8 Liz Cambage (AUS)
Jeff Taylor's Eurovision
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A less confrontational Cambage could be the best player ever

VALENCIA (Jeff Taylor's Eurovision) - Liz Cambage is an emotional player, and needs to be. She wants to have fun and interact with the crowd. But could she be even better by toning it down, if only a little?

That was the impression I got after watching her at the FIBA Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Bourges over the weekend. She was great, even awesome. But Liz Cambage can be even better.

The 2.03m (6ft 8in) center has stood above everyone else on the court since 2010, when as a teenager at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in the Czech Republic she revealed herself as Australia's latest incredible talent.

While she can be a beast and dominate most opponents under the basket, she also has a feathery touch to die for. On Sunday, Cambage put on a clinic with the sweetest of shooting strokes at the free-throw line against Brazil, making all 15 of her attempts. They were silky-smooth. If any of her attempts hit the rim before going in, I don't remember it happening. Her shot was pure.

Cambage was money in the bank at the free-throw line

Cambage showed why she's one of the best players in the game on opening night, finishing with an eye-popping 19 points, 20 rebounds and 2 blocks.

If there were a category for dissent, or complaints, or for backchat to the referee, Cambage would have had a triple-double. When she made shots, she wanted fouls and when she missed them, she wanted fouls.

Cambage interacted with the crowd in Bourges

I get it. One way coaches try to stop Cambage is to put a body or two on her. You foul her. You want her thinking about the hard hit that's going to come when she goes up for a layup. Her reactions are understandable. Yet what was it that the late Kobe Bryant did when he didn't get calls in the NBA? He practiced shooting while being fouled. He figured that if the referees weren't going to call them, he had to learn to make the shot when getting hit.

Cambage is so good you can't take your eyes off her. Yet you want to look away at times.

In the FIBA Women's Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament matchup against Japan, Cambage had one too many shows of dissent and got thrown out of the game in the fourth quarter, and a potential Opals comeback died.

In Spain at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018, we fell in love with everything about Cambage. Her intensity, her passion, her vibrant, upbeat mood before games when she and her teammates did a little jig in the tunnel before running onto the floor. Cambage was magnificent, although she drew the ire of Spain fans in their Semi-Final with her arm-waving, bring-it-on antics.

When she struggled against the USA in the title game, and the Spain fans hit her with a cascade of boos, I didn't like it. She's too good a player and too important for basketball to be harassed and disrespected. Yet Cambage needs to find a balance between getting fired up and going hard at the referees and the crowd.

If she does this, maybe she'll go from being one of the greatest centers to the greatest center of all time. Most important of all, getting this right will enhance Australia's chances of success in Tokyo.

Jeff Taylor

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

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Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor, a North Carolina native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate, has been a journalist since 1990. He started covering international basketball after moving to Europe in 1996. Jeff provides insight and opinion every week about players and teams on the old continent that are causing a buzz.