Jayco Rangers forward Carley Mijovic reaches 150 WNBL games at just 23 years of age

Friday October 27 power forward Carley Mijovic at just 23 years of age played her 150th WNBL game in the Jayco Rangers road trip against her former team the Perth Lynx. Throughout her career Mijovic’s strengths have been her athleticism and outside shooting, during the 2016/17 season with Perth she improved her rebounding and defense, her more rounded game was recognised throughout the league and she was rewarded with a top 10 finish in the WNBL MVP Award.

Carley returned to her junior club the Dandenong Rangers for the 2017/18 season, having played one WNBL season with the club previously in 2012/13. Dandenong Rangers head coach Larissa Anderson commented on Mijovic’s return to the Rangers “She has become a prominent player in the WNBL at such a young age and yet, has so much more potential. With her athleticism and versatility, Carley will be a fantastic addition to our team. I am really looking forward to working with her. Carley will provide the Jayco Rangers with length and shooting that is hard to match at her position.”1

Last weekend 196 centimetre tall Mijovic demonstrated how difficult a proposition she is to match up on, being the most dominant player on the floor in the Rangers first win of the 2017/18 season against Townsville. In a home game broadcast on pay TV Network Fox Sports Carley scored a game-high 28 points, had eight rebounds, blocked two shots, made a game-high four three-pointers and shot the ball 55% from the field, making 10 of her 19 field goal attempts.

 

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In the post-game press conference Jayco Rangers captain Steph Blicavs (nee Cumming) was asked about Mijovic’s influence both inside and outside during the club’s 17 point victory against Townsville, Steph commented “Credit to Carley, she has been working hard with Riss (Larissa Anderson), we’ve been trying to make her into an inside player, I know it’s not her favourite thing to do because she has such a deadly outside shot, but if she can do both of those things she will become unstoppable.” Mijovic was one of two Jayco Rangers named in the WNBL Team of the Week for Round 3 along with fellow forward Sara Blicavs.

Mijovic became the fourth player on the Rangers 2017/18 roster to reach 150 WNBL games, joining Steph Blicavs (262 games), Amelia Todhunter (197 games) and Sara Blicavs (181). Mijovic has proved to be extremely durable from 2012/13 onwards, playing at least 22 games in all five completed seasons, however it was a far different story in the early stages of her career as it wasn’t until her third season with a WNBL team that she played the fifth game of her career. In her first full-season of WNBL basketball with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)  in 2011/12 Mijovic played 18 games, averaging 9.1 points and 5.2 rebounds to win the WNBL’s Rookie of the Year Award. From 2009/10 to half-way through the 2015/16 season Mijovic had been part of the core rotation at several WNBL clubs, however had usually started games on the bench and played less than 25 minutes in a game. In the second half of the 2015/16 season Mijovic was inserted into the Perth Lynx starting line-up and for the rest of the season was one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the league. In the last 10 games of the 2015/16 season Mijovic made a total of 42 three-pointers at a superb accuracy of 48%. During 2016/17 Mijovic starting for Perth Lynx throughout the season set new career-highs for points per game, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, assists and minutes played, playing a pivotal role in Perth making the finals for a second successive season.

   

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Carley Mijovic was born on 1 August, 1994 in Melbourne and grew up in Narre Warren, a suburb approximately 40 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. Carley’s dad played basketball professionally in Serbia before moving to Australia in the 1970’s and her aunty Zorica Mijovic played in the WNBL, ranking in the top 10 of the league for free-throw accuracy in 1986 playing for Geelong.

In a video for SEABL TV in April 2014 alongside current Rangers team-mate Tessa Lavey, when asked when it began Carley said “I was about six, back in Melbourne and I started playing because my brother played, I remember training with the boys when I was young.”

In an interview with Basketball Victoria Carley commented on playing her junior basketball with the Rangers. “Dandenong Rangers were really good for me as a club growing up as we had access to coaches other clubs didn’t have. It was a good association to be part of and grow as a player.”2  Impressive performances for her junior association Dandenong resulted in the opportunity to accept a scholarship at 15 years of age and move to the AIS.

Mijovic made her WNBL debut for the AIS at 15 years of age on 19 December, 2009 in a home game against the Jayco Rangers. On debut Mijovic scored eight points and had three rebounds from 14 minutes and 26 seconds court-time. Mijovic’s AIS team-mates in this game include three players that are current team-mates at the Jayco Rangers – Sara Blicavs, Tessa Lavey and Tayla Roberts, whilst another current team-mate Steph Blicavs played for the Rangers in that game. Three more of Carley’s AIS team-mates from her debut game are playing for other WNBL teams during the 2017/18 season being – Rebecca Cole (Melbourne Boomers), Nadeen Payne (Bendigo Spirit) and Olivia Thompson (Perth Lynx). In her debut WNBL season Mijovic played four games for the AIS, averaging 5.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game, team-mate Tayla Roberts won the WNBL’s Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award.

Carley represented Vic Metro at several under-age national championships including the 2010 under 18 championships where she scored a game-high 24 points and had 11 rebounds in Vic Metro’s one point victory 65-64 against Queensland South in the gold medal game to play a key role in her state winning the National Championship. Team-mates of Carley’s in the 2010 Under 18 Vic Metro team included current Rangers team-mate Sara Blicavs, as well as a few other players who’s junior Association was Dandenong and later represented the Rangers in the WNBL – Aimie Clydesdale, Rosie Fadljevic and Tenaya Phillips.

Due to two major knee surgeries, Mijovic missed the entire 2010/11 WNBL season. Mijovic commented on her knee injury “I had an injury with my left knee when I tore my meniscus and had to get it repaired and I was in a leg brace for a while. I had hoped that it was going to grow back together when they had stitched it up, but it didn’t. So I had to go in for surgery again and just have it removed. It was very frustrating.”3

In an interview with television channel SBS just before the 2011 Under 19 world championships in Chile Carley’s aunty Zorica commented on the development of Carley’s game saying “A lot of the coaches had to work on her post moves and all that, but it all came quite easy, her outside shot was there, her drive to the basket, running with the guards, ball skills.”

Several of Mijovic’s AIS team-mates for the 2011/12 season were also in their third season with the club however had played considerably more WNBL basketball than Mijovic who only played a total of four games in her first two seasons at the AIS during 2009/10 and 2010/11. Carley made her return from knee injury in Round 1 of the 2011/12 WNBL season with the AIS in a road game against the Sydney Flames, having eight points and six rebounds from 16 minutes and 58 seconds court-time. In another Round 5 road game against the Sydney Flames Mijovic fell narrowly short of recording a double-double and played a pivotal role in keeping the AIS in the contest for over a half, with the scores tied at 42 all at half-time before Sydney overpowered the AIS in the second half to win 84-61. Mijovic scored a then career-high 21 points – seven more than the AIS’s second ranked player for the game, made nine rebounds – ranked second for the AIS, and shot the ball at 45% from the field in 29 minutes and 48 seconds court-time.

Mijovic scored more than 12 points in three consecutive games just after the half-way point of the season beginning with 15 points shooting at 50% from the field and six rebounds in 22 minutes and 16 seconds court-time in a Round 10 road game against the Bulleen Boomers. Carley followed this up with 14 points shooting at 60% from the field, five rebounds and blocked two shots in just under 21 minutes court-time in a Round 11 home game against Canberra and scored a team-high 13 points in a Round 12 home game against Sydney from 15 minutes and 49 seconds court-time, shooting at 50% from the field.

Mijovic flourished during 2011/12 to rank third at the AIS for total rebounds behind Olivia Thompson and Sara Blicavs, and fourth for total points behind Blicavs, Thompson and Casey Samuels. The AIS finished in last position in 2011/12 with a record of two wins, 20 losses and a percentage of 69.0%, level on wins with West Coast whose percentage was 76.1%. During 2011/12 Mijovic played 18 games for the AIS, averaging 9.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 19.4 minutes per game. Mijovic was one of 10 AIS players that played at least 14 games for the season and averaged more than 14 minutes per game. Players that were in the AIS core rotation along with Mijovic, Blicavs, Thompson and Samuels were Tessa Lavey, Maddie Garrick, Alex Bunton, Darcee Garbin, Rosie Fadljevic, Mikhaella Donnelly and AIS captain Rebecca Cole who played just six games before injuring her knee at an early season AIS training session and required a knee reconstruction.

On 26 March, 2012 Mijovic won the WNBL’s Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award at 17 years of age for her performances with the AIS during 2011/12, becoming the 15th AIS player in the award’s history to win the ROTY.  Previous winners of the WNBL’s Rookie of the Year award include Lauren Jackson (1996), Laura Hodges (2000/01), Kathleen MacLeod (2003/04), Abby Bishop (20005/06) and Cayla George (2006/07).

2011/12 was the AIS’s last season in the WNBL as changes were made to the Basketball program at the AIS. Whilst the program is still located at the AIS it is now referred to as the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (COE). Now Basketball Australia COE teams compete in both the men’s and women’s SEABL leagues.

Mijovic was a highly sought after player for the 2012/13 WNBL season, she signed with her junior club the Dandenong Rangers, with AIS team-mate Sara Blicavs also making the move from the AIS to the Rangers, the duo were both being touted as future Australian Opals. Dandenong retained most of their championship winning squad from the 2011/12 WNBL season and the addition of the AIS recruits resulted in a very deep roster, the starters were Kathleen Macleod, Steph Cumming, Jenna O’Hea, Alison Downie and Krista Phillips. The bench consisted of sixth-man Tegan Cunningham, Blicavs, Mijovic, Aimie Clydesdale and Rosie Fadljevic. A third of the way into the season the Rangers further strengthened their roster with the recruitment of American import Monica Wright.

The Dandenong Rangers two AIS recruits made an impact in their first game with the club as Mijovic scored 12 points and had six rebounds in 16 minutes and 40 seconds court-time whilst Sara Blicavs scored a game-high 19 points and made eight rebounds from 26 minutes and 2 seconds court-time during the 90-75 victory against the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers at Dandenong Stadium.

In a Round 3 home game against the West Coast Waves Mijovic scored 17 points, had a game-high 12 rebounds – four more than the second ranked player for the game in 21 minutes and 28 seconds court-time. In Mijovic’s first five games of the season she averaged 11.2 points and 18 minutes court-time per game, scoring at least seven points in every game, however as the season progressed her court-time was reduced. With Mijovic being the ninth player in the Rangers rotation following Monica Wright’s addition in Round 7 there were several occasions from that point of the season onwards when Mijovic played less than 10 minutes game-time.

On a few occasions in the second half of the season Mijovic scored at least 10 points including one game in which she recorded a double-double. In a Round 11 home game Carley scored 11 points in a 102-79 victory against Sydney, making five of her seven field goal attempts in 17 minutes and 38 seconds court-time. In a 101-62 Round 13 road victory against Canberra Mijovic scored 11 points and made six rebounds in 21 minutes court-time. During a Round 17 game against Logan at Dandenong Stadium Mijovic scored 10 points and had a game-high 11 rebounds from 26 minutes and 13 seconds court-time in the 87-67 victory, however in the following game against Townsville she played less than seven minutes court-time.

Dandenong were one of the three standout teams during the 2012/13 regular season along with Bendigo and Adelaide. During the regular season the Rangers lost all three games to Bendigo, had a 1-2 record against Adelaide and were undefeated in games against the six remaining sides who in their ladder positions from fourth to ninth were Townsville, Bulleen, Logan, Sydney, Canberra and West Coast. Dandenong finished third on the ladder with a record of 19 wins, five losses and a league leading 120%, two games behind Bendigo and one game ahead of Adelaide. Dandenong lost their semi final on the road to Bendigo 71-78 and then were upset in a home preliminary final by Townsville 64-78.

During 2012/13 Mijovic played 23 games for the Jayco Rangers, averaging 6.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 13.3 minutes per game. Mijovic ranked eighth at Dandenong for points and rebounds, third for blocked shots, fourth for three-pointers made and ninth for minutes played. Jayco Rangers point guard Kathleen MacLeod was selected in the WNBL All-Star five and was one of two Rangers along with Jenna O’Hea to average more than 14 points and 5.9 assists per game.

In July 2013 Carley represented Australia at the under 19 World Championships held in Lithuania. It was the third time Mijovic had represented Australian at an under-age World Championships, having previously played at the 2010 under 17 World Championships held in France and the 2011 under 19 World Championships held in Chile. In an interview with FIBA Carley commented on how her game had grown in the two years since the 2011 under 19 World Championships, saying “I think my game all round has developed and I have become a stronger and smarter player. Having the chance to play in the WNBL and train and play with Olympians such as Jenna O’Hea and Kath MacLeod as well as a WNBA player in Monica Wright, have certainly helped me improve my game and take it to the next level although I know I still have a long way to go. I need to keep training hard and come out and have a really good WNBL season. I know there are certain areas of my game that I need to still improve on and I will be focusing on these in all of my upcoming games. I know I also need to keep developing my strength and that will require me hitting the gym hard.”4

After achieving individual and team success at the Reze International Tournament lead-up event Carley was full of confidence for the 2013 under 19 World Championships. Carley commented “We have all come into this tournament in really good shape as a team. We proved in Reze what we are capable of and that we can get this gold medal. Getting MVP in Reze was really exciting and a great achievement for me personally, but as one of the captains of the team, winning the tournament and having everyone contribute was also a highlight.”5

Team-mates of Carley’s in the 2013 Australian Gems team include several current WNBL players in Lauren Scherf, Alex Wilson, Tahlia Tupea, Darcee Garbin and Vanessa Panousis as well as 2016 Rio Olympian Stephanie Talbot. The Gems won five of their first six games of the tournament to qualify for the quarter finals with the only loss being to Spain. After winning their quarter final against China 74-65 Australia progressed to a semi-final against the USA which the Gems lost 54-77. In the Bronze Medal game Australia faced Spain who had defeated the Gems 63-81 in their pool game, and it looked to be following the same script when Spain led the Bronze Medal game 48-31. Mijovic and Talbot were influential in the Gems getting back in the contest and over-running Spain to get a 73-68 victory and win the Bronze Medal. It was the first time the Gems had won a medal at a World Championships since 1997. In the Bronze Medal game Mijovic scored a game-high 25 points, took six rebounds, made an equal team-high two blocked shots, shot the ball at 50% from the field, made two of her four three-pointers and all five free-throws. Carley was one of two Gems to score more than eight points along with Talbot who scored 22 points and took a team-high nine rebounds.

Mijovic played all nine of the Gems games, averaging 14.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 26.7 minutes per game. Mijovic ranked first for Australia for points and blocked shots, ranked second for minutes played behind Talbot and fourth for rebounds. USA won the gold medal, defeating France 61-28. The top four nations all had one player in the Tournament’s all-star five along with Canada, with Talbot being the Gem selected in the team.

In an interview with SEABL TV at an Australian Opals Training camp Carley was asked what her goals were and responded “Going to the Olympics is a big one and also playing in Europe or over in the WNBA.”

Mijovic joined the Canberra Capitals for the 2013/14 season along with fellow 196 cm front-court player Alex Bunton, the duo, both 19 years old were the youngest players on the Capitals roster and were able to learn from one of the best front court players in the WNBL, Abby Bishop who had represented the Opals at the 2012 Olympic games in London and had been selected in the WNBL All-Star in 2008/09. Mijovic and Bunton had been team-mates at the AIS for three seasons and on Australian under-age teams. Whilst they were the same age, height and played the same position they performed their role in a different manner with Mijovic being a far greater threat from the outside and Bunton making a greater impact in the paint. When they first arrived at the AIS Mijovic and Bunton referred to themselves as Twin Towers, however given that they were the youngest players on the Capitals roster they were given the nickname ‘baby bigs’ at the Capitals. In September 2013 Mijovic commented ”I need to mature more as a player, I just need to work on my strength and take it to that next level. I think I can [take more ownership] and Bunts and I work well together, we’ve known each other for a long time.”6

In her first game for Canberra Mijovic had 15 points and five rebounds from 26 minutes and 49 seconds court-time in a Round 1 home game against Sydney. In a Round 3 home game against Bendigo Mijovic scored 16 points, making six of her 11 field goal attempts, and blocked three shots in 28 minutes 46 seconds game-time. During most of her career until this point Mijovic had been given around 20 minutes per game court-time, however with Abby Bishop suffering an ankle injury in a Round 5 home game against the Dandenong Rangers Mijovic played a game-high 38 minutes and four seconds court-time and delivered one of the best all-round games of her career to that stage. Against Dandenong Mijovic scored a team-high 19 points, shooting at 50% from the field, made two of her three three-pointers, had five rebounds, three assists and blocked three shots.

Although Mijovic had changed teams her 2013/14 season with the Canberra Capitals followed a similar pattern to her 2012/13 season with Dandenong, playing considerably more court-time and soring more points in the first third of the season than she did during the last two thirds of the season. In five of her first seven games of 2013/14 Mijovic scored at least 12 points, averaging 13.6 points and 25 minutes per game over this seven-game period.

From Round seven onwards playing diminished minutes for Canberra Mijovic rarely scored 12 points or more, however was able to record a double-double in a 96-65 victory against the West Coast Waves in a Round 15 home-game, scoring 20 points, had 10 rebounds – ranked second for the game behind Bishop with 12, blocked two shots and made seven of her 13 field goal attempts including four of her six three-pointers to shoot the ball at 54% from the field in 23 minutes and 1 second of court-time.

In 2014 Mijovic received a scholarship in Basketball Australia’s National Centre of Excellence (CoE) Women’s program. Brendan Joyce had the role as head coach of the Jayco Australian Opals and the CoE. Mijovic was selected in an Australian Opals 22 player squad for a training camp in January 2014  with Joyce commenting ”What impresses me about Carley is her mobility with her size. She’s of an international size in respect to the four-three spot. She’s got tremendous quickness and, if you look at teams like the US, Spain and Czech Republic, the players in those positions are six foot four but very quick … She has the mobility to match them. Her skill package is quite good and she can shoot the ball very well but physically she has to get stronger. What we’ve identified is girls like Carley we think are on the cusp. We want to give them extra physical training and development so they can play against senior women. If she can get stronger and develop quickly, she’s in [2014 world championship] contention for sure because of her ability.”7

Canberra had 10 wins and 14 losses in 2013/14 to finish 7th on the ladder out of nine teams, four games behind the fourth placed Melbourne Boomers. During 2013/14 Mijovic played 24 games for the Canberra Capitals averaging 9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocked shots and 20.4 minutes per game. Mijovic ranked fourth at Canberra for points per game behind Abby Bishop (18.6), Jessica Bibby (14.9) and Natalie Hurst (13.9), first for blocked shots, fourth for rebounds, sixth for three-pointers made and minutes played. Mijovic shot the ball at a career-best 48% from the field and made 17 of her 41 three-pointers for an accuracy of 41.5% ranked third at Canberra of the players that made at least five shots from behind the arc.

In April 2014 Mijovic was selected by the Washington Mystics with selection 30 in the third round of the 2014 WNBA draft. Mijovic was one of two Australian’s selected along with one of her team-mates from the Bronze Medal winning Gems team from the 2013 Australian under 19 team in Steph Talbot who was selection three picks after Mijovic at number 33 by the Phoenix Mercury. After being drafted by Washington Mijovic commented “I’m still not too sure what I want to do yet. I’m not 100 per cent sure if I want to go this year, but we’ll wait and see once I talk to the right people. I’ve just got to weigh up my options and see if I’m ready to go yet. I think wherever I go girls are going to have stronger bodies than me, I’m that kind of build. I guess I have to start to learn to use what I have got, and how I can use my strengths against them.”8

Mijovic and Bunton both left Canberra and joined Adelaide for the 2014/15 WNBL season. The Twin Towers/baby bigs were both to play and train alongside another of the premier front-court players in the game in Laura Hodges (nee Summerton) who had been selected in the WNBL All-Star five in 2013/14 and had represented Australia at the previous three Olympic Games in 2004, 2008 and 2012, Laura has since extended her sequence to four Olympic Games to join a select group of Australian Opals including current Opals head-coach Sandy Brondello, Kristi Harrower and Lauren Jackson. Adelaide head coach Jeremi Moule had previously coached Mijovic at the Australian junior Championships.

In a Round 3 road game against Townsville Mijovic led Adelaide in scoring with 16 points in 15 minutes and 26 seconds court-time, shooting at 55% from the field and was exceptional from beyond the arc – making all three three-pointers, no other Adelaide player scored more than seven points.

Mijovic’s next game scoring at least 10 points was a home game against Canberra in Round 10 when she scored a team-high 13 points in 16 minutes and 26 seconds court-time, making four of her seven field goal attempts including two of four three-pointers. Carley followed this up with 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists – ranked second for Adelaide behind Angela Marino with six, and blocked one shot in Adelaide’s Round 11 home victory against the West Coast Waves 78-61.

In a 79-71 Round 15 road victory against the Canberra Capitals at AIS Arena Mijovic was ranked equal second for Adelaide for scoring with 15 points along with Jennifer Screen, behind Laura Hodges with 16 points, made five rebounds and shot the ball at 50 % from the field playing 22 minutes and 14 seconds court-time.

Adelaide had seven wins and 15 losses during 2014/15 to finish seventh on the ladder out of eight team, three wins ahead of the West Coast Waves and four games behind the fourth placed Sydney Flames. During 2014/15 Mijovic played 22 games for the Adelaide Lightning, averaging 6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 blocked shots and 16.2 minutes per game. Mijovic ranked sixth for points and rebounds per game, second for blocked shots and seventh for minutes played.

In April 2015 National Basketball League Club (NBL) the Perth Wildcats announced that they had acquired WNBL club the West Coast Waves and as part of the acquisition the Waves would be re-branded as the Perth Lynx and would wear a red uniform like the Wildcats. The club had been known as the Perth Breakers from 1988 to 2000/01 before changing their name to the Perth Lynx from 2001/02 to 2009/10 and then to the West Coast Waves for 2010/11 to 2014/15 with the club winning one WNBL championship in 1992. Perth Wildcats owner Jack Bendat commented “This is a big moment for basketball in Western Australia. We see enormous potential in this brand and expect significant growth in membership, corporate support and crowds at Perth Lynx home games. The acquisition also allows us to double our positive impact on the local community, where Lynx players will serve as role models for West Australians, particularly young girls.”9

Mijovic signed with Perth Lynx for the 2015/16 WNBL season in early June 2015, commenting “I love to shoot the three, which is a little unusual for someone in my position, but I love to shoot it. I’m very agile and I like to get up and down the floor. It means a lot to sign with the Perth Lynx. It’s under new ownership and they’re taking professionalism in women’s sport to a new level, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that. I’m excited about being involved with the community here and getting the Perth Lynx name out there.”10

Carley faced strong competition for court-time in the power forward and centre positions from Perth Lynx team-mates Natalie Burton (194 centimetres tall) and Louella Tomlinson (193 cm). At 21 years of age Carley had considerably less experience than Tomlinson and Burton who were 27 and 26 years of age respectively during the 2015/16 season. The only players returning from the West Coast Waves 2014/15 squad that were part of the Perth Lynx core rotation in 2015/16 season were Antonia Farnworth (nee Edmondson) and Tomlinson. The Perth Lynx were expected to be far more competitive during the 2015/16 season and beyond than the West Coast Waves had been, however with so many changes to the roster team chemistry was going to be an unknown quantity. Tessa Lavey and Natalie Burton who had both been part of the Australian Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2014 World Championships had been recruited by the Lynx with Lavey being named club captain. The two Perth Lynx imports for the 2015/16 season were two Americans, guard/forward Betinjah Laney and shooting guard Sami Whitcomb. Laney had played her first WNBA season with the Chicago Sky at 21 years of age in 2015 after being picked with selection 17 at the 2015 WNBA draft. Whitcomb had signed a training camp contract with Chicago Sky in 2010 but was waived prior to the start of the 2010 WNBA season, however still had aspirations to play in the WNBA. Whitcomb spent some playing in Europe and in 2013 joined the Rockingham Flames in the West Australian State Basketball League (WSBL), Whitcomb dominated in the WSBL, winning three consecutive league MVP awards from 2013 to 2015 and played a key role in Rockingham winning the 2014 and 2015 championships.

At the start of the 2015/16 season Tomlinson and Burton were preferred as starters with Mijovic averaging just 11 minutes court-time during the first six games of the season. Early in the 2016/17 season Perth Lynx head coach Andy Stewart commented on the tough love he and the other Perth coaches provided for Carley during the 2015/16 season, saying “She started on the bench for us (last season) and we had specific things we wanted her to adjust. The first few weeks it didn’t happen. When she did something unacceptable we would pull her out of the game, it was tough on her.”11

Whilst Carley didn’t make the adjustments the Perth Lynx coaches wanted her to make early in the season she did make these adjustments as the 2015/16 season progressed and in the second half of the season was inserted into the starting line-up due to a team-mates injury, grasped the opportunity and has remained a WNBL starter ever since. Having scored more than six points only once in her first six games of 2015/16 Mijovic was extremely effective in Round 6, scoring more than 15 points in both games off the bench, firstly in a home game against the Dandenong Rangers and secondly in a road game against the Bendigo Spirit. Against the Rangers Mijovic scored a game-high 21 points – five more than the second ranked player and had four rebounds in Perth’s 83-66 victory. Carley scored 13 points in the first half and shot the ball proficiently throughout the game, making seven of her 11 field goal attempts and all six free-throws in 22 minutes and 10 seconds court-time. Two days later in a 13 point road victory against the Bendigo Spirit Mijovic scored 16 points, including three of her four three-point attempts and had four rebounds from 18 minutes and 32 seconds court-time.

Mijovic’s scoring output fluctuated greatly from Round 7 to Perth’s first game of Round 13, scoring more than nine points in three of her nine games during this period but was also restricted to five points or less in four games. Fellow front-court player Louella Tomlinson injured her ankle during Perth’s first game of Round 13 against Sydney, tearing lateral ligaments in her left ankle. With Tomlinson out injured Mijovic was promoted into the starting line-up and made the most of this opportunity, scoring at least 11 points in her next eight games including a stretch of four consecutive games where she scored at least 20 points in every game. In Round 16 against the SEQ Stars Mijovic scored a game-high 34 points – 14 more than the second ranked player, making 12 of her 21 field goal attempts including nine of 17 three-pointers. Mijovic followed this up in her next game with a game-high 28 points in a road game against the Canberra Capitals at AIS Arena, had six rebounds, making 10 of her 16 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 64% and was very effective beyond the arc, making seven of her 12 three-pointers.

Townsville finished the 2015/16 regular season on top of the ladder with 17 wins and seven losses to win their second successive minor premiership. Perth finished in second place with 16 wins and Dandenong and SEQ finished in third and fourth place respectively, each with 15 wins and nine losses. It was the most even regular season since 2005/06 when the top three teams all finished with a record of 14 wins and seven losses. In nine seasons from 2006/07 to 2014/15 the most losses that a minor premier finished the season with was five, being Sydney in 2006/07 and Townsville in 2014/15.

Perth travelled to Townsville for the major semi-final and were in a commanding position at half-time, leading 53-38. Perth won the rebound count 34-42, and were composed with their ball use to have only seven turnover’s to Townsville’s 13 which were major factors in Townsville only having 61 field goal attempts to Perth’s 78. Whilst it was closer in the second half Perth recorded a comfortable 19 point victory 91 points to 72. Perth shot the ball superbly from behind the three-point line with three players, Mijovic, Whitcomb and Lavey shooting a combined 13 of 27 from behind the arc. Mijovic had a season high nine rebounds and scored 17 points, making five of her 10 three-pointers. In the eight games before the Grand Final series Sami Whitcomb and Mijovic made 81 three-pointers between them to earn themselves the nickname ‘splash sisters’.

With the victory in the major semi-final Perth progressed to the Grand Final where they faced a re-match with Townsville who had comprehensively outplayed the SEQ Stars 91-72 in the preliminary final. In the first ever best of three WNBL Grand Final series Perth played Townsville, the two clubs had split their four encounters to that point of the season and each team had recorded a win on the road. Due to their major semi-final victory Perth had home court advantage and hosted game 1 (and game 3 if required) at the Bendat Basketball Centre whilst Townsville hosted game 2. Townsville had arguably the best front-court duo in the WNBL – comprised of Suzy Batkovic and Cayla George (nee Francis). Batkovic won her fourth WNBL MVP award in 2015/16 and added a record breaking fifth MVP award in 2015/16 whilst George had been selected in the WNBL All-Star five in 2014/15. Townsville’s other starters were Micaela Cocks, Natalie Novosel and Mia Murray (nee Newley).

The first half of game 1 of the 2015/16 Grand Final at Bendat Basketball Centre was close, with one side gaining the ascendancy only for their opponent to respond and swing momentum back the other way. At half-time Townsville led 38-34 however Perth dominated the final seven minutes of the third quarter to go on a 16-3 run and lead by five points at three quarter-time. In the first two and a half minutes of the final quarter veteran Townsville scored 10 points to gain a one point lead. From that point on Townsville dominated, restricting Perth to three points whilst scoring 18 points themselves to record a convincing victory 73 points to 57 after outscoring Perth 28 points to seven in the final quarter. Just like in the semi-final Perth had more field goal attempts than Townsville in game 1 of the Grand Final, however their advantage in this category was reduced to seven, 67 to 60. Townsville shot the ball from the field at 36%, however were able to restrict Perth to only 28% field goal accuracy. Whitcomb, Mijovic and Lavey were unable to match their three point potency of the semi-final and were a combined 7 of 25 for three-pointers in game 1 of the Grand Final.

Game 2 of the Grand Final series followed a similar pattern to game 1 with Townsville leading at half-time by nine points only for Perth to dominate the third quarter to gain the ascendancy and hold a four point lead at three-quarter time. In the final quarter Perth again proved to be no match for Townsville with the Fire dominating the final term 25-9 to record a 10 point victory 80 points to 70 to win the 2015/16 WNBL title and make it back to back championships.

From the time that Mijovic was inserted into the Perth Lynx line-up she was one of the most effective three-point shooters in the league, in seven of her last 10 games of the season Mijovic made at least four three-pointers, in six of these games her accuracy from beyond the arc was at least 50% and on the other occasion it was still a very respectable 40%.

During the 2015/16 season Mijovic played 27 games, averaging 11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 20.9 minutes per game. Mijovic ranked third at Perth for points per game behind Whitcomb (19.3) and Laney (15.7), fifth for rebounds, second for blocked shots behind Tomlinson and sixth for minutes played. Sami Whitcomb was selected in the WNBL All-Star five and finished third in the league’s MVP award. Mijovic won the Perth Lynx’s most improved award for the 2015/16 season.

Mijovic started the 2016/17 season in brilliant fashion scoring a game-high 30 points in a thrilling Round 1 road victory against the Sydney Uni Flames. Mijovic shot the ball exceptionally to make seven of her 10 three-pointers and 11 of her 18 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 61%, she also had an equal team-high nine rebounds and blocked three shots.

In Round 2 Mijovic again played a pivotal role in the Perth Lynx recording a three point victory on the road 88-85, this time against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre. Mijovic scored a game-high 27 points – eight more than the second ranked player for the game and had six rebounds. Mijovic shot the ball superbly from long range to make five of her three pointers, the rest of the Lynx team combined made one of seven three-pointers. With the scores tied at 79 apiece Mijovic made a three pointer with a minute and 42 seconds left to regain the lead for Perth who retained the lead for the rest of the game.

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In April 2016 Mijovic had signed with Perth Lynx for a second WNBL season with the club in 2016/17, and decided to remain in Perth for the off-season which enabled to have greater access to Perth Lynx staff and facilities. In an interview with Basketball Victoria early in the 2016/17 season Mijovic commented “It’s really good to stay here. I wasn’t happy with the teams when I moved from them… I wasn’t always comfortable or learning. Staying in Perth was good and to get a lot of game time and still train with Andy and the strength and conditioning coach was what I needed. Tessa (Lavey) and Nat (Burton) when they were in town trained as well, but they were pretty busy with the Olympics. It was just me for most of it – I’ve grown as a player and the one-on-one training was what I needed. I’m not just a three-point shooter; I’ve worked on my driving and my defence, which hasn’t always been the strongest.”12

The Perth Lynx coaching were confident that being able to work with Mijovic one on one in the off-season would enable Mijovic’s development to be fast-tracked and they were proven correct. Perth coach Andy Stewart commented “Part of the idea was to have her here (in the offseason) even though she could have gone home and played in the BIG V or SEABL. We wanted to spend some time with her and now she is turning out to be one of the premier fours of the competition. She’s now turning into a relatively consistent defender and can post up and has a mid-range shot. The way she’s going about scoring, she’s scoring in multiple ways… it’s fun to watch.”13

During an 89-85 road victory against Townsville in Round 8 Carley scored 20 points, had nine rebounds and made four of her 10 three-pointers. After Round 8 Perth were third on the ladder with a record of seven wins and four losses, behind the Dandenong Rangers and Sydney Flames.

Mijovic was selected in the WNBL team of the week for Round 18 of the 2016/17 season, having 17 points, a game-high 13 rebounds, four assists, a game-high three blocked shots and played 37 minutes and 54 seconds in an 87-81 victory in overtime against the Melbourne Boomers at the Bendat Basketball Centre.

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 which earnt them home-court advantage for the semi final series between the two clubs. 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 narrowly missed out on a finals position, each recording 13 wins and 11 losses. Melbourne finished seventh with five wins and Adelaide last with three wins.

 

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The Jayco Ranger dominated the first half of game 1 of their semi final series against Perth at Dandenong Stadium to lead 45-23 at half-time led by Ranges co-captain Steph Cumming with 21 first half points. Perth closed the gap in the second half but had to much ground to make up being defeated 73-66. Game 2 at the Bendat Basketball centre was close for three quarters with Perth leading by two points at the final break before they dominated the final quarter 28-10 to win 91-71 led by Sami Whitcomb with 41 points. In game three of the semi final series at Dandenong Stadium the Rangers led by 20 points in the second quarter before reducing the gap to six points at three quarter time. Dandenong dominated the final quarter, restricting Perth to nine points to win 81-63. In the three game semi final series was quieter than usual averaging six points and six rebounds per game.

During the 2016/17 season Mijovic played 27 games, averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.6 blocked shots and 31.2 minutes per game. Mijovic ranked second for points and three-pointers made per game behind Sami Whitcomb, second for rebounds and blocked shots behind Ruth Hamblin, third for minutes behind guards Whitcomb and Lavey and fourth for assists. Mijovic polled 50 votes in the 2016/17 WNBL MVP award to finish equal ninth with Maddie Garrick, ranked second at Perth behind Whitcomb who finished second overall, led the league in scoring and was selected in the WNBL All-Star five for the second year in a row. Highlighting how much her game improved during her two seasons at Perth Mijovic won the Perth Lynx’s most improved player award in both her seasons at the club.

 

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After spending four WNBL seasons away from Melbourne comprised of one season with Canberra one season with Adelaide and two seasons with Perth Mijovic decided to return to Melbourne for the 2017/18 season and signed with the Rangers. After signing with the Jayco Rangers for the 2017/18 WNBL season Carley commented to Dandenong Basketball “I’m really excited to be back, I’ve been away for a while now so it’s good to be back home with my family and playing in a Rangers green uniform with my junior club. Larissa has wanted me to come back for a while now, and her passion for development really won me over.”14 Mijovic also commented on the return of the WNBL to TV screens in 2017/18, saying “I think the Foxtel deal is absolutely massive for our league. Seeing the AFLW & Netball get so much coverage over the past few years was a bit upsetting. But now that we’re back on TV I think the whole league is ready to put on a show for the fans and prove that the WNBL is one the world’s premiere competitions.”15

Carley represented Australia at the 2017 FIBA 3 x 3 Women’s World Championship during June in France along with Rangers team-mate Amelia Todhunter, Rebecca Cole and Nadeen Payne. Australia narrowly missed out on qualifying for the quarter finals.

Whilst only three players from the Jayco Rangers 2016/17 core rotation have returned for the 2017/18 season in Stephanie & Sara Blicavs and Amelia Todhunter another four have played in the WNBL previously and it will be Anderson’s third season as the Rangers WNBL head coach. Two of the Rangers front-court recruits have each played a season with the Jayco Rangers previously – 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 Carley’s at the AIS and are both on track to play their 150th WNBL game later this season. 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, her third Olympic Games. Two teenagers signed by the Rangers for the 2017/18 season in Rebecca Pizzey and Kiera Rowe represented the Australian Gems at the Under 19 Women’s World Championship in Italy during July. 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. Three Rangers played for the Opals at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in July – Stephanie and Sara Blicavs along with Tessa Lavey. The Opals won a silver medal to qualify for the 2018 World Championships held in Spain from 22-30 September. A total of seven players on the Jayco Rangers 2017/18 roster have represented Australia in an overseas tournament this winter. Mijovic had been part of the 21 player Opals squad for the training camp in Phoenix but narrowly missed out on selection for the final 12 player team.

During the 2017/18 season the Jayco Rangers have got a core rotation of eight players, five of these players played in Mijovic’s debut WNBL game including four of the Rangers five starters this season, guards Lavey and Steph Blicavs along with forwards Mijovic and Sara Blicavs. Roberts has been starting on the bench as a back-up centre for the Rangers this season. The three players in the Rangers current core rotation that didn’t play in Mijovic’s debut game are American import Kayla Pedersen who is the starting centre and point guards Amelia Todhunter and Spanish import Laia Palau.

After losing their first two games of the 2017/18 season the Rangers won both of their Round 3 games with Mijovic playing an outstanding game in the Rangers opening win of the season against Townsville as mentioned at the start of the article. The rangers followed this up with a second Round 3 victory, getting a thrilling one point victory over Canberra after Laia Palau scored a lay-up with half a second left to give the Rangers the lead. It was the third season in a row that the Jayco Rangers had recorded an opening month road win over University of Canberra Capitals after trailing by 10 points or more. In earning a Round 3 Team of the Week selection Mijovic averaged 18 points and six rebounds per game.

In a Friday night Round 4 game Mijovic played the 150th WNBL game of her career at 23 years of age against former club the Perth Lynx. The Rangers played well in the first half and shot the ball well to lead 41-39 at half-time but were outplayed in the second half, being defeated 88-78.

Dandenong have a record of two wins and three losses, they play the side they lost the 2016/17 WNBL Grand Final – the Sydney Uni Flames at 5 pm today at Dandenong Stadium with Sydney having won a close encounter between the two clubs in Round 2 70-65.

Mijovic has played all five games for the Jayco Rangers in the 2017/18 season, averaging 12.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.1 blocked shots and 27.2 minutes per game. Mijovic ranks fourth at the Rangers for points per game behind Sara Blicavs (17.0), Steph Blicavs (15.8) and Pedersen (13.6), leads the club for blocked shots, ranks third for rebounds and fourth for minutes played.

In her 150 game WNBL game career to date Mijovic has averaged 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocked shots per game. With the WNBL season now being four months long instead of five and a half months it will also be easier for players to follow up a WNBL season with a season in Europe. The shorter length of WNBL season has more allowed several high-quality players to commit to playing in the WNBL for the 2017/18 season, knowing that they can still play in Europe after the WNBL season concludes which has increased the standard of the league. Mijovic’s games is more rounded today than it was when she was drafted by Washington in 2014 with the biggest improvements being her rebounding and defense, from January 2016 onwards she has also become accustomed to playing 25 plus minutes a game.

Although Mijovic battled knee injuries in her first two seasons at the AIS, she was able to rebound in 2011/12, winning the WNBL Rookie of the Year Award and after three and a half more seasons as a core rotation player in the WNBL she was able to elevate herself to a starter halfway through the 2015/16 season. It has been a meteoric rise by Mijovic from that point on to set new career-highs for points per game, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, assists, minutes played and in the process have her first top 10 finish in the WNBL MVP award. Having played her 150th WNBL game at just 23 years of age earlier this weekend Mijovic has already established herself as one of the most dangerous three point shooters in the WNBL with great athleticism for a power forward. With so much of her career ahead of her and further development to be made in her game including her inside play there are many more chapters left to be written in the Carley Mijovic story.

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

1 http://wnbl.com.au/dandenong/news/carley-mijovic-signs-jayco-rangers/

2 http://basketballvictoria.com.au/carley-mijovics-skyhigh-basketball-ambitions/

3 http://www.lithuania2013.fiba.com/pages/eng/fe/13/fu19w/news/p/nid/57092/article.html

4 http://www.lithuania2013.fiba.com/pages/eng/fe/13/fu19w/news/p/nid/57092/article.html

5 http://www.lithuania2013.fiba.com/pages/eng/fe/13/fu19w/news/p/nid/57092/article.html

6 http://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/1789742/tall-order-for-young-hopefuls/

7 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/capital-carley-mijovic-can-help-meet-australian-opals-need-for-speed-says-coach-brendan-joyce-20131222-2zt8l.html

8 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/canberra-capital-carley-mijovic-drafted-by-wnba-side-washington-20140415-zqv0g.html

9 https://thewest.com.au/sport/basketball/wildcats-creating-waves-with-lynx-ng-ya-107432

10 http://perthlynx.com/Media/News/perth-lynx-sign-three-new-players

11 http://basketballvictoria.com.au/carley-mijovics-skyhigh-basketball-ambitions/

12 http://basketballvictoria.com.au/carley-mijovics-skyhigh-basketball-ambitions/

13 http://basketballvictoria.com.au/carley-mijovics-skyhigh-basketball-ambitions/

14 http://wnbl.com.au/dandenong/news/carley-mijovic-signs-jayco-rangers/

15 http://wnbl.com.au/dandenong/news/carley-mijovic-signs-jayco-rangers/

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