Portrait in action: Magbegor morphing into the main jewel in the Opals' crown
SYDNEY (Australia) - It will be all eyes on the prize at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney and seeing Ezi Magbegor on the floor will give home fans hope of seeing the Opals land a medal.
That's because the frontcourt ace is becoming more influential than ever as she morphs from the leader of the next generation into the baller that is very much the here and now when it comes to impacting on Australia's fortunes at the elite level.
Magbegor was the one bright spot of a largely underwhelming show at Tokyo 2021 and while the Opals did just fine at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Qualifying Tournament back in February, it still felt like they were missing that extra edge in Belgrade. That was due to Magbegor being sidelined due to an injury. They were without the elements that have catapulted her to center stage within the Australian set-up. Here's why she is so important.
A scoring evolution
When Magbegor was MVP at the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup back in 2016, you got the sense that her dynamic and athletic ability was the mojo that would make her a success - getting buckets from her height and ability to snap up putback scores with ease. The big question mark was whether she could score consistently at the highest level and develop her moves.
Since subsequently debuting at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 in Tenerife, it's become clear that Magbegor has given a resounding answer to that question. She has improved her shot selection and that has helped her to regularly rack up double-digits in a national team vest at the biggest tournaments, such as the Olympics She has also been a standout in the WNBL and WNBA at club level. The quality of her shot selection and efficiency has been going through the roof and Magbegor deserves massive credit because achieving consistency can be the toughest challenge for a baller aspiring to be one of the best in the game.
Off the dribble
Her handles have developed to a point that makes her more dynamic than most forwards and centers who rarely put the ball on the floor. Magbegor has cleaned up her footwork, clearly gotten that first step locked down and she has become a challenfe to guard for other 'bigs' in the game. Giving opponents something different to think about defensively, she can attack off the dribble and as well as resulting in scoring opportunities, it is so often getting her defenders into foul trouble as they are not quick enough to deal with it.
That wingspan and length
It's what Magbegor was always known for as she accelerated through the youth ranks, putting herself on top of the world as a Sapphire in 2016 and then making that successful transition into the senior ranks. She has got crazy length and being able to work in Seattle alongside the absolute best in Breanna Stewart gave her an added opportunity on a daily basis to see how to use it even more effectively.
The Opals know that at both ends of the floor that length and jumping athleticism is gold. Able to kill it on the offensive boards, her wingspan also gives her that shot blocking option on defense, but perhaps most crucially the ability to disrupt the offensive sets of her opponents as her length just disrupts and puts doubt into the minds of those she is playing against.
Soaking it all up like a sponge
Ezi with coach Sandy Brondello
If you talk to anyone who has played or helped Magbegor during past years, they will tell you that she listens. She doesn't hear what people are saying. She truly listens and the phrase 'soaking it up like a sponge' has been used to describe her willingness to learn by more than one person. It's super smart of her to have this mentality because so many times down the years, we have seen ballers with crazy athleticism and physical ability not know how to make the most of it.
Not with Magbegor though. You get the sense that she is not racing towards the destination of being a global star, but enjoying the journey and growth along the way. And, we can all enjoy the process of her morphing into the main jewel of the Opals' crown.