If the Opals messy, disappointing Tokyo Olympic marketing campaign had one vibrant spot, it was the emergence of Ezi Magbegor as a reliable drive on the worldwide stage.
After a blistering season with the Seattle Storm within the WNBA, Magbegor has returned to Australia and appears to play a key position within the Opal’s 2022 FIBA Ladies’s Basketball World Cup marketing campaign.
Magbegor’s expertise and athleticism have been apparent in Tokyo, nevertheless it remained to be seen whether or not she may translate that into taking the following step.
Within the 2022 WNBA season, Magbegor answered that query with a powerful sure.
A reliable contender for each Most Improved Participant and Defensive Participant of the 12 months, and incomes second-team all-defensive honours, Magbegor began for many of the season for the Seattle Storm, solely ceding her spot when the Storm signed eight-time All-Star and former MVP Tina Charles mid-season.
However simply how has Magbegor taken her recreation to the following degree and what does that imply for the Opals?
Athleticism results in offensive positive factors
It’s the offensive finish the place Magbegor has taken the most important step ahead, rising her factors per recreation from 6.7 to 9.5 throughout the 2022 WNBA season, on a real taking pictures proportion of 59.36 per cent, which is nicely above the league common of 54 per cent.
On a group with WNBA stars like Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Tina Charles, Magbegor was by no means going to be the offensive focus.
As an alternative, she has labored arduous to get herself into the suitable positions on court docket and makes use of her athleticism to attain.
With the ability to punish a defence that is not paying shut consideration to you is essential, as in any other case the offense grinds to a halt. Magbegor is nice at this.
On this recreation towards the Washington Mystics, she is ready to work off the ball and reap the benefits of the eye Stewart attracts to chop to the ring.
Magbegor has nice palms and physique management, permitting her to catch and end within the lane even amongst visitors and thru contact.
That is an underrated ability that makes her an amazing pick-and-roll accomplice.
Beneath we see a Stewart-Magbegor decide and roll the place Magbegor is ready to roll to the ring and side-step defenders to complete.
For the Opals, Magbegor will not have gamers like Stewart to work with, nonetheless she ought to proceed to be an efficient pick-and-roll accomplice for Seattle Storm teammate and fellow Opal Steph Talbot.
3-point taking pictures is the place Magbegor wants to enhance to take her recreation to the following degree.
Magbegor solely tried 29 threes all season, although she is taking pictures a good 34.48 per cent.
Within the 2022 WNBA season, Seattle’s offense typically received slowed down with two non-shooters in Magbegor and Gabby Williams, which was a significant contributing consider Seattle’s resolution to signal Tina Charles.
However Magbegor is an effective free throw shooter (her profession common is 76.47 per cent), an vital predictor of three-point taking pictures, so it’s positively doable for her to enhance.
A defensive star within the making
Even after the signing of Tina Charles, there have been many who argued that Magbegor ought to proceed to begin, and the defensive finish was the rationale why.
Magbegor is second within the league in blocks per recreation, averaging 1.76, and leads the league in blocks per 48 minutes (a statistic that accounts for variation in minutes performed).
This features a profession excessive seven blocks towards the Phoenix Mercury on June 12.
At 193 cm with a 2-metre wingspan, Magbegor’s size makes her a presence across the ring.
She will be able to expertly change on to her opponents, comprise them submit up and block the shot.
However Magbegor is not only a paint-bound centre. Her velocity and mobility on the perimeter permit her to change out and comprise guards.
Magbegor’s ability permits the Storm to run an aggressive pick-and-roll defensive scheme, with guards pressured to make passes over Magbegor’s lengthy arms.
And if she’s defending off-ball, Magbegor’s velocity and size permit her to shortly get better to assist and swat away what appear to be open layups.
Opals head coach Sandy Brondello says the Opals will have the ability to reap the benefits of this too.
“Due to her athletic capability you are able to do loads of totally different scheming … she strikes fast from a to b. It permits us to be slightly bit extra disruptive.”
Magbegor’s one defensive weak spot is likely to be her capability to protect the most important, most expert submit gamers, who can push her round.
Nonetheless, the retirement of Sylvia Fowles marks the top of that period of post-player, and there aren’t that many submit gamers that will scare you going towards Magbegor both within the WNBA or on the World Cup.
Taking part in a ‘huge position’ for the Opals
The Opals as a group are missing that dominant, particular person scorer that lots of the different world-class groups have—a minimum of till we see what Lauren Jackson can do in her comeback.
Ezi Magbegor might be not going to be that participant, a minimum of proper now.
What she’s going to do is be a superb a part of a group offense, an efficient pick-and-roll participant, cutter, and transition participant that can assist the Opals piece collectively an offense.
Alternatively, she could be the type of dominant defensive participant that scares opposing gamers and can assist the Opals win video games.
And the Opals need her to stay to her strengths.
“We would like her to be who she is,” Brondello mentioned.
“Getting out and operating and getting simple baskets.
“She’s a star within the making and he or she’ll be enjoying an enormous position for us.”
Basketball followers in Sydney will quickly get to see Magbegor and the Opals tackle one of the best on the earth and hopefully enhance on their efficiency from Tokyo.
Any likelihood of that can rely largely on Magbegor’s improved WNBA play translating to worldwide basketball.
If she will proceed to stifle opponents defensively and outrun them on the opposite finish, the Opals might be in fine condition to tackle one of the best on the earth.
ABC Sport is partnering with Siren Sport to raise the protection of Australian ladies in sport.
Georgia Munro-Cook dinner is the captain of the Australian ladies’s wheelchair basketball group, the Gliders, and holds a PhD in Historical past and Gender Research, with a deal with the WNBA, from the College of Sydney.