HAMILTON'S Leilani Mitchell feels like the upcoming WNBA season will allow her to stay in "good basketball shape" as she eyes a second Olympic campaign at the postponed Games in Tokyo.
The Opals representative leaves for the US later this month, rejoining the Washington Mystics for another campaign which eventually pauses for the international multi-sports event from July 23 to August 8.
"Just playing that competitive basketball is so important," Mitchell told the Newcastle Herald.
"We experienced it last year with the lockdown. NBL1 was cancelled so people weren't able to play and then we went into WNBL season.
"Lucky I was able to play in the WNBA and have some games [in between], but a lot of the girls hadn't played for six, seven, eight months so it was hard for them to get back into game shape and just get the feeling of basketball.
"I think definitely this WNBA season will help make sure we're in good basketball shape and we're around basketball every day. Leading into Tokyo I think it will definitely benefit."
"I'm excited, not as scared or nervous as I was last time. The whole pandemic had just started the last time I went over," she said.
IN THE NEWS:
Mitchell, who turns 36 in June and went to the Rio Olympics in 2016, said her biggest challenges of a delayed Games have been "managing" her body and answering the question of "will I be able to make another year".
"When you get older your body's not always the same," she said.
"I was hoping I'd still be okay to go around this year and so far I've been lucky to keep going and hopefully I do make the team and I'll be able to go to Tokyo."
Mitchell showcased her class with the Southside Flyers in December, claiming the MVP finals award en route to a third WNBL title.
"It was a special moment,' she said.
Mitchell and Newcastle Hunters product Katie Ebzery just completed a camp with the Australian women's squad on the Gold Coast.
'It was just good to build that chemistry because we don't get a lot of time together. I think we really improved over the week," she said.
"We had some past gold medalists come in and share their story. It kind of gets you excited, gives you the goosebumps and really makes you look forward of what's to come."
Meanwhile, the WNBL free agency period opened on Wednesday.
Mitchell (Southside) and Ebzery (Perth) were listed along with Maddie Allen (Perth) and Lara McSpadden (Townsville).
The Novocastrians are now able to negotiate deals at existing clubs or elsewhere before next season gets underway.
Cassidy McLean, who lined up for Bendigo last year, begins NBL1 South commitments next weekend when the Braves meet Mount Gambier, which features Hunters pair Hannah Young and Jasmin Howe as well as Maitland's Shakera Reilly
McSpadden is part of NBL1 North with Rockhampton.
NBL1 East begins next year replacing the existing Basketball NSW Waratah League, which starts with a local derby between Newcastle and the Mustangs at Maitland on Saturday.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: