Brendan Joyce, who wants to run more with his squad.
The Opals are in need of floor leaders due to the retirement of PG Kristi Harrower and other injuries in the backcourt. Phoenix PG Erin Phillips, who won silver in the 2008 Olympic Games, is expected to join the national team for the FIBA World Championships in Turkey, however. Joyce said Phillips will be the main PG for the Opals.
“I’ve got two tours to test Leilani out,” Joyce told the Seattle Times recently about trips to Japan and Europe before finalizing the World Championship team in September. “I think she’s got a really strong chance to make this team. She plays at this level, she’s not going to be intimidated playing against the (USA Basketball) girls because she’s played against them for six years (in the WNBA). The more I see Leilani, she’s a great three-point shooter and she has tremendous composure under pressure. That can be an asset for us.”