Three-time Jayco Rangers MVP award winner Stephanie Blicavs (nee Cumming) is representing the Opals for the first time since 2013

This week Jayco Rangers shooting guard Stephanie Blicavs (nee Cumming) has made her first appearances for the Australian Opals since 2013, playing for the Opals in their three Group B games at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup. Stephanie is one of three players on the Dandenong Rangers 2017/18 roster playing for the Opals at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup along with the player she shared the Rangers 2016/17 MVP award with – sister-in-law Sara Blicavs, and new recruit – 2016 Olympian Tessa Lavey. Making her first appearances for the Opals in four years, at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup Stephanie made a three-pointer shortly after being substituted in during the first quarter of Australia’s opening game 24 point win against Korea, Stephanie finished the game with five points, making two of her five field goal attempts. In Australia’s second game against the Philippines Stephanie excelled to lead the Opals for scoring with 18 points, shooting at 50% from the field and made all eight free-throw attempts and had three assists. Against the Philippines Sara Blicavs scored 17 points – ranked second behind Stephanie, had eight rebounds, six assists and four steals to set game-highs in the latter three categories meaning that in this game a member of the Blicavs family led the Australian Opals for points, rebounds, assists and steals. The Opals defeated Japan by nine points in their final Group B game to secure top spot for their group, Stephanie scored nine points in this game and made all three of her three-point attempts.

During the off-season the Rangers have recruited two players from rival WNBL club the Perth Lynx, point guard Lavey and forward Carley Mijovic who attended the Opals training camp in Phoenix, Arizona from June 25 to July 3 but missed out on selection for the FIBA Asia Cup, Mijovic has previously played one season for the Rangers alongside Stephanie and Sara in 2012/13. The top four team’s at the 2017 Women’s Asia Cup qualify for the 2018 World Championships in Spain. Previously Australia have competed against countries from Oceania to qualify for major championships, being Olympic Games and World Championships. Their strongest rival from Oceania – New Zealand is also competing at the FIBA Asia Cup and finished second in Group A with two wins and one loss. The Opals 2017 FIBA Asia Cup team is strongly represented by the WNBL as 10 of the 12 players on the Australian Opals team played in the WNBL during 2016/17 whilst nine of the 12 are signed to a WNBL club for the 2017/18 season which commences in October.

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Playing the best basketball of her career during the 2016/17 WNBL season Stephanie won the third Jayco Rangers Most Valuable Player (MVP) award of her career, became the first player to score 2,000 points in the WNBL for the Rangers, had her second consecutive top 10 finish in the league MVP and also led her Rangers to the WNBL Grand Final.

On signing with the Jayco Rangers for the 2017/18 WNBL season Stephanie commented “I’m really excited to be coming back with the Jayco Rangers this year, obviously last season was bittersweet but that hasn’t deterred me one bit. While the competition is going to be tough with the quality of the players returning to the league I really believe that we can get back to the WNBL Grand Final, and hopefully go one step further.”1

During the 2016/17 regular season Cumming played all 24 games for the Jayco Rangers, averaging 16.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 33.7 minutes per game. During the regular season Stephanie ranked sixth in the WNBL for points per game and 10th for assists, being one of only three players to rank in the top 10 in both categories along with fellow guards Sami Whitcomb and Leilani Mitchell. Cumming also ranked 25th in the league for rebounds per game and equal 23rd for total steals. During the 2016/17 season Cumming increased her output to set new career highs for points, assists and rebounds per game.

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On the road against her former side the Townsville Fire in Round 18, 2016/17 Cumming played her 250th WNBL game in her 11th WNBL season. At 27 years of age (it is her birthday today, Wednesday 26 July) Stephanie is well placed to move into the top 10 list for most WNBL game played and possibly even threaten Jess Bibby’s WNBL record of 394 games. Cumming has played 257 games over 11 seasons at three clubs comprised of 162 games for Dandenong, 51 games for Townsville and 44 games for the AIS. Cumming made her WNBL debut for Dandenong at 16 years of age in 2006/07 and played two seasons for the AIS in 2007/08 and 2008/09. Cumming returned to the Jayco Dandenong Rangers for four seasons from 2009/10 to 2012/13, winning the club’s MVP award in her first season back at Dandenong and was a starter in a Rangers line-up that made the finals in the following three seasons, including winning the 2011/12 WNBL Championship. Cumming was a key player at Townsville for two seasons in 2013/14 and 2014/15, with the club losing the grand final in 2013/14 and winning the WNBL championship in 2014/15.

When Cumming returned to the Jayco Rangers for her third stint with the club in 2015/16 far more responsibility rested on her shoulders then in the previous five seasons of her WNBL career from 2010/11 to 2014/15. Cumming was a crucial player for her club’s during this time and built up her big-game experience by playing in the finals every season. During these five seasons four of Steph’s team-mates were named in the WNBL All-Star five in at least one season, comprised of two Dandenong players – Kathleen MacLeod and Jenna O’Hea and two Townsville frontcourt players in Suzy Batkovic and Cayla George (nee Francis). After regularly being the third best player on her WNBL team Cumming relished the increased responsibility of being a Ranger’s co-captain and a primary offensive threat during the 2015/16 season, setting new career-highs for points and assists per game during 2015/16 whilst also applying magnificent defensive pressure and providing tremendous leadership for a young Jayco Rangers line-up. After averaging between 10 and 14 points per game in six seasons from 2009/10 to 2014/15 Cumming averaged 15.8 points per game in 2015/16, a 16% increase on her previous best of 13.6 points per game in 2011/12. Cumming was recognised for her brilliant 2015/16 WNBL season, winning the Rangers Most Valuable Player award and was also named the WNBL Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year. Cumming elevated her game during the 2015/16 season to finish in the top 10 of the votes for the WNBL All Star five team as well as the WNBL MVP award.

2016/17 WNBL season with the Jayco Rangers

Speaking about playing a second WNBL season under Larissa Anderson at Dandenong in 2016/17 Steph commented “We had a great first year under Larissa Anderson and with a new team, I don’t think people expected us to do so well. Now those foundations are laid we’ll be more of a threat but we also know won’t be able to go under the radar.”2

Six of the seven Dandenong players that played at least 300 minutes court-time in 2015/16 returned for the 2016/17 season with the exception being import Annalise Pickrel who played in Russia. None of the four Rangers that played between 50 and 295 minutes in 2015/16 returned to the club in 2016/17 with Tenaya Phillips and Tegan Cunningham joining rival WNBL clubs Perth Lynx and Melbourne Boomers respectively. Alex Bunton played in Russia, whilst Jayco Rangers veteran Alison Downie who has the distinction of being the only member of all three of Dandenong Rangers WNBL championship winning teams focussed on Australian Rules Football, having been drafted by the Carlton Football Club with selection 129 in the inaugural AFL Women’s draft on 12 October 2016. Downie played in the ruck for Carlton in the AFL W and had a successful 2017 season to be named in the All-Australian squad of 40 players.

Dandenong recruited three new players for the 2016/17 season, American imports Natalie Novosel and Ally Malott along with Victorian Rosie Fadljevic. Two members of the trio had played for the Jayco Rangers in the WNBL previously with shooting guard Novosel playing all 26 games for Dandenong in the WNBL during the 2013/14 season, whilst forward Fadljevic was a development player at Dandenong in 2012/13.

During the Jayco Rangers second game of Round 2, 2016/17 at home against Perth Cumming was in blistering form, setting game-highs for points and rebounds with 31 and 12 respectively, whilst also having four assists – ranked second for the Rangers behind Novosel with nine. Steph was the only player to record double figure rebounds in the game and was easily her team’s highest scorer with Novosel being ranked second with 15 points. Cumming playing a pivotal role in the Rangers having a dominant 20 point win, 94-74 against 2015/16 grand finalists Perth with her three point shooting being exceptional, making five of her eight attempts beyond the arc for an outstanding accuracy of 62%. Stephanie also made six of her 11 two point attempts and all four free throws. In the post-game press conference after being asked “Steph, have you ever had that feeling before in a WNBL game, gee just keep getting me the ball, I am just really feeling it right now?” Steph responded “Well I didn’t really feel like that was the case during the game, it was just that I happened to be the one at the end of all the passes and it was an open shot so I didn’t think twice about shooting it. When you are getting so open through such good ball movement they just go down because you don’t think about it. You are not thinking should I make the extra pass should I have drove that, if it’s open you shoot it and that’s what we are about.” The outstanding ball movement by the Rangers was capitalised on with great shooting, with the team making 37 of their 77 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 48% and recorded 22 assists.

The hot form of Cumming and the Rangers continued in Round 3 with Cumming making the WNBL team of the week for the second week in a row after Dandenong defeated Townsville by 27 points, 92 to 65 at Dandenong Stadium. Stephanie scored a game-high 21 points and was again exceptional with her shooting to make eight of 12 field goals for an accuracy of 66%, making three of her four three-point shots. Cumming recorded an equal game-high six assists along with fellow Rangers co-captain Clydesdale. The Jayco Rangers matched their field goal accuracy of 48% from their previous game, making 38 of their 79 attempts, and recorded a phenomenal 28 assists. In the entire 2015/16 season the Rangers only had two wins of at least 20 points being 32 points against Bendigo in Round 3 and 20 points against Sydney in Round 8. In the first four games of the 2016/17 WNBL season the Rangers defeated both of the 2015/16 Grand Finalists by at least 20 points.

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The Jayco Rangers lost three of their first seven games of the 2016 /17 season, losing to Bendigo twice, once at home and once on the road. The third loss was at Dandenong Stadium to Canberra by 13 points, 70-83 in a Round 5 Sunday afternoon game. In another home game less than a week later Dandenong played Canberra at Traralgon Sports Stadium in a Saturday night Round 6 game and recorded a comprehensive 19 point victory 82-63. Cumming earnt her third WNBL team of the week selection of the season for her Round 6 performance against Canberra and was one of only four players to be selected in the team at least three times to that point of the season. Cumming scored a game-high 18 points on seven of 13 shooting from the field for an accuracy of 53% against Canberra. Steph also had a game-high five assists and five rebounds – ranked equal second for Dandenong.

In Dandenong’s Round 10 win over Adelaide on the road by 15 points, 79 to 64 Cumming scored 15 points, had seven rebounds and an equal team-high three assists. In the second game of their Round 10 road-double the top of the table Jayco Rangers played the Perth Lynx who were second on the ladder in a game broadcast in Western Australian on Channel 7, making it the first time that a WNBL game had been shown live on commercial television in Australia. With the Rangers leading by six points with six minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the second quarter Cumming had a hot streak to make the next three baskets of the game, all three pointers to extend Dandenong’s lead to 15 points with five minutes and 21 seconds remaining in the term. Dandenong played phenomenal team basketball to win by 21 points 92-71, having 21 assists and making 11 of their 17 three-pointers for an amazing accuracy of 65%. Cumming finished the game with a team-high 22 points, making seven of her 14 field goal attempts and was superb from beyond the arc making four of her five three-pointers for an incredible accuracy of 80%. However Steph’s contribution went far beyond scoring, also having a game-high 11 rebounds, and four assists in a brilliant all-round game. Steph was named the Round 10 WNBL player of the week, becoming the first Ranger to receive that award during the 2016/17 season.

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At the time of the Christmas break Dandenong were on top of the WNBL ladder with a record of 11 wins and four losses, however in their first game of 2017 on 8 January the Rangers were defeated by the bottom of the ladder Adelaide Lightning 73-80 at Dandenong Stadium.

In the Round 14 game against the Melbourne Boomers on 14 January Cumming was quiet in regulation with six points, after Dandenong trailed by five points with less than a minute to play five points from Novosel, firstly with a three pointer and then with a lay-up sent the game into overtime tied at 56 points apiece. Stephanie took over during the first three minutes of overtime to make a lay-up and two three-pointers to give the Jayco Rangers a 10 point lead, the Boomers were held scoreless during this time and only one other Ranger scored – Malott with a two-point jump shot. Malott scored 24 points during the 73-61 victory at a field goal accuracy of 66% to be the second and final Ranger for 2016/17 to be named the WNBL player of the week.

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On 14 January 2017 the Jayco Dandenong Rangers celebrated their 25th Anniversary of joining the WNBL and announced the top 25 Greatest Rangers during this time at a function before the thrilling overtime win against cross-town rivals the Melbourne Boomers. Stephanie was one of only two current Rangers from the 2016/17 team along with forward/centre Jacinta Kennedy (nee Hamilton) to be named in the top 25. Cumming was one of four Rangers from the club’s 2011/12 championship winning team to be named in the top 25 along with Kathleen MacLeod, Jenna O’Hea and Alison Downie. Other former team-mates of Steph’s to be named in the Rangers best 25 were Caitlin Ryan, Monica Wright, Emily McInerney, Larissa Anderson and Sam Richards.

In June 2009 Cumming mentioned in an interview with FIBA on the eve of captaining Australia’s women’s under 19’s team at the World Championships that the player that inspired her the most was Penny Taylor. In January 2017 Cumming broke two-time WNBL MVP Taylor’s record for most points scored in the WNBL for the Jayco Dandenong Rangers.

On the road against her former side the Townsville Fire in Round 18 Steph Cumming played her 250th WNBL game in her 11th WNBL season. Cumming was one of six players on the Jayco Rangers 2016/17 roster that had played more than 100 WNBL games, along with Amelia Todhunter, Jacinta Kennedy, Sara Blicavs, Aimie Clydesdale and Rosie Fadjilevic. From the start of the 2015/16 WNBL season onwards to celebrate each time a Rangers player reached a milestone game of 100  WNBL games or more including at least 40 games for the Rangers an article comprehensively covering that players career has been published on this site. Below is a link to the Jayco Dandenong Rangers milestone games articles:

https://milestonesandmisses.com/category/jayco-dandenong-rangers-games-milestones/

Before the Round 19 home game against Perth the Dandenong Rangers were on a four game losing streak with all losses being to fellow 2016/17 finalists, Perth, Sydney and Townsville twice. In the Jayco Rangers final regular season game of the season on Saturday night 18 February they recorded a comprehensive 22 point victory over fellow finalist Perth Lynx 81-59. Cumming scored 19 points, shooting at 66% from the field and was phenomenal from long range, making three of her four three-pointers. Steph also had four rebounds and three assists to help the Rangers secure the season series against Perth 3-1. The win over Perth kept Dandenong’s chances alive to finish in second position however they needed other results to go their way. Later that night after defeating Perth, Dandenong got a favourable result with Canberra defeating Townsville 90-83. In the final game of the regular season on Sunday 19 February another result went the Jayco Rangers way, with Bendigo defeating Perth 73-72 after Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe made a bank jump shot to put Bendigo in front by a point with six seconds remaining.

Dandenong’s brilliant pre-Christmas form together with some favourable results in non-Rangers matches late in the season resulted in the Rangers finishing second on the ladder, earning them home-court advantage for the best of three semi final series against Perth. The Jayco Rangers and Perth Lynx both finished the regular season with a record of 15 wins and nine losses, however the Rangers won the tie-break due to winning the season series between the two clubs 3-1. The Sydney Uni Flames won the minor premiership three games ahead of their nearest rivals, recording 18 wins and six losses. The Townsville Fire who had won the previous two WNBL Championships in 2014/15 and 2015/16 completed the top four with a record of 14 wins and 10 losses, whilst Bendigo and Canberra both missed out on a finals position, each recording 13 wins and 11 losses.

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The Jayco Rangers defeated every side in the WNBL at least once during the 2016/17 regular season, however they also lost to each side in the WNBL except cross-town rivals the Melbourne Boomers, given that the Rangers won a game against the Boomers by two points and also recorded an overtime win after trailing by five points with less than a minute remaining in regulation that series could easily have been split two games apiece. The biggest lead Melbourne had over Dandenong in this game was nine points. In three games during 2016/17 the Rangers won after trailing by more than 12 points, the resilience shown in these games and ability to fight back and get the win proved pivotal in the Jayco Rangers booking a finals berth for the seventh consecutive season.

The Dandenong Rangers recorded eight wins and four losses at home, the equal second best record along with Sydney, Townsville and Canberra, behind Perth with nine wins and three losses. The Jayco Rangers had seven wins and five losses on the road, giving them the outright second best record on the road behind Sydney who recorded 10 wins and two losses.

Steph led the Rangers for points per game and assists during the regular season, ranked third for rebounds and fifth for total steals. Of the Jayco Rangers to make at least 10 field goals Cumming ranked second for accuracy with 44% – behind Malott with 50%, ranked second for three-point accuracy with 42% – behind Novosel with 48% and was the Rangers most accurate free-throw shooter, having an accuracy of 88%. Of the players that made at least 20 three-pointers during the 2016/17 regular season Steph ranked equal second in the WNBL for accuracy along with Belinda Snell, behind Sara Graham (56%). Highlighting how accurate her shooting was throughout the season, of the players to make at least 15 free-throws and 15 three-pointers during the 2016/17 season Cumming was the only player to have an accuracy of more than 85% for free-throws and more than 40% for three-pointers, she also ranked equal sixth in the league for free-throws made. Stephanie finished equal sixth in the WNBL MVP award with 70 votes, ranked second at Dandenong just behind Sara Blicavs who finished fifth with 70 votes.

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Steph was one of only two Rangers along with Blicavs to start every game for Dandenong in 2016/17. Nine Dandenong players played more than 230 minutes each in the regular season, with all nine players being used as a starter at least once in 2016/17. Three of the four 2016/17 WNBL finalists also made the finals in 2015/16, Townsville, Perth and Dandenong, the only exception being minor premiers the Sydney Flames who last made the finals in 2014/15, being defeated in the preliminary final by Bendigo.

Cumming set the tone for the Jayco Rangers in game 1 of their semi-final series against Perth at Dandenong Stadium, scoring 12 points in the first quarter to lead her team to a 20 to 14 lead at quarter-time. Dandenong were even more dominant in second term, outscoring Perth 25 to nine with Cumming contributing nine points. Whilst Dandenong always looked to be in control of the game Perth reduced the final margin to seven points, the Jayco Rangers 73 to 66 win was the club’s first victory in a final since the 2011/12 Grand Final. Cumming finished game 1 of the 2016/17 semi final series against Perth with a game-high 25 points, five rebounds, three assists, and a game-high two blocked shots. Cumming shot the ball exceptionally to have a field goal percentage of 71%, having made eight of her 11 two-point attempts and two of her three three-pointers, she also made all three free-throws.

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In game 2 at Bendat Basketball Centre Cumming played a pivotal role in keeping the Jayco Rangers within striking distance, scoring 24 of Dandenong’s 61 points to three quarter-time. Perth led by only two points at the final change but dominated the last term 28-10 to win by 20 points and set-up the first ever game 3 in a WNBL series. Cumming scored a team-high 30 points, had seven rebounds, two assists, shot the ball at 47% from the field and made all nine free-throws. The WNBL’S leading scorer for 2016/17 – Perth Lynx shooting guard Sami Whitcomb scored 41 points against Dandenong in game 2.

Despite being the higher ranked team in their semi final Dandenong made two flights across the country in three days in the lead-up to their deciding game three against Perth on Sunday March 5. Flying from Melbourne to Perth on the Thursday and then flying back to Melbourne from Perth on Saturday after losing their Friday night game 2 at Bendat Basketball Stadium. Dandenong thoroughly outplayed Perth during the first quarter of their game three encounter at Dandenong Stadium to lead 26-12 at quarter-time. The Jayco Rangers extended the lead to 20 points with three minutes and 42 seconds left in the second term however Perth hit back strongly to reduce the margin to six points at three quarter time. Perth and Dandenong went basket for basket during the final term until tenacious Dandenong guard Amelia Todhunter made a three-pointer with five minutes 25 seconds remaining to increase the Rangers lead to nine points. The Jayco Rangers dominated the remainder of the game 14-5 to win 81 points to 63. When the stakes were at their highest the Dandenong defence was exceptional, restricting Perth to just nine points in the final quarter. Stephanie scored a game-high 22 points – shooting at 46% from the field, had seven rebounds, and a team-high four assists.

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With their semi-final victory against the Perth Lynx the Jayco Rangers progressed to the 2016/17 WNBL Grand Final against the Sydney Uni Flames with game 1 hosted by the minor premiers – Sydney. The Rangers made the Grand Final for the sixth time in the club’s history two months after celebrating their 25th anniversary. The Jayco Rangers have won three championships in 2003/04, 2004/05 and 2011/12 whilst they were runners-up in their inaugural season of 1992 and 2005/06. Cumming was one of the two players on the Rangers 2016/17 roster along with Clydesdale that played in the club’s previous WNBL championship in 2011/12 whilst the retiring Jacinta Kennedy (nee Hamilton) played in the club’s first two WNBL Championships.

In game 1 of the Grand Final series against Sydney Cumming became the first player to score 2,000 points for the Jayco Rangers in the WNBL when she made her fourth field goal for the game. Very little separated the Rangers and Flames for most of the game and with just five minutes remaining the scores were locked at 74 apiece, however Sydney displayed greater composure when the game was on the line to defeat the Jayco Rangers 91-82. Stephanie scored 16 points, had five rebounds and an equal game-high six assists.

After an arm wrestle for the first two and a half quarters of game 2 of the Grand Final at Dandenong Stadium Sydney dominated for the remainder of the game. Scores were level at 45 points apiece with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, however from that point Sydney controlled the game to record a 13 point victory 75-62 to win the 2016/17 WNBL Championship. Stephanie scored a game-high 17 points which resulted in her scoring 110 points at an average of 22 points per game during the Rangers five finals, in three of these games Steph was the game-high scorer whilst in another she was ranked second with 30 points.

Cumming played all 29 games for the Jayco Rangers during 2016/17 including five finals, averaging 17.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 34.3 minutes per game. Cumming led the Rangers for points, assists and three-pointers made, ranked second for rebounds behind Blicavs and fifth for steals. Cumming was one of five Rangers players to average more than 7.5 points per game along with Blicavs (15.5 points per game), Natalie Novosel (11.4), Ally Malott (9.9) and Aimie Clydesdale (7.9). Other members of the Jayco Rangers core rotation of nine players who each played more than 250 minutes for the season were Amelia Todhunter, Jacinta Kennedy, Lauren Scherf and Rosie Fadljevic. Very little separated Cumming and Blicavs in the league MVP award and it was even closer in the Rangers MVP Award as the duo couldn’t be split resulting in Cumming winning the third Rangers MVP Award of her career and Sara Blicavs winning her first MVP Award at a WNBL club. Days after the Rangers 2016/17 WNBL Awards Stephanie married Sara’s oldest brother Kris. With both Stephanie and Sara remaining with the Jayco Rangers for the 2017/18 WNBL season it is highly likely that an S Blicavs will lead the club in scoring most games and will win next season’s Rangers MVP Award.

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Basketball career from juniors up until the 2015/16 WNBL season with the Jayco Rangers

Stephanie Cumming was born in Dandenong on 26 July 1990, after watching her older brother Jamie play basketball Stephanie took up the sport at seven years of age, went on to play junior basketball for the Dandenong Rangers and represented Victoria at the National Junior Championships in five consecutive years, under 14’s in 2002 and 2003, under 16’s in 2004 and 2005 and under 18’s in 2006.

Cumming made her WNBL debut with the Jayco Rangers at 16 years of age in 2006/17, playing 12 games for Dandenong, in limited minutes Cumming averaged 1.0 points, 0.5 rebounds and 0.3 assists per game. Steph’s team-mates at the Rangers in 2006/07 included Emily McInerney, Larissa Anderson, Alison Downie, Sam Richards, Jenna O’Hea and Kathleen MacLeod. Dandenong finished fourth at the end of regular season with a record of 12 wins and nine losses and lost to Adelaide by five points in the minor semi-final.

Stephanie accepted a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), playing all 24 games for the AIS in 2007/08 she averaged 5.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 0.4 assists per game. The AIS had eight wins and 16 losses and although they finished ninth in a 10 team league they were only four games behind the fourth placed Dandenong Rangers. Cumming’s AIS team-mates in 2007/08 included Mariana Tolo, Cayla George (nee Francis), Mia Murray (nee Newley), and Nicole Hunt.

The AIS finished last of 10 teams in the WNBL during 2008/09 with a record of two wins and 20 losses, two games behind ninth placed Perth, but with a slightly better percentage, 77.5 to Perth’s 75.7. In her final season at the AIS in 2008/09 Cumming played 20 games, averaging 8.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 25.9 minutes per game. Cumming led the AIS for assists, ranked third for scoring behind Liz Cambage and Rachel Jarry and ranked fifth for rebounds.

Cumming was the captain of the Australian team at the 2009 under 19 World Championships held in Bankgkok, Thailand in late July and early August. Other members of Australia’s under 19 team included Liz Cambage, Rachel Jarry, Tess Madgen, Gretal Tippett, Alice Kunek, Kerryn Harrington and Ashleigh Karaitiana. In an interview with FIBA before the championships started Cumming was asked “Is there a player that you have looked up to with the Australia senior team, or somewhere else in the world that inspires you?” Cumming respondedDefinitely Penny Taylor (2006 FIBA World Championship for Women MVP). She is so athletic. She can handle the ball and is a really good team player. She brings so much to the game. She makes everyone around her play better when she is on the court.”3

Australia won all three of their Group A games to finish on top of their group but due to losing to Canada 49-50 in a quarter final the Gems missed out on the medal games. Australia won their two classification games against Russia and France to finish fifth. Cumming played all nine games for Australia, averaging 5.9 points, 3.0 rebounds 1.4 assists and 23.6 minutes per game.

After two seasons with the AIS Cumming returned to the Dandenong Jayco Rangers for the 2009/10 season. Dandenong finished seventh on the ladder with seven wins, 15 losses and a percentage of 93.6%. Cumming played all 22 games, averaging 11.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 27.3 minutes per game. Cumming led Dandenong for points, ranked fourth for assists, steals and blocks and fifth for rebounds. Cumming was the only Ranger to average more than 10 points per game however three of her team-mates averaged above nine points per game, fellow guard Caitlin Ryan (9.8 points), Casey Nash (9.7), and Ashley Lindsay (9.1). Other members of the Rangers team included Alison Downie, Antonia Edmondson, Nicole Hunt, Megan Moody, Amelia Todhunter, Clare Papavs and Faith Probst. At just 19 years of age Cumming won the Dandenong Rangers Most Valuable Player Award. Cumming was required to spend time playing as a point guard early in the season due to injuries to the Rangers starting and back-up point guards. Later in the season Cumming returned to her more familiar role as shooting guard and scored a season-high 20 points in multiple games.

Dandenong had a vastly different roster in 2010/11, with only three players returning from 2009/10, Cumming, Downie and Hope Terdich. The Rangers recruited four players that had been named in the WNBL All-Star five one time each during the previous three seasons, Kathleen MacLeod, Abby Bishop, Jess Foley and Tracey Gahan. Dandenong finished fourth on the ladder with 12 wins and 10 losses, behind Bulleen (19 wins), Canberra (18 wins) and Bendigo (15 wins). Dandenong hosted Logan in an elimination final at Dandenong Stadium but were defeated 83-73. Cumming played all 23 games, averaging 10.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 24.0 minutes per game. Stephanie ranked third at Dandenong for points behind MacLeod (15.4 points) and Bishop (15.1), third for steals, seventh for rebounds and sixth for assists.

Cumming and MacLeod were the only two Dandenong Rangers starters that returned from 2010/11, the three starters that did not return for the 2011/12 season were Bishop, Foley and Gahan, this trio were replaced by recruits Krista Phillips and Jenna O’Hea and long-term Ranger Alison Downie who played a more prominent role for Dandenong in 2011/12 after averaging just 12.7 minutes per game in 2010/11. Dandenong were strongly placed to make the finals at the half-way point of the season with eight wins and four losses, however they then lost four games in a row to Logan, Bulleen and Bendigo twice to be a middle of the road team personified with a record of eight wins and eight losses and looked very unlikely to make the WNBL finals. This prompted an honest discussion amongst the Dandenong players and coaching staff on what they needed to change. From that point on Dandenong looked revitalised and won their last six regular season games, having an average winning margin of 31 points during this time. The Jayco Rangers finished third on the WNBL ladder with 14 wins and eight losses, four games behind minor premiers, Adelaide Lightning and one win behind the second placed Bulleen Boomers. Townsville and Sydney finished in fourth and fifth place respectively with records of 13 wins and nine losses to complete the final five with Bendigo and Logan both finishing one win behind on 12 wins. Cumming had easily the best regular season of her WNBL career to that stage, averaging career highs for points and rebounds and averaged 2.0 assists per game, just below her career-best of 2.1 in 2008/09 with the AIS.

Townsville defeated Sydney by seven points in a mid-week elimination final at home to progress to a semi-final at Dandenong Basketball Stadium against the Rangers. Townsville were strongly placed to cause an upset in the semi-final, leading Dandenong 65 to 58 with just over seven minutes remaining, however Dandenong dominated from that point on to go on a 19-1 run and won 77 points to 66. Bulleen won a thrilling major semi-final against Adelaide 73 to 70 which led to Dandenong travelling to Adelaide to play the Lightning in a Preliminary Final. Adelaide led Dandenong by 13 points a minute into the third quarter, however as they had done so frequently in the concluding stages of the season the Rangers got on a role and overpowered their opponent, sixth-man Tegan Cunningham was critical in the turn around with the Jayco Rangers winning 91 points to 78.

The 2011/12 WNBL Grand Final between the Bulleen Boomers and the Dandenong Rangers was the first all-Victorian Grand Final since 1987. The Rangers had a long losing streak against Bullen including losing all three games during 2011/12 by five points, six points in overtime and 10 points. The Boomers starting line-up of Sam Richards, Great Britian import Johannah Leedham, Rachel Jarry, Alice Kunek and Liz Cambage contained three players ranked in the top 12 of the WNBL during 2011/12 for points per game – Cambage (2nd), Jarry (11th) and Richards (12th). Five of the top 12 scorers in the league played in the Grand Final as MacLeod ranked fifth and O’Hea ranked eighth. Cumming was the Rangers third highest scorer and ranked 19th in the league.

The Bulleen Boomers had a great start to lead 11 points to four, three and a half minutes into the opening quarter, however the Dandenong Rangers scored the next 12 points including eight from Cumming to gain the ascendancy, going on a 30 points to six run to lead by 17 points, 34 to 17 with six and a half minutes remaining in the first half. Whilst Bulleen reduced the lead to a low single figure margin for several minutes early in the third quarter Dandenong were able to respond, retaining their composure to extend their lead and recorded a comfortable victory by 24 points, 94 points to 70. Despite fouling out early in the last quarter Cumming was one of the best players on court, scoring 19 points with an accuracy of 64% from the field comprised of making seven of her 11 field goals. It was the third WNBL Championship in Dandenong’s history, having previously gone back to back to win the 2003/04 and 2004/05 championships. Kathleen MacLeod scored 22 points and made nine assists to win the Grand Final MVP and Jenna O’Hea scored 20 points and took seven rebounds.

During 2011/12 Cumming played all 25 games for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 13.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 29.5 minutes per game. Cumming ranked third at Dandenong for scoring behind MacLeod and O’Hea, fifth for rebounds and blocked shots, third for assists and minutes played and fourth for steals. For the second consecutive season Steph ranked third in the WNBL for three-point accuracy during the 2011/12 season, making 34 of her 84 three-pointers for an accuracy of 40.5%.

Steph played a total of 737 minutes during 2011/12 to be one of six Dandenong Rangers to play over 500 minutes for the season, the five starters and sixth man Cunningham. Five of these six players averaged over 9.0 points per game, with Cumming being joined by MacLeod (16.7), O’Hea (16.2), Canadian import Phillips (11.2) and Cunningham (9.2). Whilst Downie’s scoring output was lower at 6.0 points per game she was Dandenong’s best defensive player. Other members of the Rangers Championship winning team were Samantha Woosnam, Louella Tomlinson, Clare Papavs, Brittany Wilkins, Hope Terdich and Aimie Clydesdale.

The Rangers retained just over half of their Championship winning roster for the 2012/13 WNBL season, with the starting five of along with sixth man Cunningham and young point guard Clydesdale all returning. Dandenong recruited two teenagers from the AIS, Sara Blicavs and Carly Mijovic who at that stage were already being touted as potential future Opals, the duo have lived up to these expectations with Sara having represented the Australian Opals both at home and abroad whilst Mijovic has attended several Australian Opals training camps including the one in Phoenix a month ago.

The Dandenong Rangers got off to a much better start in 2012/13 than 2011/12 and until late in the season they had the measure of every rival club in the WNBL other than the Bendigo Spirit, winning 16 of their first 19 games of the season, with all three losses being to Bendigo by in order 12, two and seven points. During the season the Rangers recruited American import Monica Wright which increased their depth even further. Dandenong lost two late season games to Adelaide to finish the regular season in second spot on the ladder with 19 wins and five losses, two games behind minor premiers Bendigo Spirit, one game ahead of third placed Adelaide and six games ahead of the Townsville Fire who completed the top four.

Dandenong lost the major semi-final on the road to Bendigo 78 points to 71 and were upset by Townsville in the preliminary final at Dandenong Basketball Stadium, being defeated 78 points to 64.

In 2012/13 Cumming played all 26 games for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 11.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 25.5 minutes per game. Cumming ranked fourth at Dandenong for points per game, fifth for assists and steals, and third for total minutes played behind O’Hea and MacLeod who were both named in the 2012/13 WNBL All-Star five. Cumming’s numbers were slightly down in 2012/13 compared to 2011/12, however this was largely due to the Rangers having increased depth with eight players averaging at least 6.0 points per game in 2012/13, up from six players in 2011/12, this resulted in Cumming’s game-time falling by 14%. From an accuracy point of view Cumming had the best shooting season of her WNBL career to that stage, setting new career highs for field goal and three point accuracy with 47.4% and 42.5% respectively, whilst also having her second most accurate season at the free throw line, making 41 of her 45 shots for an accuracy of 91.5%. Cumming ranked third in the WNBL for three-point accuracy.

Appearing on the 2013 SEABL preview show – Women episode 20 Steph Cumming commented on being part of the Australian team that won a bronze medal at the 2013 World University games “It was brilliant, I couldn’t have asked for a better team, I mean you don’t very often get a team that gets along so well when we just kind of got thrown together at the last minute. We had two practice games and then we were straight into the tournament because the older Opals had taken a team to China and the emerging Opals had taken a team to China, then it merged but it was absolutely brilliant.”

After spending four consecutive seasons playing for the Dandenong Rangers Cumming joined the Townsville Fire for the 2013/14 WNBL season. Townsville were the surprise packet of the 2012/13 season, losing the Grand Final to Bendigo 57 to 71. Townsville improved their roster in the off-season by signing Cumming as well as three-time Olympian Suzy Batkovic. Townsville retained their position as one of the best teams in the WNBL during the 2013/14 season, recording 16 wins and eight losses to have the same record as Dandenong but due to losing the head to head series the Fire finished in third position, behind the Rangers and five games behind the league leading Bendigo Spirit. After defeating Melbourne by five points in a home semi final Townsville travelled to Dandenong for a preliminary final. It was the fourth season in a row that Steph played a final at Dandenong Stadium and third season in a row that the Jayco Rangers hosted the Townsville Fire in a final, however it was a very different experience for Steph in 2013/14 being a key member of the visiting Townsville Fire roster. In a thrilling high quality game Townsville won by three points, 74 to 71 to record a road victory against the Rangers in a preliminary final for the second season in a row, Steph played a pivotal role in the victory against her old side, contributing 15 points. With the Grand Final being hosted by Bendigo against a visiting Townsville Fire outfit that had won the season split between the two clubs 2-1 the expectations were that it would be a closer Grand Final than the previous season. This was exactly how it played out with Bendigo leading by only two points at three-quarter time. Bendigo scored the opening nine points of the final quarter to set up an 11 point victory over Townsville to win back to back WNBL Championships. Bendigo forward Kelsey Griffin scored 28 points and had 15 rebounds to win the Grand Final MVP for the second year in a row.

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During 2013/14 Cumming played all 27 games for the Townsville Fire, averaging 11.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 29.3 minutes per game. Stephanie ranked second at Townsville for points per game behind Suzy Batkovic, sixth for rebounds, second for assists behind Fire captain Rachael McCully and equal fifth for steals. Cumming led the WNBL for free-throw accuracy in the regular season with 92.3% and also made a career-best 45.3% of her three-pointers

In 2014/15 Townsville continued to improve and were the best team during the WNBL regular season, becoming minor premiers with a record of 17 wins and five losses, two games ahead of the Bendigo Spirit. Townsville comprehensively outplayed Bendigo 82 points to 63 in the major semi-final to progress to the Grand Final. Bendigo defeated Sydney by eight points in the preliminary final to set-up their third consecutive Grand Final against Bendigo. Townsville trailed Bendigo 4-12 early in the game but were able to draw level later in the first quarter. After leading 47 to 39 at half-time Townsville went on to win the Grand Final 75 points to 65 to win their first WNBL Championship. In the Grand Final Cumming scored 12 points, Batkovic scored 22 points and Mia Newley won the Rachel Sporn medal as Grand Final MVP with 23 points.

During 2014/15 Cumming played all 24 games for the Townsville Fire, averaging 11.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 24.5 minutes per game. In 2014/15 Cumming ranked third at Townsville for scoring, seventh for rebounds and equal third for assists and steals.

After two seasons playing for Townsville Stephanie re-joined the Dandenong Rangers for the 2015/16 season. In May 2015 after signing with the Jayco Rangers Steph commented “I didn’t realise how much I missed home until I was back here after WNBL. Seeing mum, dad and Kris (boyfriend and basketballer Kris Blicavs) every day I thought geez I miss being home, spending time with them and seeing my friends at the drop of a hat, just sending a text then meeting up. You become used to checking your schedule and the fixture, seeing you’re home in three weeks and saying to your friends I’ve got an hour before our game if you want to catch up for 20 minutes. If they are late or something happens you’ve got to cancel until next time.’’4

Cumming was named Dandenong Jayco Rangers co-captain along with another player whose junior association was Dandenong – point guard Aimie Clydesdale. The duo who both grew up in Endeavour Hills were voted into the role of co-captain by their team-mates, Dandenong head-coach Larissa Anderson commented “That was unanimous and for me I looked at it and thought it was really special – the fact that both of them have grown up at the stadium pretty much, literally grown up at the stadium before domestic and under-12s. Whenever they started – at the age of seven or eight – they’ve grown up in this stadium and never played for anyone else in their junior careers and I think that’s wonderful and they’ll do a fantastic job.”5

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The Dandenong Rangers finished third on the WNBL ladder in 2015/16 with a record of 15 wins and nine losses, two wins behind minor premiers, Townsville Fire and one win behind the second placed Perth Lynx. The fourth placed SEQ Stars also finished with 15 wins and nine losses but lost the tie-breaker due to Dandenong having the better head to head record, winning two of the three games between the clubs during the regular season.

A key reason for Dandenong making the WNBL finals was their remarkable record in close games, of their 14 games decided by eight points or less during the 2015/16 regular season they won 12 and lost only two. Dandenong’s depth was extremely important throughout the 2015/16 season given that due to injury they frequently had one or more of their core players missing. The Jayco Rangers had the equal-best home record in the WNBL during the regular season with the Perth Lynx, having a record of nine wins and three losses. With their entertaining brand of basketball and their superb record of winning close games at home the Rangers provided tremendous value for money for their members in 2015/16. Dandenong had six wins and six losses on the road, the equal fourth best record in the WNBL, three games behind the best road team, the eventual 2015/16 WNBL Champions the Townsville Fire.

Dandenong hosted SEQ in the minor semi final and held the ascendancy for most of the game, leading by 15 points late in the second quarter, however SEQ overran Dandenong to win by four points. Athletic forward Sara Blicavs was phenomenal in the semi final playing one of the all-time great WNBL finals games, scoring 38 points on 14 of 26 field goals, taking a team-high nine rebounds and made an equal team-high four assists. The Jayco Dandenong Rangers broke a club record in making the WNBL finals for a sixth consecutive season in 2015/16, however in the last four of these seasons the club failed to win a final.

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During 2015/16 Cumming played all 25 games for Dandenong, averaging 15.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 35.9 minutes per game. Stephanie ranked eighth in the league for points per game, fifth in free throw percentage with 85.1% and 15th for assists per game. In 2015/16 Cumming led Dandenong for points, assists and minutes played, ranked third for steals and fourth for rebounds and blocked shots. Cumming scored more than 19 points eight times in 2015/16 including a season best of 23 points twice. As well as ranking in the top 15 of the WNBL for points and assists per game during 2015/16 Cumming also ranked equal 21st for total steals and 23rd for total blocks.

Dandenong were ranked number 1 in the league for defending three point shots, with their opponents making 31% of their three-pointers in 2015/16. The Defensive Player of the year award was voted on by the coaches and captains from the nine WNBL clubs. Cumming polled 25 votes to win the award ahead of Perth Lynx centre Louella Tomlinson and Bendigo Spirit forward Kelsey Griffen. Cumming was the second Dandenong Ranger to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, joining Emily McInerney who holds the all-time record, having won the award nine times.

On winning the Wattle Valley WNBL Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year award Cumming commented “It was very unexpected, I was quite surprised. I try to take pride in every aspect of my game but as part of [coach] Larissa Anderson’s game-plan she was really focused on defence and I guess that came through. Larissa would go through match-ups with us and most weeks we would have a chat about it and who I would prefer to play on and then she would chip in with who she thought would be best. I never really thought of myself as a defensive player but I always take pride in it and not wanting to be beaten.”6

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Cumming polled 73 votes in the 2015/16 WNBL MVP award to finish sixth, and lead the Rangers ahead of forward Sara Blicavs who finished 10th with 56 votes. Cumming also received six votes for the WNBL All-Star five to be ranked equal seventh in the WNBL.

SEABL Career

Cumming has been a star in the SEABL for many seasons, winning three consecutive championships with the Dandenong Rangers from 2010 to 2012 and winning the SEABL MVP in 2015 & 2016 whilst playing for the Kilsyth Cobras coached by her former Rangers team-mate Samantha Woosnam. Over four SEABL seasons from 2013 to 2016 Cumming played 85 games and averaged 21.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game and shot the ball at above 44% from the field, 34% for three-pointers and 85% from the free-throw line in all four seasons. Kilsyth made the SEABL Championship Final in both 2015 and 2016 but were defeated in both seasons by the Dandenong Rangers.

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After playing back to back SEABL and WNBL seasons for seven consecutive years Stephanie decided to have a break from basketball during the 2017 SEABL season. In March 2017, just days after sharing the 2016/17 Rangers WNBL MVP with Sara Blicavs, Stephanie married Sara’s oldest brother Kris.. Sara plays for Geelong’s Women’s team and is averaging a league-leading 23.5 points per game, however has missed several games due to Opals commitments. Between the end of her SEABL season with Geelong and the start of the WNBL season a Milestones and misses article will be published on Sara Blicavs in a similar style to this one.

After playing back to back SEABL and WNBL seasons for seven consecutive years Stephanie decided to have a break from basketball during the 2017 SEABL season. During the seven seasons Steph played in the SEABL from 2010 to 2016 she is the only player to have won multiple SEABL MVP awards, however 2013 MVP winner Kelly Wilson is like Cumming a two-time winner of the award with Wilson first winning the award in 2009. Cumming has been selected in the All-SEABL team during her past five seasons from 2012 to 2016.

Summary and future

Stephanie’s immediate future involves representing the Australian Opals in the knock-out stage of the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup being held in Bangalore, India. It is the first time Stephanie has played for Australia since 2013 and at the start of the year she wasn’t expecting to get an Opals call-up. On being invited to the Opals training camp in Phoenix and then being selected for the Asia Cup Stephanie commented to Roy Ward from Fairfax Media last week “Everything was happening all at once so it was a little overwhelming at the time. I was planning on having a gradual, proper WNBL pre-season for the first time since I was 16 and then all of this came up. But I am excited about it which is a good sign and it gave me the kick up the butt to get back to the gym and shooting again.”7

In April 2017 Sandy Brondello was appointed as the head coach of the Australian Opals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games campaign although due to her role as head coach of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA she is unable to attend some tournaments including the this week’s FIBA Asia Cup. The Opals coaching group includes two WNBL head coaches in  Sydney Uni Flames coach Cheryl Chambers (Sydney Uni Flames) and Paul Goriss (University of Canberra Capitals) along with Sandy’s husband Olaf Lange who has previously been a head coach in the WNBL and has extensive experience coaching in Europe. One of the Opals all-time greats Penny Taylor who was Australia’s captain at their last two major Championships has also been appointed an Opals assistant coach, however like Brondello is unable to attend the Asia Cup due to commitments on the Phoenix Mercury coaching panel.

At the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Bangalore, India, the Opals ranked fourth in the world won all three games in Group B, having defeated Korea (ranked 15th) 78-54,  the Philippines (49th) 107-65 and  Japan (12th) 83-74. After three games in three days, no games are played on Wednesday which is Stephanie’s birthday before the knock out stage commences with quarter-finals on Thursday, semi-finals on Friday, followed by the bronze medal and gold medal games on Saturday 29 July. Australia are heavy favourites to win the Asia Cup, being regular medal winners at major championships over the past two decades and are the highest ranked nation in the tournament, followed by China – ranked 10th in the world. Japan have won the gold medal at the previous two FIBA Asia Cups in 2013 and 2015 with China having won the two Aisa Cups prior to that in 2009 and 2011.

Four members of the Opals FIBA Asia Cup team represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games being Laura Hodges, Tessa Lavey, Mariana Tolo and Katie-Rae Ebzery. Three-time Olympian Belinda Snell who represented the Opals at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics has also been selected. Six of the seven remaining members of the Australian FIBA Cup team played in the WNBL last season being Stephanie and Sara Blicavs, Lauren Mansfield, Kelsey Griffin, Madeleine Garrick and Alice Kunek. The youngest member of the Opals squad is 20 year-old forward Alanna Smith who represented the Australian Gems at the 2015 under 19’s Women’s world championship and was selected in the tournament’s all-star five. The Opals top two scorers in the opening game win against Korea were two players making their Opals debut in Alanna and Kelsey Griffin who each scored 15 points. Mariana Tolo top scored for the Opals against Japan with 17 points whilst Kelsey Griffin had nine rebounds and Lauren Mansfield made seven assists. The Opals shot the ball superbly from long-range against Japan to make 12 of their 20 three-pointers.

The Opals won all three Group B games, averaging 89.3 points per game whilst conceding 64.3 points per game. In their quarter-final on Thursday at 5.30 pm the Opals play the team that finished fourth in Group A –  North Korea (ranked 64th in the world).  A quarter-final victory will qualify the Opals for the 2018 World Championships to be held in Spain from 22 to 30 September. The winner of the quarter-final between Australia and North Korea will meet the winner of the quarter-final between New Zealand (ranked 38th in the world) and Korea in a semi-final on Friday. Four of the top five ranked players for New Zealand for points per game at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup have all played in the WNBL before being Jillian Harmon (first), Townsville Fire veteran Miceala Cocks (second), Perth Lynx veteran Antonia Edmondson (fourth) and Chevy Paalvast (fifth).  New Zealand’s third highest scorer for the tournament –  Kalani Purcell will be joining Tall Ferns teammate at Rebecca Ott at the  Melbourne Boomers for the 2017/18 WNBL season. Stephanie played all three of Australia’s group games at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, averaging 10.7 points, 1.7 assists and 15.3 minutes per game to be the fourth ranked Opal for points per game behind Kelsey GriffIn, Sara Blicavs & Mariana Tolo. Stephanie leads the Opals for three-pointers made with six, shooting at 54.5% from behind the arc and having a field goal percentage of 52.9%.

Although Stephanie had a break from the SEABL this winter she has remained busy, getting married to Kris Blicavs in March and starting work as a teacher. The name on Stephanie’s Opals singlet at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup still says Cumming, Stephanie comments “Legally my name is still Cumming but everyone calls me Blicavs because that’s what my name will be, I need to find enough time when I’m in the one spot for long enough to do the paperwork and get it all sorted out.”8

Not that they needed it but Stephanie joining the Blicavs family further increases the stock of sporting talent in the family. The parents of Kris, Mark and Sara Blicavs – dad Andris and mum Karen represented Australian national basketball teams, Andris played at three major championships for Australia comprised of one Olympic Games and two world championships from 1974 to 1978, whilst Karen Odgen represented Australia at the 1983 world championships in Brazil and was selected for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics but was forced to withdraw from the team due to a knee injury. Karen won the WNBL MVP in 1982 and 1983 and was a key member of the St Kilda team that won the inaugural WNBL championship in 1981.

On Friday 28 July Kris Blicavs plays his 100th SEABL game for the Geelong Supercats against Nunawading at Geelong Stadium. After being an athlete competing in the 3,000 metres steeplechase Mark Blicavs was selected by AFL club Geelong in the 2012 Rookie Draft. Mark has easily exceeded Geelong’s expectations, proving to a be a very difficult player to match up on as either a big-bodied midfielder or an athletic ruckman, Mark has played 106 AFL games and won the Carji Greeves medal in 2015 as Geelong’s best and fairest.

During her 11 season WNBL career Stephanie has played a total of 257 WNBL games at three clubs averaging 11.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game and has played in two WNBL Championships – one with the Dandenong Rangers in 2011/12 and one with the Townsville Fire in 2014/15. In all eight seasons since graduating from the AIS Cumming has averaged more than 10 points per game. In six seasons Cumming has had a free-throw accuracy above 85% including three seasons where she has exceeded 90%. Steph has made at least 24 three-pointers in nine of her 11 WNBL seasons. Cumming has been extremely durable throughout her WNBL career, after playing 12 games as a development player in 2006/07 with Dandenong she played at least 20 games in each of her next 10 seasons from 2007/08 to 2016/17.

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After Stephanie had signed with the Jayco Rangers for the 2017/18 WNBL season head coach Larissa Anderson commented “It is fantastic to have Steph back on board for WNBL 2017-18. Steph has just produced two of her career best seasons and only continues to get better. She is one of the league’s most dynamic and consistent players on both ends of the floor, and I am looking forward to her continued success here with the Jayco Rangers.”9

Whilst only three players from the Jayco Rangers 2016/17 roster are returning for the 2017/18 season in Stephanie & Sara Blicavs and Amelia Todhunter another four have played in the WNBL previously. Two of the Rangers front-court recruits have each played a season with the Jayco Rangers previously – Carley Mijovic in 2012/13 and import Kayla Pedersen in 2013/14. Two other recruits with extensive WNBL experience in Tessa Lavey and Tayla Roberts were team-mates of Sara Blicavs at the AIS in 2010/11. The second import signed by the Rangers – Spanish guard Laia Palau was the captain of Spain’s silver medal winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Two teenagers signed by the Rangers for the 2017/18 season in Rebecca Pizzey and Kiera Rowe are currently representing the Australian Gems at the Under 19 Women’s World Championship in Italy. Pizzey and Rowe were both members of the Australian Sapphires team that won the gold medal at the Under 17 Women’s World Championship in Spain last year. A total of seven players on the Jayco Rangers 2017/18 roster have represented Australia in an overseas tournament this winter. Amelia Todhunter and Carley Mijovic played for Australia at the FIBA 3×3 World Cup in France where the team narrowly missed out on qualifying for the quarter finals. Three Rangers are playing for the Opals at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup this week – Stephanie and Sara Blicavs along with Tessa Lavey.

After not having any television coverage during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons the WNBL is returning to TV screens during the 2017/18 season in a partnership with Foxtel. Stephanie commented “It’s fantastic that the WNBL has secured a TV deal with Foxtel; especially a deal that covers the next three seasons. Finally the league and its players will get some exposure for the great product we deliver each and every week”.10  The WNBL is already considered to be one of the best basketball leagues in the world however it is likely to be even stronger in 2017/18 with six Opals Olympians returning to the league in Abby Bishop (Adelaide Lighting), Rachel Jarry (University of Canberra Capitals), Liz Cambage & Jenna O’Hea (both Melbourne Boomers), Katie-Rae Ebzery (Sydney Uni Flames) and Cayla George (Townsville Fire)

Having already played over 250 WNBL games Stephanie only requires another two seasons to reach 300 WNBL games, having commenced her WNBL career with the Jayco Rangers at 16 years of age she has considerable time left in her career, turning 27 years old today. Stephanie Bliacvs has without doubt played the best basketball of her career during the past two years with her mix of shooting accuracy, outstanding defense, durability, athleticism, passing and scoring output resulting in consecutive top 10 finishes in the WNBL MVP Award in 2015/16 and 2016/17. Whilst the name on her singlet will soon change from Cumming to Blicavs Stephanie can be expected to maintain her standing as one of the best players in the WNBL for several seasons to come.

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

1 http://wnbl.com.au/dandenong_news/steph-cumming-re-signs-jayco-rangers/

2 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/outer-east/sport/kilsyth-star-steph-cumming-finds-time-amid-busy-year-to-win-consecutive-seabl-mvp-awards/news-story/8f87a7dde49540028ce59d44b5e17150

3 http://www.fiba.com/pages/eng/fe/08/olym/men/news/inte/p/newsid/30941/FE_news_inteArti.html

4 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/sport/steph-cumming-is-back-in-melbourne-to-play-seabl-for-kilsyth-and-wnbl-at-dandenong/news-story/ea8697bf388bdd843b6ce22ce3f64795

5 http://dandenong.starcommunity.com.au/journal/2015-10-08/rangers-ready-to-excite/

6 http://wnbl.com.au/201516-defensive-player-of-the-year/

7 http://www.theage.com.au/sport/basketball/sistersinlaw-sara-and-steph-blicavs-suiting-up-for-australian-opals-at-fiba-womens-asia-cup-2017-20170722-gxgizz.html

8 http://www.theage.com.au/sport/basketball/sistersinlaw-sara-and-steph-blicavs-suiting-up-for-australian-opals-at-fiba-womens-asia-cup-2017-20170722-gxgizz.html

9 http://wnbl.com.au/dandenong_news/steph-cumming-re-signs-jayco-rangers/

10 http://wnbl.com.au/dandenong_news/steph-cumming-re-signs-jayco-rangers/

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