CoE tops up talent.

Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) women’s program has offered four fresh and exciting athlete scholarships, to commence in 2022. With only one player having competed in national championships over the past two years due to COVID, the CoE Women’s Head Coach Kristen Veal is eager for these young basketballers to take the next step in their development, helped by a return to normality at the AIS. “We are extremely excited to be welcoming four new Scholarship Athletes to the Women’s Centre of Excellence in 2022, as we start to return to a full year of opportunities post-COVID disruptions,” Veal said. “The new intake boasts size, speed, athleticism, game sense, drive and a willingness to work hard towards their goal of representing Australia in the near and distant future.” New South Wales has produced two of the scholarship recipients, with Saffron Shiels and Opal Bird relocating to Canberra. Hailing from Newcastle, Shiels is an exciting six-foot point guard who has caught the eye of selectors with her flare and poise in play. “I am very excited and so grateful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to get started, work hard and give it all I’ve got,” Shiels told BA. Selectors are enthusiastic about young forward Opal Bird’s potential to play up and down the court as she’s displayed a strong versatile skill set throughout her juniors in Manly. Long and athletic, Bird is determined to make the most of this opportunity. “To receive a CoE scholarship is such an honour that I have been working towards and I am so excited to give this elite program my all,” Bird said. “To get the opportunity to join a world-class environment and learn from the best coaches and players in the sport is a dream come true.” From Wodonga, Victoria, Sienna Harvey will also make the move to the AIS after a long lockdown stint. The CoE has noted not only Harvey’s exciting game as a point guard but her natural on-court ability to lift her teammates and they look forward to drawing out those leadership qualities. “This has been my goal for many years. I really think this opportunity will help further my game and I will gain amazing experience from it. I’m so honoured to receive this CoE scholarship,” Harvey said. Brisbane based forward Summah Hanson has been lucky enough to continue competing in a relatively unaffected Queensland. The blue-collar athlete has CoE’s high-performance team keen to delve into that untapped basketball potential. “This is a dream come true to be following in the steps of some of the greats and I’m really thankful for all my teammates and coaches who helped me get here,” Hanson said. With CoE graduates launching their careers in the WNBL, college leagues and impressing in both the National Gems and Opals teams this year, Coach Veal is keen to unveil the new wave of talent in the new year. “After a successful 2021 for the current CoE cohort, and graduating eight scholarship holders, next year holds much promise with a young and captivating squad.”

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