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Basketball - 19. May 2015.

Lavey, Opals and the speed factor


Tessa Lavey (AUS) - Australia v USA, 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women, Istanbul (Turkey), 1/2 Finals, 4 October 2014



MELBOURNE (2015 FIBA Oceania Women's Championship) - Speed and toughness are qualities that all athletes crave but not all have.

Australian Opals guard Tessa Lavey has both in abundance.

It's why the 22-year-old has a great shot of playing for the Opals for a second straight year, against the New Zealand Tall Ferns at the 2015 FIBA Oceania Women's Championship (15 and 17 August).

And if Australia beat the Kiwis to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, Lavey will have a great chance of being on the plane to Rio de Janeiro, too.

The way the team played last year at the FIBA Women's World Championship, the Opals appear to have a very good chance of making it to Brazil.

Opals coach Brendan Joyce wants his squads to defend and to play uptempo, and the 1.71m Bendigo Spirit lightning bolt can do both.

Lavey, Joyce told FIBA.com, is "highly suited for international play."


She [Lavey] is a really tough kid and our quickest and most explosive player with great endurance and a great handle - Joyce


If one looks at the three teams that reached the podium at the 2014 FIBA Women's World Championship, each has one thing in common.

Each wants to run at every opportunity.

"When you play in a fast environment, it's fun," Lavey said to FIBA.com.

"I believe my speed is one of my assets that a lot of females don't have.

"I have a different skill package and play more like a boy."

A native of Swan Hill, Victoria, Lavey owes her toughness to her upbringing.

"I grew up with four boys, older brothers," she said.

"I played AFL [Australian Rules Football] and soccer, too.

"The boys didn't see me as a girl.

"I just played and they would tackle me the same as the others."

While Lavey had suited up for the Australians at youth level, she had not made headlines in the WNBL, which is why some basketball fans were surprised that Joyce selected her in his World Championship squad.

The reality is that Joyce had had his eye on Lavey for more than a year.

He had seen her in workouts ahead of Australia's 2013 World University Games campaign and was duly impressed.

"I had only gone to the AIS [Australian Institute of Sport] to try out for the World University Games side and Choco liked what he saw," Lavey said.

Lavey then went to Kazan, Russia, for the University Games and loved the experience.


The Australians finished third, although they threw a scare into the USA in the Semi-Finals before losing, 79-78.

Lavey and Australia thrashed Chinese Taipei in their next game to reach the podium.

Immediately after that tournament, Lavey was named in the Opals' training camp squad ahead of the 2013 FIBA Oceania Women's Championship.

Though she did not make the final roster, she did claim a spot in a squad coached by Joyce that travelled to Hungary to compete on a tour there.

In the first game against Eurocup outfit Uni Gyor, Australia lost but Lavey had 17 points, six assists and six rebounds.

When Joyce announced an extended training camp squad ahead of the FIBA Women's World Championship, he included Lavey.

She ended up making the team and contributing to an Australia side that looked very good, despite the absence of injured stars Liz Cambage and Lauren Jackson.

The Opals reached the podium.

The experience in Turkey whet Lavey's appetite for more.

"The caliber of players that was there was incredible and to think I played alongside them is eerie," she said.

"I loved every minute of it.

It's something you dream of, getting a medal at a World Championship -Lavey

"Hopefully, something like that will happen again, only hopefully a gold next time."

While Lavey is not a headline-grabber in the WNBL, she could become one for the Opals.

"It's an exciting time for women’s basketball at the moment," she said.

"We're going through a transition, but not really because we're still winning.

"It's a different style to the way previous Opals teams played.

"It's a really fast-paced game and it's good for the young ones. Brendan is giving us the opportunities."

Joyce clearly thinks he is on the correct path.

"I believe he likes that style and has seen other teams play fast," Lavey said.

"The game is getting a lot faster.

"We train really fast and while you get turnovers, you learn to play fast and you grasp onto the concept."

FIBA

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