SANTA CRUZ de TENERIFE, Spain – Liz Cambage’s return to the WNBA this season was eventful to say the least. Not only did the 6-foot-8 Australian lead the league in scoring, she broke the record with 53 points in a game on July 17.
Her dominance has spilled over into international play. After rupturing her Achilles tendon and missing the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Turkey, her return to the current edition of the event is shaping to be a memorable one.
The 27-year-old Cambage finished with 24 points Sunday, and is leading the tournament in scoring. However, the emergence of 19-year-old Ezi Magbegor is easing Cambage’s workload. The 6-foot-4 Magbegor scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds per game in last year’s Under-19 World Cup in Italy and is scoring in double figures in Tenerife, her first senior competition.
“Each game is our next game, and I just want to win that game,” Cambage told High Post Hoops after scoring the first 10 points of the game en route to an 84-43 domination of Argentina on Sunday. “It comes down to whoever comes out ready to play and fight.”
More from International
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, August 6: Serbians no match for USA inside
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, August 4: Team USA gets revenge against Australia
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, July 30: Belgium and Japan produce strong performances
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, July 28: Team USA wins 3X3 basketball gold
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, July 23: Tokyo Olympics 2021 Women’s Basketball Preview
For teams struggling to contain Cambage, Magbegor represents both a further challenge when Cambage is on the bench, and another dimension to Sandy Brondello’s interior strategy when they share the floor. Magbegor, meanwhile, is learning all she can from her accomplished teammate.
“It’s an honor to represent my country,” Magbegor said. “There are lots of girls who are vets of the game who I can look up to. She’s (Cambage) a pro of the game, she plays a similar position to how I play, and she knows her stuff, so being able to play with her when I’m on, and she coaches me when she’s on the bench and I step in the game. It’s an honor to play with her; she’s one of the best in the game.”
Magbegor, who was born in New Zealand to Nigerian parents before relocating to Australia as a child, bypassed an offer to play at the University of Connecticut to play with the Melbourne Boomers of the NWBL. Cambage said that winning the league title with the Boomers in 2011 was a highlight of her career, along with winning the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
“It’s exciting to see young talent coming up, she’s going to be great,” Cambage added about Magbegor. “Going into the draft next year, I am really excited to see her grow and develop.”
Magbegor, who is considered a potential lottery pick, is in a draft class of centers that includes Kalani Brown of Baylor and Teaira McCowan of Mississippi State, each 6-foot-7.
“She’s doing well,” Australia coach Sandy Brondello said. “She’s still learning the game a lot, it’s all new to her basically. She has good energy and athleticism. She finishes well and she rebounds well, and she’s going to get better gaining experience playing at this level. The sky is the limit for her. I like what she does and plays to her strengths.”
Australia and Spain are the two teams at the World Cup most likely to challenge the United States for an upset. The 2006 Opals team is the lone non-U.S. squad to hoist the championship trophy in the past two decades at an Olympics or World Cup.
“We just have to play our game,” Magbegor said. “In the lead up to the games, we had a lot of preparation time, but if we stick to our stuff, and if we do that, we have a great chance to win a gold medal. I think just playing our game, we really emphasize being a good defensive team, being able to stop teams and stay with them for the entire 40 minutes of the game.”