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Basketball - 15. July 2011.

AUS – Versatile Aussies look to bounce back

Puerto Montt (FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - If you were predicting the top eight for a FIBA women’s event, it would take a brave punter to overlook Australia.

In every underage women’s event FIBA has held, Australia has made it to the quarter-final stage, picking up medals of each colour along the way.

In senior women’s competition, since the 1986 FIBA World Championship in the Soviet Union, Australia has progressed to the top eight in every event except the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, which they did not participate in.

Yet for a country with such an impressive record, Australian women’s basketball comes to Chile with something to prove.

The ‘Gems’ have not made the medal rounds of FIBA's U19 World Championship since 2001, and have not stood on the dais since 1997, when Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor first wore the green and gold.

Last year, at the FIBA U17 World Championship in France, Australia finished a distant seventh with a 4-4 record. In 2009, the Gems blasted their way through the Preliminary Rounds at the U19 World Championship with a 6-0 record, only to capitulate against Canada in the quarter-finals.

Australia coach Cheryl Chambers understands that a strong performance is expected.

“I am sure everyone at Basketball Australia would like all their programs to finish in the top four,” she said.

“But you not only have to be good, you have to have a fair bit of luck, talent, unity and all those ingredients. It is a tough thing to do, but we have been lucky enough to have achieved that a lot (in the past).”

In the past two years, however, Australian teams are 1-7 in elimination games at world championships of all levels. Chambers is aware this isn’t in the nation’s plans, but thinks her team has players with experience in tough situations.

“Basketball Australia is not that excited to have those sorts of results,” she said frankly. “But I think we have got a team that could be in that top four.

“We have some girls who have played in a U19 world championship before. Kerryn Harrington, who is a very good point guard, played in 2009, as did Grettel Tippett (pictured), our centre who also played in the U17 championships.

“Jillian Haughton and Ashleigh Karaitiana played in the 2009 world championship as well, so that experience will be important.

“Most of the other girls (seven) on the team are from the U17 team from 2010, so they have that experience too,” Chambers added.

While the European, Asian and American styles are well known, Chambers thinks her team will gain an advantage from using a combination of those styles.

“I think (the Australian style) is to never give up and always fight it out, but I also think it’s to be versatile.

“I think we have to be versatile to progress in the tournament. We have some good bigs and some good guards and that is going to be very important for us,” Chambers added.

“One day we will be playing an Asian team so we might have to go small and I think we can do that well, whereas against a European team or the USA you might have to be go a bit bigger, and I think we have the players to do that too.”

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