Ezi Magbegor: Hard work pays off as WNBA and Tokyo 2020 dreams await
Written by Kane Pitman.
With a FIBA Women’s World Cup silver medal and two Chemist Warehouse WNBL seasons under her belt, the then 19-year-old was on the fast track to the best league in the world, it was just a matter of when her time would come.
The WNBA would invite twelve players to attend the draft in New York City, Magbegor was not one of those. Instead, she would watch from her manager’s office in Australia, with her parents by her side.
“I knew I was eligible to be drafted this year, so I had a thought about it, but I didn’t have much communication with many teams. I spoke to the Seattle coach beforehand but it wasn’t anything official so I didn’t know what number my name would be called at if it was to be called at all,” Magbegor recalled.
Then the moment came.
Although they may have kept their cards close to their chest, the Seattle Storm would not let the 193cm centre slip passed the first-round, selecting her 12th overall.
By self-admission, Magbegor is still developing, although when you watch her play, it’s clear to see she is something special.
With an impressive mix of athleticism and strength, Magbegor is able to utilise her length to cause major disruption on the defensive end, while scoring in a variety of ways on offence.
In the Opals 98-63 win over China at AIS Arena last week, Magbegor flashed her full offensive repertoire, leading all scorers with 20 points. Mixing physicality with soft touch, the 20-year-old converted three and-one opportunities on the night, often times when matched up against bigger bodied defenders.
“She’s a great player, she’s special, she’s unique, and that’s what we need. [The Opals] are all different, they are all versatile, but Ezi gives us something different that we don’t have,” head coach, Sandy Brondello said postgame.
A product of the AIS system, Magbegor has made a steep ascension through the Australian national team ranks, highlighted by being named MVP at the under-17 World Cup during the Sapphires gold medal run in 2016.
“All my coaches and teammates and people that I’ve played with have helped get me to where I am now, I think as a junior it took a lot of work with my fundamentals and skills and even just getting my shooting to where it is now. There’s definitely been a lot of coaches that have influenced my game,” Magbegor explained.
Now a regular fixture of the Opals squad, the young star gets to play along marquee Australian basketball names such as Jenna O’Hea, Leilani Mitchell and Bec Allen to name a few.
O’Hea in particular has worked closely with Magbegor, as they played together in the WNBL last season with the Melbourne Boomers.
“She’s amazing. I said to the other girls, having someone like Jenna on your team is just awesome. She’s a great leader, a great player, she’s just an awesome communicator, always a hard worker, she’s great for the Opals and she with be great for the Southside Flyers [this season],” Magbegor said of the Opals captain.
With the WNBL season coinciding with the WNBA offseason, Magbegor will once again light up Australian arenas in Melbourne Boomers colours, set to form a formidable centre tandem with Cayla George.
“I’m pretty focused on the Opals and the WNBL season ahead at the moment, I just want to work on my game through that season as well as hopefully have success as a team and win a championship.”
“I just want to have a good few months leading up to next year, I’ve been putting my body and myself in the right positions come training camp,” Magbegor explained.
When speaking with the young star, you get a sense of excitement, determination and above all else, a will to succeed. Yes, hearing her name called on draft night was the fulfilment of a long-standing dream, but the job isn’t over, in fact, she believes it has only just begun.
While her skillset is broad, there is still room for significant growth, as she has attempted just six three-point attempts across two WNBL campaigns.
“Three-point shooting is something I’ve been focusing on this year. As a junior I was always the tallest and didn’t really have much of an outside game but I know moving forward in my career I’ll definitely need to work on my perimeter game as well as my perimeter shooting so that’s a key focus for me at the moment,” Magbegor revealed.
2019-20 is poised to be a monster year for Australian women’s hoops, with the 40th season of the WNBL crossing paths with Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification, where the Opals desperately hope their golden ambitions will be realised.
Magbegor is primed to be a major part of that quest for gold, and the bright smile you will often see on her face quickly rose to the surface as she attempted to explain why playing for the Opals means so much to her.
“The culture of the Opals is such an amazing thing and I think that’s a credit to the players and the coaches that we have now as well as in the past.”
“As a rookie last year not knowing what to expect with the national team, they were just so great, I wasn’t being treated like a rookie, they all help you out and it’s just amazing to put on the green and gold. Every time you do represent your country it’s going to be with the upmost pride and surrounded by great people.”
As an WNBA, WNBL and Opals athlete, Ezi Magbegor is quickly graduating from her rising star status, and we are all fortunate to be able to witness her growth while representing the green and gold.
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