Power forward/centre Ezi Magbegor is the only member of the Australian Opals Tokyo Olympic Games team under 24 years of age however the 21 year-old doesn’t lack experience on the world stage. Magbegor made her Opals debut in April 2018 as part of Australia’s gold medal winning team at the Commonwealth Games on home soil in Queensland, Australia and at the 2019 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in Bengaluru, India led her country in scoring and ranked second in rebounding.
Magbegor can also draw on her experience of playing in two of the best league’s in the world, having played four seasons in Australia’s WNBL and is currently playing her second WNBA season with the Seattle Storm in the United States of America. Highlights in these leagues include averaging 15.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers in 2020 to finish fourth in the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player Award and playing in Seattle’s WNBA Championship winning team in her debut 2020 WNBA season.
Ezi followed in her older siblings Elo and Ovie’s footsteps and commenced playing basketball at Coburg Basketball Stadium at seven years of age. Ezi commenced a scholarship at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence in early 2015 and played three seasons in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) from 2015 to 2017 and also represented Australian junior teams at several tournaments.
At just 15 years of age Magbegor played for the Australian Gems at the 2015 Under-19 World Championships in Chekhov, Russia. Despite being three years younger than some of her team-mates and playing limited minutes Magbegor ranked equal second for the Gems in blocked shots.
The following year Magbegor was dominant at the 2016 Under-17 FIBA World Championships in Spain, being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and helped the Australian Sapphires surpass their previous best performance of fifth place at the tournament in emphatic fashion, winning the gold medal. At 194 centimetres tall Magbegor proved a difficult task for opposition teams to curtail due to her mix of athleticism, size, composure, ability to block shots, field goal accuracy and rebounding ability. Magbegor led the Sapphires for scoring and blocked shots and ranked second for rebounds.
In four WNBL seasons to date Magbegor has played 76 games comprised of 20 games for the University of Canberra Capitals in 2017/18 and 56 games for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers in three seasons from 2018/19 to 2020. Magbegor is a two-time winner of the WNBL’s Betty Watson Award, first of all in 2017/18 when it was the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award and then again in 2019/20 when it expanded to become the Betty Watson Youth Player of the Year Award which Australian players 23 years of age and under were eligible for. During Magbegor’s four WNBL seasons she has steadily improved and after starting on the bench for her debut 2017/18 WNBL season with the University of Canberra Capitals and part of the 2018/19 season with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers she cemented herself in the starting line-up during 2019/20 and in 2020 was selected in the All-WNBL Second team.
Seattle Storm selected Magbegor with pick 12 at the 2019 WNBA Draft. After staying in Australia to work on her game during 2019 Magbegor made her WNBA debut in 2020, has been part of Seattle’s core rotation and has played every game for the Storm in 2020 and 2021. In the first start of Magebgor’s WNBA career on 18 May against the Las Vegas Aces she registered a double-double, comprised of 14 points and 13 rebounds to set career-highs in both categories.
In a video Melbourne Boomers – Ezi Magbegor published by the WNBL on 17 December, 2020 Magbegor commented “My next goal is definitely to go to an Olympic Games, hoping everything goes ahead with the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, hoping to make that team, there is still a selection process ahead and we don’t really know what that looks like at the moment, just because everything is so uncertain but hoping that does go ahead, that is definitely my number one goal.”
On 26 May 2021 Magbegor achieved this goal and was selected in the Australian Opals 12 player team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. Magbegor was one of 10 players from the Opals silver medal winning team from the 2018 World Championships selected for Tokyo. Australia are the number two ranked women’s basketball team in the world behind the United States of America and commence their Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games campaign against Belgium on Tuesday 27 July at the Saitama Super Arena.
Magbegor’s brilliant basketball career is comprehensively covered below from juniors through to playing in the WNBL with the University of Canberra Capitals and Deakin Melbourne Boomers, in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm and with the Australian Opals.
Eziyoda Magbegor was born on 13 August 1999 in Wellington, New Zealand, her parents Patience and Appolu are both Nigerian. When Ezi was six years old her family moved from Wellington to Craigieburn which is located approximately 35 kilometres north of Melbourne. Ezi has three siblings, older sister Elo, older brother Ovie and younger brother AJ.
Ezi started playing basketball when she was seven years old, joining her older siblings in playing for domestic club, Northern Rebels at Coburg Basketball Stadium and progressed to play representative basketball for the Coburg Giants. In an interview with sbs.com.au in July 2016 Ezi spoke about playing at Coburg, her height and her junior basketball career, commenting “Coburg’s a really great club, family orientated. Everyone knows each other, it’s like your second family. I was always tall as a kid but when I started high school all of a sudden I got taller than everyone else. Up until top age under-12’s I wasn’t that good at basketball, I used to just run up and down the court and hope for the best! It wasn’t until Under-14’s and Under-16s where people saw something in me, up until then I’d just played for fun.”1
At the 2015 Under-18 Australian Junior Championships Ezi played nine games for Vic Metro, averaging 11 points and nine rebounds per game, she scored at least 10 points in a game six times. Ezi accepted a scholarship at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence in early 2015 which resulted in her moving away from her family to Canberra when she was just 15 years old.
Representing Australian junior teams
At 15 years of age Magbegor made her first appearance for Australia at a junior world championship, representing the Australian Gems at the 2015 Under-19 FIBA World Championships held in Chekhov, Russia from 18 to 26 July. Ezi was the youngest member of the Gems team with several of her team-mates being three years older than her including Lauren Scherf, Alanna Smith and Kristy Wallace. The Gems coached by Paul Goriss who is currently the coach of the University of Canberra Capitals in the WNBL won their first five games of the tournament to progress to a semi-final where they were defeated by Russia 76-57.
With two minutes remaining in the first quarter of the bronze medal game the Gems led Spain 27-9 which set-up a 69-62 victory to win the bronze medal. Magbegor played all seven games for Australia at the Under-19 World Championships but understandably given her age played limited game-time, averaging 3.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocked shots and 8.7 minutes per game. Ezi ranked equal second at the Gems for blocked shots with Scherf, behind Smith.
The Australian Sapphires entered the 2016 Under-17 FIBA World Championships held in Zaragoza, Spain from 22 June to 2 July having never finished better than fifth at the tournament. Shannon Seebohm who is currently the head coach of the Townsville Fire in the WNBL was the Sapphires head coach. Some impressive lead-up form including a three point loss to the United States of America (USA) in a warm-up game had the Australian camp confident that they could surpass the Sapphires previous best performance.
Australia started the tournament in great fashion, winning all three of their group games against Mexico (98-38), the People’s Republic of China (66-41) and France (55-48). In the quarter final against Czech Republic Ezi scored a game-high 20 points, had eight rebounds, blocked six shots and made eight of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 71% in the Sapphires 83-53 victory.
In the semi-final Australia ended the USA’s 28 game winning streak at the Under-17 FIBA World Championships, recording a 73-60 victory to progress to the Gold Medal game. Against USA 194 centimetre tall Magbegor scored 10 points – ranked equal second for Australia, took a game-high 10 rebounds and had an equal game-high four blocked shots.
The Australian Sapphires outscored Italy in every quarter of the final to have a comfortable 62-38 victory to win the gold medal at the 2016 Under-17 FIBA World Championships and be crowned world champions. In the final Ezi scored 13 points, took nine rebounds and had a team-high three blocked shots.
Magbegor played a phenomenal tournament, starting all six games for the Australian Sapphires, averaged 12.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game and shot the ball at 55% from the field. Magbegor was named the tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) and was one of three Australian Sapphires to be named in the All-Star Five along with forward Jasmine Simmons and point guard Monique Conti. Ezi led the Sapphires for scoring and blocked shots, ranked second for rebounding behind Simmons, fifth for steals and assists and third for minutes played. Other members of the Australian Sapphires 2016 gold medal winning team were Jaz Shelley, Kiera Rowe, Rebecca Pizzey, Abby Cubillo, Samantha Simons, Cassidy McLean, Lara McSpadden, Lucy Cochrane and Miela Goodchild.
Ezi had at least eight rebounds in five games at the 2016 Under-17 World Championships and scored more than 11 points in a game four times. Despite being so dominant Ezi played just over 50% court-time – averaging 21.5 minutes per game, factors in Ezi not playing more court-time were Australia easily winning a couple of games, the depth of the Australian team and wanting to spread the workload as well as Ezi being in foul trouble in a couple of games.
When Magbegor was asked on the WNBL Show on 12 December 2017 “How amazing was that experience” (of winning gold with the Sapphires at the Under 17 World Championships in 2016) Ezi responded “It was so amazing, going into the tournament we all gelled and had a really good team. We got along on and off the court, being able to get the end result that we wanted was amazing.”
Sapphires head coach Shannon Seebohm commented on Magbegor “The sky’s the limit with Ezi, it’s rare to see a player of her size and athleticism come along. Ezi’s skill level is still developing and if she continues to work hard on that, refine her game and really carve out a unique skill set for herself then anything is possible for her. I certainly hope we see her play for Australia at senior level, very soon I think, and from there anything is possible. She’s very unique. At the World Championships there wasn’t another Ezi Magbegor going around. I’ve been amazed by her level of maturity, which is a credit to her and her family. She’s got a smile that lights up the room, a lot of people have said that and she’s very charismatic. I don’t think you’d find anyone that didn’t like her, she’s a very special kid.”2
Magbegor represented the Australian Gems at the 2017 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Italy from 22 to 30 July. In the lead-up to the tournament Magbegor commented to fiba.basketball “I have grown a lot in the last couple of years and maybe just how much I have evolved has come as a shock to me. But it has all been about being around the right people and we all keep each other grounded, something which is hugely important to me. It helps having girls who have played on the same team from Zaragoza last year and many of us know each other from the Centre of Excellence in Canberra, so we are really good when we’re together.”3
Australia finished second in Group D, defeating Hungary by 24 points and Mexico by 75 points but lost to Japan by five points. The Gems defeated Latvia by five points in a Round of 16 game and were defeated by Russia 65-67 in a quarter final. In the classification games for fifth to eighth place Australia defeated China 70-64 and lost to France 45-47 to finish the tournament in sixth place. Magbegor registered four double-doubles at the tournament including a 27 point, 10 rebound performance against China, in this game she made 13 of 21 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 61.9% and made three assists.
At the 2017 FIBA Under-19 World Cup Magbegor averaged 16.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.6 blocks per game and shot the ball at 54% from the field. Magbegor led the Australian Gems for scoring and blocked shots, ranked equal first for steals with Jaz Shelley, second for rebounds behind Anneli Maley and fourth for minutes played.
SEABL from 2015 to 2018
Ezi played three seasons for the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) from 2015 to 2017. In Ezi’s first SEABL season BA CoE head coach Paul Gorris commented in May 2015 on her early season form “Magbegor has stood up to be an efficient player around the basket in changing shots and rebounding. She has a very bright future at only 15.”4 Magbegor played 14 games for the BA CoE in 2015, averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
During the 2016 and 2017 SEABL seasons Magbegor played a more prominent role for the BA CoE. In both seasons Magbegor played alongside several players that have been team-mates on Australian junior representative teams including Maddison Rocci, Kiera Rowe, Rebecca Pizzey, Jaz Shelley, Abby Cubillo and Samantha Simons. Over the two seasons Magbegor played a total of 28 games for BA CoE, averaging 12.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. Magbegor was one of the most accurate shooters from the field in the SEABL for both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, having a field goal accuracy of 59.8% in 2016 and 57.4% in 2017. Of the players that made at least 10 field goals Magbegor ranked second in the SEABL for field goal accuracy in both seasons. During 2016 Ezi led the BA CoE for scoring and rebounding whilst in 2017 she ranked second for scoring behind Rocci and led the team for rebounding. In 2017 the BA CoE had a record of nine wins and five losses which equates to winning 64.3% of their games, ranked third in their conference, however they were ineligible to play finals. In November 2017 Magbegor was one of five athletes that completed their scholarship with Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence.
In the Diamond Valley Eagles inaugural SEABL season in 2018 Magbegor played 14 games for the club, averaging 13.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, shooting the ball at 53.7% from the field. At the SEABL 2018 end of season awards Magbegor won the Women’s Youth Player of the Year Award, she ranked fifth in the league for rebounds per game and second at Diamond Valley behind Lauren Scherf who had 13.9 rebounds per game.
Debut WNBL season with the University of Canberra Capitals in 2017/18
In early July 2017 Ezi signed with the University of Canberra Capitals for the 2017/18 WNBL season, commenting “I’m excited to sign with the UC Capitals and I’m looking forward to playing against and learning from some of the best players in the league. Getting that exposure in the WNBL and having [head coach] Paul Goriss as coach is a great opportunity for me to improve my game.”5
On the Capitals signing Ezi for the 2017/18 season Goriss commented “Ezi is arguably one of the best players in her age group in the world. She can run the floor very well; she can rebound, block and change shots. She has exceptional athletic talent. We are giving Ezi the opportunity to come and play in the WNBL and get some experience which she needs to be a future Opal. We are delighted to welcome her to the UC Capitals family.”6
During Magbegor’s debut 2017/18 WNBL season she also completed her year 12 studies at University of Canberra Senior Secondary College Lake Ginninderra. In July 2016 Ezi commented to SBS.com.au on her playing style, saying “I just try to work on running hard on offence and defence, getting good posts, defence as well and focusing on all the little things that add up. Being a big it’s good to be athletic and I think I can use it to my advantage. There are girls bigger than me and obviously I’m not as strong as them, I just get knocked over, but I use my athleticism to my advantage.”7
In Canberra’s opening game of the 2017/18 season on 6 October Magbegor made her WNBL debut against the Bendigo Spirit less than two months after her 18th birthday. Ezi impressed on debut, scoring 12 points with a field goal accuracy of 63% and also had an equal game-high eight rebounds in the Capitals 13 point victory in a home game at the National Convention Centre. In her debut WNBL game Magbegor was Canberra’s fourth highest scorer, playing 20 minutes and seven seconds court-time.
At the State Basketball Centre in Melbourne in consecutive games in the middle of the season Magbegor set her season-highs for two major categories, rebounds in the first game and points in the second game. Against the Melbourne Boomers in Round 7 Ezi set her season high for rebounds in a game with nine – ranked first for the Capitals in this game. Ezi also scored nine points, blocked two shots and shot the ball at 50% from the field.
In Round 8 against the Bendigo Spirit at the State Basketball Centre Magbegor led Canberra for scoring with 16 points in just 15 minutes and 50 seconds game-time which equated to scoring a point every minute she was on court. Magbegor shot the ball at an exceptional 70% from the field – making seven of her 10 field goal attempts, she also had four rebounds, one steal and blocked one shot. With her height and athleticism Magbegor proved to be a difficult match-up, being adept at making jump shots and also after receiving the ball behind the three-point line was able to dribble and drive past her direct opponent to the basket.
In episode 11 of the WNBL Show on 12 December 2017 Magbegor spoke to the show’s co-hosts Megan Hustwaite and Sara Blicavs. When asked about her toughest opponents in her debut WNBL season Ezi responded “A few of the toughest have definitely been Liz, Suzy, Cayla, those bigger players and more experienced players. I am used to blocking people that are shorter than me but now I get blocked, my first time going up against Liz I got blocked, I guess it is a learning experience because I have to learn how to counter her blocking me. Just playing against great players like them has been the toughest so far.”
During the 2017/18 WNBL season Magbegor played 20 of the University of Canberra Capitals 21 games for the season, averaging 6.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals and 12 minutes and 48 seconds court-time per game. Magbegor ranked sixth at Canberra for total points, fifth for rebounds and steals and led the club for blocks. Magbegor ranked eighth in the WNBL for blocks per game with 1.15 and at 18 years of age was easily the youngest player to rank in the top 10 of the league in this category with the next youngest being 23 year old Jayco Rangers forward Carley Ernst (nee Mijovic).
At the end of the 2017/18 WNBL season the coaches and captains from all eight WNBL club’s each cast their 3,2,1 votes for the Rookie of the Year Award and were unable to vote for players from their WNBL club. On Thursday, 11 January Magbegor was announced as the winner of the WNBL’s 2017/18 Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award, polling 41 of a possible 42 votes. Magbegor became the first University of Canberra Capitals player to win the WNBL’s Rookie of the Year Award, falling one vote short of receiving the maximum votes possible. The Canberra Capitals also had the runner-up – point guard Maddison Rocci on 24 votes ahead of Dandenong Rangers forward Kiera Rowe in third place on 14 votes. Rocci averaged 3.9 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
On winning the 2017/18 Betty Watson WNBL Rookie of the Year Award Magbegor commented “There are so many experienced girls who have come before me who have won this award, so it is honestly such an honour to receive it.” Previous winners of the WNBL Rookie of the Year Award include Australian Opals Olympians Lauren Jackson, Laura Hodges, Kathleen MacLeod, Abby Bishop, Cayla George and Steph Talbot.
Of the players in the WNBL that made at least 10 field goals during the 2017/18 season Magbegor ranked fourth for field goal accuracy – shooting at 52% from the field to be ranked behind fellow front-court players Liz Cambage (61%), Jennifer Hamson (55%) and Darcee Garbin (53%).
In a video posted on WNBL.basketball to celebrate her receiving the Rookie of the Year Award Ezi commented on her debut WNBL season, “Towards the middle of the season, that is when I got a bit more comfortable and had a couple of good games, as the season went on I definitely got a lot more comfortable.” Ezi spoke about what she learnt playing in the WNBL, commenting “I have been used to playing a major role on a team, like starting in everything, that was a different experience for me, coming off the bench, when I come on playing those hard minutes and then coming back off.”
Magbegor proved to be very effective in her game-time and of all the players that averaged less than 15 minutes court-time during the 2017/18 WNBL season and played at least five games for the season Magbegor was the only one to average more than 5.0 points per game. At the University of Canberra Capitals 2017/18 season awards Magbegor won the Capital on the Rise Award.
2018/19 WNBL season with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers
After Magbegor’s debut 2017/18 WNBL season she weighed up whether to play in the WNBL or go to the United States of America and play College basketball. In March 2018 Magbegor signed to play with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers in the WNBL for three seasons. Boomers Assistant General Manager Lauren Jackson who is now the Head of Women in Basketball at Basketball Australia commented on Magbegor and her brilliant performance at the 2016 Under-17 World Championships “Averaging 12 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal per game, she played a major part in knocking the USA out of the semi-finals. She’s one of the world’s genuine rising stars.”8
On joining the Melbourne Boomers and being mentored by her idol Jackson Magbegor commented “Lauren is an inspiration both on and off the court. She’s the best basketballer Australia has seen and most probably the world. She has achieved everything I’d like to one day. It’s an absolute honour to play for a Club she is a major part of.”9 In 2018 Magbegor commenced a Bachelor of Commerce at Deakin University’s Melbourne campus.
Guy Molloy was in his sixth consecutive season as the Melbourne Boomers head coach in 2018/19, in the previous season the Boomers lost the Grand Final series to Townsville Fire one game to two, with the home side winning each encounter. Magbegor started Melbourne’s first game of the 2018/19 WNBL season, at home against the Bendigo Spirit and took the jump ball to commence the game, being joined in the Boomers starting five by American import Lindsay Allen and three Australian Opals teammates – Steph Talbot, Jenna O’Hea and Cayla George.
Early in the 2018/19 season Magbegor was playing well before a broken bone in her right hand required surgery and for her hand to be kept in a splint which caused her to be on the sidelines for several rounds and miss six games in the first half of the 2018/19 season. Magbegor made her return in Round 7 and understandably took some time to regain her touch and build form playing off the bench.
In a Round 13 home game against the Perth Lynx Magbegor started due to O’Hea being out injured and was the catalyst in Melbourne gaining the ascendancy early in the game, scoring six points in the first four minutes to help set-up a 13-3 lead. Ezi made eight of her 13 field goal attempts during the game at an accuracy of 62%, scored a game-high 17 points and took six rebounds, earning the first WNBL Team of the Week selection of her career for her role in the 64-59 victory.
Against Perth in Round 14 at the Bendat Basketball Centre O’Hea returned, Magbegor retained her position in the starting line-up and again led the Boomers for scoring with 16 points, making seven of her nine field goal attempts at an accuracy of 77% and took four rebounds.
Melbourne recorded 15 wins and six losses to finish the 2018/19 regular season in second place, one game behind the minor premiers, the University of Canberra Capitals and two games ahead of the Adelaide Lightning and Perth Lynx in third and fourth position respectively.
In game 1 of the semi final series against Adelaide Lightning at the State Basketball Centre Magbegor started on the bench and from just 13 minutes and 17 seconds game time made all six field goal attempts to score a team-high 14 points and blocked an equal game-high two shots in the 60-76 loss. Melbourne lost to Adelaide 92-100 in game 2 at Titanium Arena in Adelaide which ended the Boomers season.
During the 2018/19 WNBL season Magbegor played 17 of the Melbourne Boomers 24 games for the season, averaging 8.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. During the regular season Magbegor ranked sixth at the Boomers for scoring per game, fourth for rebounds and second for blocked shots.
2019/20 WNBL season with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers
Magbegor was one of seven players from Melbourne’s 2018/19 roster that returned for the 2019/20 season, with other players in this category being 2019/20 co-captains Cayla George and Maddie Garrick along with Lindsay Allen, Kalani Purcell, Monique Conti and Chelsea D’Angelo. The Boomers new recruits for 2019/20 included New Zealand Tall Ferns trio Stella Beck, Toni Farnworth and Penina Davidson along with American import Sophie Cunningham who in 2019 played her rookie WNBA season with the Phoenix Mercury. The Melbourne Boomers pre-season was impacted by the club having a heavy involvement at international level in late September at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup in India with Magbegor and George representing the Australian Opals and Guy Molloy coaching the New Zealand Tall Ferns which included four players on the Boomers 2019/20 roster – Purcell, Beck, Farnworth and Davidson.
During a Round 6 road game against the Adelaide Lightning at Titanium Security Arena Magbegor registered a double-double comprised of 13 points and a team-high 11 rebounds, and also made an impact in other facets of the game, having four assists and two blocked shots in the 71-57 victory.
Magbegor scored 20 points in a Round 7 home game against the Sydney Uni Flames, shooting the ball at 67% from the field, had five rebounds and two blocked shots in the 94-81 victory.
On Sunday evening 22 December, 2019 Magbegor played her 50th WNBL game at 20 years of age against the Adelaide Lightning at the State Basketball Centre. During the 2019/20 season Magbegor registered four double-doubles including a 24 point, 12 rebound performance against the Southside Flyers at the State Basketball Centre in Round 13 to set game-highs in both categories. Against Southside Magbegor shot the ball at 64.7% from the field, making 11 of 17 field goal attempts including her only three pointer, and blocked a game-high three shots.
Against the Sydney Uni Flames in a Round 14 road game at Brydens Stadium Magbegor scored her season-high and a game-high 25 points, shot the ball superbly to make 11 of 15 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 73.1%, made her only three-pointer, took five rebounds and made four assists in the 78-62 victory.
The Deakin Melbourne Boomers finished third at the end of the 2019/20 regular season with 15 wins and six losses, the same record as the second placed University of Canberra Capitals, two wins behind the minor premiers – the Southside Flyers and three wins ahead of the fourth placed Adelaide Lightning. Due to winning the regular season split 2-1 the Capitals had home-court advantage in the semi final series against the Boomers which proved critical, the home side won each semi final and Canberra defeated the Boomers two games to one.
In her third WNBL season in 2019/20 athletic power forward/centre Magbegor played all 24 games for the Melbourne Boomers, averaging 13.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.2 blocks whilst playing 23 minutes and 30 seconds court-time per game. Magbegor ranked second at the Boomers behind fellow power forward/centre and Australian Opals representative George for rebounds, ranked third for scoring behind George and Allen and fifth for minutes played. For players that played at least three games during the regular season Magbegor ranked equal seventh in the WNBL for blocked shots per game and sixth for field goal accuracy.
The WNBL’s Betty Watson Award was changed from being a Rookie of the Year Award to a Youth Player of the Year Award which Australian players 23 years of age and under were eligible for. Magbegor polled 38 votes to win the 2019/20 Betty Watson Youth Player of the Year Award by 10 votes from Bendigo Spirit point guard Shyla Heal, with University of Canberra Capitals point guard Maddison Rocci finishing third with 27 votes.
2019 NBL1 season with the Geelong Supercats
The SEABL had its final season in 2018, with Basketball Victoria partnering with the National Basketball League (NBL) and establishing a new league NBL1 in its place. Most of the team’s that competed in the 2018 SEABL season joined NBL1 for the 2019 season and a handful of Victorian clubs were promoted from the Big V to NBL1.
Ezi played for the Geelong Lady Supercats in the 2019 NBL1 season, forming an athletic front-court trio with Sara Blicavs and Zitina Aokuso. Geelong had a record of 17 wins and three losses during the regular season to finish second on the ladder behind the Bendigo Lady Braves. In the 2019 NBL1 championship game at the State Basketball Centre on 17 August Magbegor scored a team-high 35 points, shooting at 65% from the field, took six rebounds and made two steals in the 76-86 loss to the Kilsyth Cobras. Magbegor played 18 games for the Geelong Lady Supercats in the 2019 NBL 1 season, averaging 18.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks per game whilst having a field goal accuracy of 55.9%. Magbegor was recognised for her outstanding season by being named in the 2019 NBL1 All-Star five.
On 1 December 2017 Magbegor was selected in the Australian Opals squad for the first time, being named in the squad for training camp 1 to be held in early February 2018 at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) training base in Italy as part of the Opals preparations for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
When interviewed on the 12 December 2017 episode of the WNBL Show Ezi commented on being included in the Opals squad “I am very excited and very grateful that I have been given the opportunity, being able to train with some of the best girls in Australia is really exciting. What to expect? Just a great learning experience for me, being able to compete against Cayla, Abby, all those more experienced girls is just going to be a really good experience and I am really excited.”
For the past 25 years the Australian Opals have won a medal at the vast majority of major championships comprised of Olympic Games and FIBA World Cups (known as the World Championships until 2014). At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States of America, the Australian Opals won a medal at a major championship for the first time, winning the bronze medal. From 1996 to 2014 the Opals won a medal at all five Olympic Games and five of the six World Cups held during this period with the only exception being the 2010 World Championships where they finished fifth. At the 2006 World Championships held in Brazil Australia won the gold medal, Penny Taylor was named the tournament MVP and was one of two Opals along with Lauren Jackson that averaged at least 18 points per game to rank in the top three players at the tournament in this category. The Opals won a bronze medal at the 2014 World Championship and were upset in the quarter finals of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games by Serbia 73-71.
On 18 April 2017 it was announced that Sandy Brondello had been appointed as the Australian Opals head coach and that she would perform that role whilst continuing to be the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, however she stopped being an assistant coach to husband Olaf Lange at Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg. Brondello had an illustrious basketball career as a shooting guard, playing in the WNBL, WNBA and represented the Australian Opals in 302 games including at four Olympic Games and four World Championships. Brondello won the WNBL’s MVP award in 1995 and was a member of the first five Opals teams that won medals at major championships from the 1996 Olympic Games to the 2004 Olympic Games. In 2005 Brondello commenced a coaching career in the WNBA as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Silver Stars. Brondello was inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 and has been the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA since 2014, winning a WNBA Championship in her first season coaching the club, two Australians Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips played in the Phoenix 2014 WNBA Championship winning team.
Australian Opals head coach Brondello appeared on a special edition of the Chemist Wharehouse WNBL Show with host Megan Hustwaite during December 2017. Hustwaite asked Brondello about the Opals squad for training camp 1 in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games “You’ve picked Ezi which is just a fantastic selection, she’s really impressing everyone that has seen her in action for Canberra this year, we know what she’s achieved at a junior level for Australia, how exciting is it to have her in this squad?” Brondello responded “It is very exciting and I have said that publicly already, she is the future of the Opals, she’s 18 years old, she has achieved so much in the Australian junior teams and she is going to continue to get better by playing obviously in the WNBL, but also being integrated into the Opals squad and playing against the very best bigs. Her future is very bright so I look forward to getting the team together and seeing Ezi and coaching Ezi in February and just watching that development, can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.”
Ezi was one of two players along with point guard Nicole Seekamp who made their Australian Opals debut at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. At 18 years of age Magbegor was easily the youngest player in the Opals 12 player team, being five years younger than the second youngest Opals team member – guard/forward Steph Talbot who was 23 years of age. The Opals starting line-up at the Commonwealth Games was Katie Ebzery, Talbot, Jenna O’Hea, Cayla George and Liz Cambage. Other members of Australia’s 12 player team were Belinda Snell, Steph Blicavs, Alice Kunek, Kelsey Griffin and Tessa Lavey.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Queensland, Australia from April 4 to 15 the Australian Opals played all three pool games in Townsville. Magbegor made her Opals debut in the team’s opening game against Mozambique, scored 10 points, making five of her nine field goal attempts, took four rebounds, had two assists, two steals and blocked an equal game-high three shots along with team-mate Liz Cambage.
In Australia’s third pool game against England Ezi scored 14 points, again made five of her nine field goal attempts, and took four rebounds in 14 minutes, 26 seconds game-time. In all three Pool A games in Townsville all 12 Opals scored and the team averaged a phenomenal 31.7 assists per game with Australia defeating in chronological order Mozambique (113-53), Canada (100-61) and England (118-55).
After the pool games were completed in Townsville the Australian Opals travelled to the Gold Coast for the medal games. Australia defeated New Zealand 109-50 in the semi final to progress to the Gold Medal game. Australia controlled the first quarter of the Gold Medal game to lead England 26-10 at quarter-time and went on to record a comfortable 99-55 victory. In the gold medal game Magbegor scored 11 points, took five rebounds and blocked an equal game-high three shots along with Opals captain Belinda Snell who was in her last game for Australia, having announced her retirement.
Later in 2018 Magbegor was part of the Australian Opals team for the 2018 World Cup, held in Tenerife Spain from 22 to 30 September. At the World Cup 16 teams competed, comprised of four groups of four teams with the top two ranked team in each group progressing to the quarter finals.
Five players from the Opals 2016 Olympic Games team – Katie Ebzery, Tessa Lavey, Steph Talbot, Cayla George and Liz Cambage represented Australia at the 2018 World Cup. Two players that represented the Opals at major championships previously returned to the team in Jenna O’Hea and Bec Allen whilst five players played at their first major championship in the traditional five on five format of the game – Magbegor, Tess Madgen, Sami Whitcomb, Alex Bunton and Alanna Smith. George and point guard Lavey were the only two Opals to play three consecutive major championships from the 2014 World Cup to the 2018 World Cup.
Australia won their three Group B games to finish first in their group, defeating Nigeria 86-68, Argentina 84-43, and Turkey 90-64. Against Nigeria Magbegor scored eight points, making all four field goal attempts in just under 12 minutes court-time. In the 41 point victory against Argentina Magbegor scored 14 points – ranked third for the Opals, shot the ball at 75% from the field and took a game-high eight rebounds.
In a quarter final Australia defeated China 83-42 to progress to a semi-final against the host nation – Spain. At three quarter-time of their semi final Australia trailed Spain 50-58, the Opals fought back to level the scores at 64 points apiece with three minutes remaining in the game and controlled the last few minutes to win the game 72-66 after dominating the final quarter 22-8. It was the first time that Australia had progressed to a gold medal game at a major championship since they played the United States of America in the final at the 2008 Olympic Games, 10 years later USA would again be the Opals opponents.
Magbegor didn’t play in the semi final win against Spain but made an impact in her 10 and a half minutes on court in the final against USA, scoring six points, shooting the ball at 100% from the field and took four rebounds in the 56-73 loss, resulting in the USA winning the gold medal and Australia receiving the silver medal. At the 2018 World Cup Magbegor played five games for Australia, averaging 7.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 12.3 minutes court-time per game. Magbegor ranked fourth for the Opals in scoring per game and equal fifth for rebounding.
In July 2019 Magbegor was a member of the Emerging Opals team at the World University Games held in Italy. The Emerging Opals were undefeated throughout their six games at the tournament, defeating the Unites States of America in the final 80-72 to win the gold medal.
In a warm-up game for the 2019 Asia Cup against China at AIS Arena in September 2019 Magbegor scored a game-high 20 points for the Opals including three, three-point plays. After the game Opals head coach Brondello commented on Magbegor “She’s a great player, she’s special, she’s unique, and that’s what we need. [The Opals] are all different, they are all versatile, but Ezi gives us something different that we don’t have.”10
On playing with the Australian Opals Ezi commented “The culture of the Opals is such an amazing thing and I think that’s a credit to the players and the coaches that we have now as well as in the past. As a rookie last year not knowing what to expect with the national team, they were just so great, I wasn’t being treated like a rookie, they all help you out and it’s just amazing to put on the green and gold. Every time you do represent your country it’s going to be with the upmost pride and surrounded by great people.”11
The 2019 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup was held in Bengaluru, India from 22 to 29 September. It was the second time that Australia had participated in the tournament, having lost the 2017 final to Japan 73-74. In their opening 2019 game against the Philippines the Opals starting line-up was Leilani Mitchell, Ebzery, Allen, O’Hea and George. Magbegor scored a game-high 18 points against the Philippines, shooting at 80% from the field, took six rebounds and made two steals in 16 minutes and 22 seconds court-time during the 123-57 victory.
For the Opals second game of the tournament against New Zealand Magbegor replaced Ebzery in the starting line-up and this starting line-up was used by the Opals for the remainder of the tournament. In the 82-44 victory against New Zealand Magbegor scored a game-high 14 points, took six rebounds, made six of seven field goal attempts at an accuracy of 85.7% and blocked two shots.
The fast-paced style of play at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup tournament troubled Australia. After a loss to China 69-70 in the group stage Australia faced Japan in a semi-final and were defeated 64-76. There was a sizeable gap from Japan, China and Australia to the remaining five teams at the tournament. In Australia’s 98-62 victory against Korea in the bronze medal game Magbegor scored 11 points, made five of eight field goal attempts at an accuracy of 62.5%, took an equal game-high seven rebounds, made two assists and blocked an equal game-high two shots.
Magbegor played all six games for the Opals at the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup, averaging 12.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.3 blocked shots, 0.7 steals and 18.0 minutes per game. Magbegor led the Opals for blocked shots and scoring ahead of Bec Allen (11.7 points per game), ranked second for rebounds per game behind Cayla George (6.5 rebounds per game) and fifth for minutes played.
In February 2020 Australia played three games at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament in Borges, France, the Opals starting line-up throughout the tournament was Mitchell, Allen, Talbot, George and Cambage. Australia were defeated in the opening game of the tournament by host nation, France 63-72. In a 100-74 victory against Puerto Rico Magbegor scored 15 points – ranked second in the game for the Opals, made six of nine field goals at an accuracy of 66.7%, took four rebounds and made three assists in 19 minutes and eight seconds court-time. In their final game the Opals defeated Brazil 86-72 to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
At the FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament Magbegor played all three games for the Opals, averaging 7.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 12 minutes and 30 seconds court-time per game. Magbegor ranked equal fourth for Australia in scoring and rebounding.
On 26 March 2020 it was announced that Sydney would host the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup for five on five basketball from 23 September to 3 October with 12 teams competing in the tournament. It will be the second time that Australia has hosted a FIBA Women’s World Cup with Sydney also having been the host city in 1994 where Australia narrowly missed out on winning its first ever World Cup medal, finishing fourth after being defeated by China 65-66 in a semi final and lost the bronze medal game to the United States of America 95-100. The Opals broke through to win a bronze medal at the 1998 World Cup and have won a medal at five out of six World Cups from 1998 to 2018 including a gold medal at Rio in 2006. On Australia hosting the 2022 World Cup Magbegor commented “It makes a huge difference having the crowd on your side, I think just being able to play in that environment and working and using the crowd to your advantage.”
Due to the coronavirus the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games were postponed by 52 weeks and will commence on 23 July 2021. The 12 player Australian Opals team for the Tokyo Olympic Games was announced by the Australian Olympic Committee in Sydney on 26 May 2021. At 21 years of age Magbegor is the youngest player in the Opals team and is one of only two players under 26 years of age in the Opals Tokyo Olympic Games team along with 24 year-old Alanna Smith.
The Opals have a very settled team with 10 members of the silver medal winning team from the 2018 World Cup in Spain being selected in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games team. The two inclusions in the Tokyo Olympic Games team that didn’t play for Australia at the 2018 World Cup are Leilani Mitchell and Mariana Tolo who missed the 2018 World Cup due to a lower limb injury and knee injury respectively. Alex Bunton and Sami Whitcomb are the two players from the 2018 World Cup that weren’t selected in the Tokyo Olympic Games team. Bunton was forced to retire at 25 years of age in July 2019 due to knee injuries. Whitcomb was part of the Opals 23 player squad for the 2020 Olympics and is currently playing in the WNBA for New York Liberty.
Magbegor is one of four Australian Opals who will be making their Olympic Games debut in Tokyo along with Alanna Smith, Bec Allen and Tess Madgen, the quartet were all part of the Opals silver medal winning team at the 2018 World Cup. Six Opals will be representing Australia at their second consecutive Olympic Games – Katie Ebzery, Cayla George, Tessa Lavey, Leilani Mitchell, Steph Talbot and Mariana Tolo. Opals captain Jenna O’Hea will also be playing her second Olympic Games, having represented the Opals in 2012. Centre Liz Cambage is the only Opal who will be playing at her third Olympic Games in Tokyo, having been part of the bronze medal winning team at London in 2012 and represented the Opals at Rio in 2016.
In the most recent FIBA Women’s World rankings released on 1 March 2021 Australia were ranked number two in the world with 714.5 points, behind the United States of America with 832.9 points. The top five is completed by Spain (690.5), Canada (649.3) and France (639.4).
For the Tokyo Olympic Games the Australian Opals have been drawn in Pool C along with Belgium (6th in the world), China (9) and Puerto Rico (23). All basketball games at the Olympics will be played in the Saitama Super Arena which has a capacity of 36,500 spectators.
Australia’s Group C games will be played on the following dates:
Tuesday 27 July Australia vs Belgium
Friday 30 July China vs Australia
Monday 2 August Australia vs Puerto Rico
The Women’s quarter finals will be played on Wednesday 4 August and the semi finals will be played on Friday 6 August. The teams that lose the semi finals will play in the bronze medal game on Saturday 7 August and the winners of the semi finals will play in the gold medal game on Sunday 8 August.
In the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games the Australian Opals will play an exhibition game against the United States of America national team at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on Friday 16 July USA time, Saturday morning 17 July, Australian time.
In February 2020 Magbegor was signed as Spalding’s first ever female ambassador, in a Spalding video published in June 2021 Magbegor commented on the legacy of the Opals and what representing Australia means to her, saying “When I am playing for the Opals I think of the past Opals that have come before me and what they have done and what they have achieved, I think that is definitely something to think about and obviously just my family, my country as well, just being able to put on the green and gold and represent your country at a world stage is something that you have to do well.”
WNBA with Seattle Storm
Although Magbegor had been projected in many mock drafts to be one of the 12 players selected in the first round at the 2019 WNBA draft she was not one of the dozen players invited to the draft at Nike’s New York City headquarters. Magbegor watched the WNBA draft on 10 April 2019 at her managers office in Melbourne along with her parents and in a Basketball Australia article in September 2019 recalled “I knew I was eligible to be drafted this year, so I had a thought about it, but I didn’t have much communication with many teams. I spoke to the Seattle coach (Dan Hughes) beforehand but it wasn’t anything official so I didn’t know what number my name would be called at if it was to be called at all.”12
Reigning WNBA champions Seattle Storm selected Magbegor with the 12th pick overall and the final selection in the first round. Storm CEO & General Manager Alisha Valavanis commented on Magbegor to storm.wnba.com “Ezi is a young and talented player with a bright future in the WNBA. She will report in 2020 and fits into our long-term strategy for this roster.”13
Magbegor was the second Australian selected at the 2019 WNBA Draft, after fellow front-court player and Australian Opal squad member Alanna Smith who was selected by Phoenix Mercury with pick 8. Three players selected in the first two rounds at the 2019 WNBA Draft played as imports in the WNBL in 2019/20 – Briana Turner (drafted by Atlanta with pick 11 and traded to Phoenix) played for Adelaide, Sophie Cunningham (drafted by Phoenix with pick 13) was a teammate of Ezi’s at the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and Canadian Bridget Carleton (drafted by Connecticut Sun with pick 21) played for Townsville Fire.
Seattle Storm with Dan Hughes as their head coach were dominant during the 2018 WNBA regular season, having a record of 26 wins and eight losses to finish on top of the Western Conference, six games ahead of the Phoenix Mercury. Seattle won their semi final series against the Phoenix Mercury three games to two and swept the finals series against the Washington Mystics three games to nil to win the 2018 WNBA Championship in September. Seattle forward Breanna Stewart won the WNBA’s 2018 regular season and finals MVP Awards. Joining Stewart in Seattle’s starting line-up were Sue Bird, Alysha Clark, Jewell Loyd and Natasha Howard.
Sami Whitcomb, an Australian Opals team-mate of Magbegor’s at the 2018 World Cup played for Seattle off the bench. Seattle were strongly represented in the USA team that won the gold medal at the 2018 World Cup with three players – starters Stewart and Bird along with Loyd off the bench and Hughes as an Assistant Coach. Magbegor’s performance in the 2018 World Cup final against USA with six points, making all three field goals and taking four rebounds in 10 minutes and 30 seconds court-time made an impression on Seattle. On the recruitment of Magbegor Seattle Storm head coach Hughes told storm.wnba.com “I’m very impressed by Ezi’s body of work, especially considering her age. She has the athleticism and raw skill necessary to develop into a very strong player in this league.”14
Australians that had played in the WNBA for Seattle before Magbegor and Whitcomb include current Opals captain Jenna O’Hea, Tully Bevilaqua, Alison Lacey and four players that have won the Most Valuable Player Award in Australia’s WNBL in Suzy Batkovic (6 time WNBL MVP), Lauren Jackson (4 time WNBL MVP), Katrina Hibbert (2 time WNBL MVP) and Abby Bishop (2014/15 WNBL MVP).
Australia’s greatest ever basketball player, forward/centre Lauren Jackson played her entire WNBA career from 2001 to 2012 with the Seattle Storm, was selected in the All-WNBA First team seven times and won the WNBA MVP Award three times – 2003, 2007 and 2010. Jackson played in the Storm’s first two WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010 alongside Bird and won the 2010 WNBA Finals MVP Award. Five time All-WNBA first team member Bird is the only player that played in each of Seattle’s first three championships in 2004, 2010 and 2018. Point guard Bird is the WNBA’s All-time leader for career regular season assist with 2,957 up to and including Seattle’s 11 June 2021 game against Atlanta and is on track to reach 3,000 assists before the mid-season break for the Olympic Games.
As planned Magbegor worked on her game in Australia during 2019 and joined the Seattle Storm for the 2020 season. Due to COVID-19 the entire 2020 WNBA season was played in a hub at IMG Academy in Florida. On deciding to join Seattle Storm for the 2020 season Magbegor commented to Fairfax Media journalist Roy Ward in late June 2020 “I understand there is a lot going on in the world at the moment. I definitely had to weigh up the whole COVID-19 situation. With things still being on hold with travel, I had to think about travelling to the states. I had a lot of things to consider but the WNBA have put in a plan and it has re-assured a lot of the athletes. It’s a first experience for everyone.”15
On 6 July 2020 the WNBA announced that the 2020 season would be dedicated to social justice. A seven paragraph article in relation to this announcement was published on wnba.com. The fourth paragraph of the article said “The WNBA will begin its season in late July with a weekend of competition centered around the Black Lives Matter movement, during which teams will wear special uniforms that display Breonna Taylor’s name to seek justice for the women and girls who have been the forgotten victims of police brutality and racial violence. Throughout the season, players will wear NIKE-branded warm-up shirts that display “Black Lives Matter” on the front. Additionally, “Say Her Name,” a campaign started in 2014 by the African American Policy Forum, will adorn the back of the shirts. “Black Lives Matter” will also be prominently displayed on courts during games.”16
On the experience of playing in the WNBA during a season dedicated to social justice and the impact it had on her Magbegor told siren.sport.com in October 2020 “I think just the whole experience, it was in a bubble, it was a different scenario. And I think the fact that us as players were playing for things that were bigger than basketball, it kind of had an impact on me as well, with the social justice work and everything. I think just reflecting back on all that, it was a pretty powerful season. Just being in that environment during the season, just being exposed to different athletes and how they have been using their platform has definitely inspired me. I think there are a few athletes that are already doing that, here in Australia, you know, with Liz [Cambage] being at the forefront of that. So I think just being there definitely inspired me to be able to use my platform more.”17
After arriving in the United States of America Magbegor spent a week in Seattle before traveling to the IMG Academy for training camp. Storm head coach Hughes was unable to get medical clearance to travel to the WNBA bubble due to COVID-19 concerns as a result of his cancer history and being 65 years old at the start of the season. Gary Kloppenburg was named Seattle’s Interim head coach for the 2020 season.
Whilst Magbegor was in training camp in July 2020 before the 2020 WNBA season she had a video chat with Lauren Jackson on Instagram and commented “Excluding the travel, it is still a pretty full-on schedule, the schedule got announced today, so it’s like three games a week which is quite different to the WNBL. I am used to playing one or two games a week so that is going to be something to adjust to. The hardest things for me to adjust to are the physicality of it all as well as playing so many games, kind of back-to-back in a sense.”
In the video chat Jackson commented on Magbegor’s upcoming debut WNBA season “I think you’ll thrive in it, every game you will find yourself doing new things, getting better, again you can’t underestimate what it does for you as an athlete when you have got players around you that are actually as good as what they are. You’ll learn and because you are such an intelligent person as well I think that you will just soak everything up. I am really looking forward to the WNBL season because I think you are going to come back and dominate and I just can’t wait because I love the way that you play, I love the way that you move. I think being able to see it at home after this massive learning experience, you know how I feel about you as an athlete and a person, I think that it is Ezi’s time to shine so they say.”
Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird missed the entire 2019 WNBA season for Seattle due to an achilles injury and knee injury respectively and were replaced in the starting line-up by Mercedes Russell and Jordin Canada.
Stewart and Bird returned from injury for the 2020 WNBA season and were joined by Loyd, Clark and Howard as starters when Seattle were at full strength, which was the same starting line-up as the Storm’s 2018 WNBA Championship winning season.
At 20 years of age Magbeor made her WNBA debut for Seattle Storm against New York Liberty on Saturday 25 July 2020 and scored seven points, made three of her four field goal attempts and took three rebounds in 11 minutes and 50 seconds court-time in the 87-71 victory at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
During episode 1 of the Deakin Melbourne Boomers Coaches Corner video series in August 2020 Magbegor commented on playing in a hub at the IMG Academy with no crowd, saying “It’s actually not too bad, they make it pretty good with the DJ, the announcers and everything. If we’re the home team they kind of hype us up which makes a difference at the start, it is super loud. They do try to make it like you are actually playing a home game, you have to just bring your own energy off the bench. It has become normal now, so the no crowds feel just like any other game at the moment.”
In a Seattle 89-71 victory against Chicago Sky on Monday 10 August Magbegor scored 13 points, made six of her eight field goals at an accuracy of 75% and took three rebounds in 15 minutes and 46 seconds court-time. On Sunday September 6 Magbegor scored 12 points, making four of five field goals at an accuracy of 80% and took two rebounds in a Storm 103-88 victory against the Minnesota Lynx. During Seattle’s penultimate game of the regular season Magbegor took a season-high seven rebounds, made two steals and made five of her eight field goal attempts at an accuracy of 62.5% to score 10 points in 19 minutes and 41 seconds court-time in the Storm’s 83-60 victory against the Phoenix Mercury on Friday 11 September.
In episode 1 of the Deakin Melbourne Boomers Coaches Corner video series in August 2020 Magbegor commented “Training against Stewie every day throughout training camp was definitely beneficial, just learning and working on my game, shots that I would be able to make like a simple lay-up, can’t do that anymore because she is going to block my shot, just learning from her was great.”
Seattle Storm had 18 wins and four losses during the 2020 regular season and finished second in the standings behind the Las Vegas Aces who had the same win-loss record. Seattle defeated Minnesota Lynx 88-86 in game one of their semi final series and went on to sweep the series three games to nil to advance to the WNBA Finals. After the semi final series victory Whitcomb left the WNBA bubble to be with her wife Kate in Perth for the birth of their first child.
In the WNBA Finals Seattle Storm again swept the series three games to nil, winning games one and two by 13 points each and won game three on Tuesday 6 October 92-59 to set a record for the greatest winning margin in WNBA finals history and secure the club’s fourth WNBA title with Stewart again being named Finals MVP. Seattle’s four WNBA Championships in 2004, 2010, 2018 and 2020 is the equal most in league history along with the Minnesota Lynx (2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017) and the Houston Comets who won the first four WNBA titles from 1997 to 2000 but folded following the 2008 season.
Magbegor became the 10th Australian to be part of a WNBA Championship winning team, joining Lauren Jackson, Tully Bevilaqua, Penny Taylor, Belinda Snell, Alison Lacey, Abby Bishop, Erin Phillips, Rachel Jarry and Sami Whitcomb in this select group. Six Australian players have won at least one WNBA Championship with Seattle Storm with players in this category being Lauren Jackson (2004 & 2010), Tully Bevilaqua (2004), Alison Lacey (2010), Abby Bishop (2010), Sami Whitcomb (2018 & 2020) and Magbegor (2020). In three of Seattle’s four WNBA Championships at least two Australians have been on their team with 2018 being the exception.
Despite being the youngest player in the WNBA during 2020 Magbegor was able to make an impact for Seattle off the bench, averaging 6.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.7 blocks and 13.3 minutes court-time per regular season game whilst shooting the ball at 56.9% from the field. Magbegor ranked fifth at Seattle for rebounds per game, second for blocked shots behind Stewart and led the team for field goal accuracy.
Magbegor scored at least 10 points in a game five times and took at least five rebounds in a game four times. At 21 years of age Magbegor was the second youngest player in league history to play in a WNBA championship after Erika de Souza who played in Los Angeles Sparks 2002 title at 20 years of age.
In a video Melbourne Boomers – Ezi Magbegor published by the WNBL on 17 December 2020 Magbegor commented on her debut WNBA season “Winning a WNBA championship is something that doesn’t come along every day I guess, just to be able to do it in my first year as a rookie was pretty cool and to play with the players that I did and against the players that I did was awesome. It was an interesting experience, we were in the IMG Academy and weren’t able to leave on our own or anything, only to and from games but via a bus so we rode our bikes to training everyday.” On the 21 October 2020 special edition of the Deakin Melbourne Boomers Coaches Corner host Larissa Anderson asked “Can you give us a little bit of a recap, what are the standout highlights for you that come to mind straight away?” Magbegor responded “Obviously from a team perspective definitely winning the championship, individually probably the progression of my games and kind of how much more comfortable I felt as the season went on and I think that was definitely due to my team-mates supporting me and having my back, whether it was Alysha or Stewie talking in my ear, kind of telling me hey, get those rebounds or good job, just that constant reassurance definitely helped and those moments made my experience a lot better.”
On improvements she made during the 2020 WNBA season and developments required to her game Magbegor commented “I think just using my speed and running the floor and using that well. Being more of a perimeter player is something that I need to improve on, my 3-point shot, kind of having that confidence to take it but working on it outside of games as well. I know what I need to work on in order to compete in that league, defensively, just post defense and being able to hold my ground and that I think will come with getting in the gym, getting stronger, my three point-shot, my perimeter game. It’s a lot harder to play when players are kind of sagging off you, so developing that three-point shot, they will either have to play up on me or play me for the drive so I think developing that will definitely help my game and make it harder for defenders to predict what I am going to do.”
The 2021 WNBA season returned to its usual structure to be comprised of home games and road games rather than being in one location like the 2020 hub season. Dan Hughes returned as Seattle’s head coach after being unable to coach in the WNBA hub during 2020.
Three members of Seattle Storm’s full strength starting line-up from the 2020 season returned in 2021 – Stewart, Loyd and Bird. Howard and Whitcomb were traded to New York Liberty and Clark was traded to the Washington Mystix. The Storm acquired Candice Dupree, Katie Lou Samuelson and Australian Opal guard/forward Steph Talbot who won the MVP award in Australia’s WNBL in 2020.
Seven Australian’s are currently playing in the WNBA a third of the way into the 2021 season with Magbgeor and Talbot joined in this category by Liz Cambage (Las Vegas Aces), Bec Allen and Sami Whitcomb (both at New York Liberty), Alanna Smith (Phoenix Mercury), and Leilani Mitchell (Washington Mystix). Six of these seven players are in the Australian Opals 12 player team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games with Whitcomb the exception. Mitchell and Whitcomb are both classified as restricted players and national basketball teams are limited to having a maximum of one restricted player on their team. At the 2021 WNBA Draft another Australian, 19 year-old guard Shlya Heal was selected by the Chicago Sky with pick 8 and played four WNBA games and a total of only 31 minutes game-time this season before being traded by Chicago to Dallas who then waived her.
In Seattle Storm’s second regular season game of 2021 against the Las Vegas Aces in a home game at Angel of the Winds Arena on Tuesday 18 May Magbegor started a WNBA game for the first time in her career and made the most of the opportunity, scoring 14 points and taking 13 rebounds to set career-highs in both categories. Magbegor made six of her 14 field goal attempts including one of her two three-pointers and played 26 minutes and five seconds court-time in the 80-96 loss.
On 30 May 2021 Dan Hughes retired as the Seattle Storm’s head coach and Noelle Quinn was elevated to head coach. During their first 12 games of the 2021 WNBA regular season Seattle Storm have had ten wins and two losses to hold the best record in the league ahead of Connecticut Sun and the Las Vegas Aces who each have a record of eight wins and three losses. Magbegor has played all 12 games for Seattle including two starts and is averaging 3.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 11.6 minutes per game, shooting at 47.5% from the field. Magbegor ranks fourth at Seattle for rebounds per game and second for blocked shots.
From a road game against Indiana Fever at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on Tuesday June 15 to Sunday July 11 Seattle Storm will play 10 regular season games before the WNBA has a mid-season break for the Olympic Games. After the Olympic Games Seattle will play 11 regular season games commencing with a road game against Chicago Sky at Wintrust Arena on Sunday 15 August and finishing with a home game against the Phoenix Mercury on Friday 17 September at Angel of the Winds Arena.
2020 WNBL season with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers
Due to the impact of COVID-19 the 2020 WNBL season had a very different structure to recent seasons and imports weren’t eligible to play in the league. All eight WNBL clubs were located in North Queensland for the duration of the 2020 WNBL season which was played in three locations, Townsville, Cairns and Mackay. The regular season was condensed to five rounds commencing 11 November with each team scheduled to play 14 regular season games, however this later got reduced to 13 games for each team due to COVID-19 issues during the season. The top four teams contested a four game final series with each final being a single game rather than a three-game series and the Grand Final was played on 20 December. Magbegor was one of only two players to play in both the WNBA and the WNBL in 2020 along with Australian Opals teammate Leilani Mitchell.
The Melbourne Boomers had a stable roster with seven of the 10 players that averaged at least seven minutes court-time per game in 2019/20 returning for the 2020 WNBL season. The Boomers three Australian starters from 2019/20 in Magbegor, George and Garrick all returned in 2020 along with four New Zealand Tall Ferns players in Kalani Purcell, Stella Beck, Antonia Farnworth, and Penina Davidson. Lindsay Allen and Sophie Cunningham weren’t able to return due to being imports and dual sport athlete Monique Conti left the Boomers late in the 2019/20 season to focus on her AFLW commitments with Richmond.
Three recruits were part of the Deakin Melbourne Boomers core rotation in 2020 – Tess Madgen, Ashleigh Karaitiana and Izzy Wright (nee Chilcott). From 2013/14 to 2015/16 Madgen played three seasons for the Boomers with Molloy as the head coach and had the best WNBL season of her career at Melbourne in 2014/15, being named in the WNBL All-Star Five. In 2018/19 and 2019/20 Madgen played in the WNBL for Townsville. Karaitiana and Wright didn’t play in the WNBL during 2019/20 but did have WNBL experience. Karaitiana added to the Boomers contingent of Tall Ferns players coached by Molloy whilst in Wright’s 2019 NBL1 season with the Nunawading Spectres the head coach was Boomers Assistant Coach Paul Flynn.
In the Melbourne Boomers opening game of the 2020 WNBL season against Sydney Uni at Townsville Stadium Magbegor registered a double-double comprised of a team-high 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, made six of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 54.5% and made an equal team-high two steals in the 85-70 victory.
Magbegor scored less than 10 points and had a field goal accuracy of less than 45% in each of the next three games which were the only times for the 2020 WNBL season that she scored less than 10 points in a game. Against Townsville in the Boomers fifth game for the season in Round 2 on 22 November at Townsville Stadium Magbegor scored a team-high 20 points made nine of 17 field goals at an accuracy of 51.9%, made one of her two three-pointers and took six rebounds.
During Round 4 the Deakin Melbourne Boomers played four games in six days from 1 to 6 December. At three quarter time of the Boomers opening Round 4 game on 1 December against the University of Canberra Capitals at Townsville Stadium they led the Capitals 58-55. In the final term Magbegor scored five points, took five rebounds and blocked one shot to play a crucial role in the Boomers 73-67 victory. Ezi finished the game with 18 points, made seven of 12 field goals at an accuracy of 58.3% and took a game-high and her season-high 13 rebounds including four offensive.
In an 86-64 victory against the Sydney Uni Flames at Cairns Pop-Up Arena on 3 December Magbegor scored her season-high and a game-high 23 points, shot the ball exceptionally to make 10 of her 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 90.9%, made all three free-throws, took a game-high 11 rebounds, made a game-high three blocked shots and had two assists.
Across the Deakin Melbourne Boomers four Round 4 games Magbegor averaged 18.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and made 31 of 48 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 64.6%. Magbegor was rewarded for her brilliant Round 4 form with selection in the WNBL’s Team of the Week for Round 4 and continued her impressive form to average 16.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and have a field goal accuracy of 68.8% across three Round 5 games.
The Melbourne Boomers had nine wins and four losses during the 2020 WNBL regular season to finish two wins behind minor premiers the Southside Flyers and with the same win-loss record as the Townsville Fire and University of Canberra Capitals. The tie-breaker to determine the placings was the record of the teams in the matches against each other which resulted in Townsville finishing second, the Capitals third and the Boomers fourth.
In the 78-68 semi final victory against the University of Canberra Capitals at Townsville Stadium Magbegor scored a game-high 20 points, made nine of 16 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 56.3%, took 11 rebounds including five offensive, blocked a game-high four shots and made a team-high two steals.
Townsville outscored Melbourne 22 points to 17 in the first quarter of the preliminary final at Townsville Stadium to gain the ascendancy. Melbourne trailed 54-63 with four minutes and 57 seconds remaining in the game and scored eight unanswered points to reduce the margin to one point with 40 seconds remaining. Shyla Heal made two free throws to extend Townsville’s margin to three points which ended up being the final score of the game, Townsville defeated Melbourne 65-62, ending the Boomers season.
During the 2020 WNBL season Magbegor played all 15 games for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers, averaging 15.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.8 steals and 26 minutes and 27 seconds court-time per game. At the Deakin Melbourne Boomers Magbegor ranked first for field goal percentage as well as scoring and blocked shots per game, and ranked second for rebounds behind George.
In the last nine games of the season from Round 4 onwards Magbegor was extremely consistent, she took at least eight rebounds in a game eight times, scored more than 15 points eight times, had a field goal accuracy of more than 55% in eight games and recorded six of her seven double-doubles for the season.
Magbegor finished fourth in the WNBL’s 2020 Most Valuable Player award with 56 votes, behind Adelaide Lightning guard/forward and current Seattle Storm team-mate Steph Talbot (73 votes), Southside Flyers centre Liz Cambage (67 votes) and Townsville Fire guard Lauren Nicholson (65), UC Capitals guard Maddison Rocci finished fifth with 52 votes. During the 2020 season Magbegor ranked ninth in the WNBL for points per game, fourth for rebounds, equal third for blocked shots and fifth for field goal percentage, only one other player ranked in the WNBL’s top 10 in all four of these categories – Southside Flyers centre and Australian Opals team-mate Liz Cambage.
After winning the Betty Watson Award twice previously Magbegor was runner-up in the 2020 Betty Watson Youth Player of the Year Award, polling 24 votes to finish one vote behind Townsville point guard Shyla Heal and two votes ahead of University of Canberra Capitals point guard Maddison Rocci. Magbegor earnt her first All-WNBL selection, polling 16 votes to be named in the All-WNBL second team alongside Rocci, Heal, Deakin Melbourne Boomers guard Tess Madgen and Southside Flyers forward Sara Blicavs. The All-WNBL first team was comprised of Cambage, Nicholson, Talbot, Perth Lynx guard Katie Ebzery and Deakin Melbourne Boomers forward/centre Cayla George. Magbegor’s 16 votes for the All-WNBL team ranked equal sixth with Blicavs, one vote behind Boomers team-mate George who ranked fifth with 17 votes.
Articles have been published on Milestones and Misses to celebrate several players like Magbegor that received 2020 WNBL Awards. Articles have been written on:
2020 Regular Season MVP Winner Steph Talbot
2020 Grand Final MVP Winner Leilani Mitchell
2020 Sixth Woman of the Year Zitina Aokuso and
2020 All-WNBL second team member Maddison Rocci
These articles and many other articles on WNBL players can be found on the WNBL page of Milestones and Misses:
At the Basketball Victoria 2020 Awards on 1 June 2021 Magbegor won the Betty Watson Medal as the Female Athlete of the Year. “This award highlights an exceptional senior female basketball athlete who has excelled throughout Victorian, Australian and other high-calibre basketball competitions and tournaments across the year.”18 The Betty Watson Medal has been awarded since 1990, players that have won the award multiple times are: Kristi Harrower (6-time winner), Allison Cook (5-time winner), Penny Taylor (4-time winner), Liz Cambage (3-time winner), Emily McInerney (2-time winner) and Rachel Jarry (2-time winner). Magbegor is one of four members of the Opals Tokyo Olympic Games to have won the Betty Watson Medal along with Cambage, Opals captain Jenna O’Hea (2011 winner) and Alanna Smith (2017 winner).
Upcoming 2021/22 WNBL season with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers
On 21 April 2021 the Deakin Melbourne Boomers announced that Magbegor had signed with the club for the 2021/22 WNBL season. The Boomers have been very consistent to make the finals in each of the past four seasons but have been unable to win the club’s second championship. On signing with the Boomers for the 2021/22 season Magbegor told wnbl.basketball “I’m looking forward to playing with the Boomers again. I think what it comes down to is unfinished business. I’m grateful for the opportunity to play with a great club, with the aim to win a championship next season.”19
Three members of the Australian Opals Tokyo Olympic Games team return for the Boomers in 2020/21 after playing for the club in 2020, with Magbegor joined in this category by George and Madgen. With imports eligible to play in the WNBL in 2020/21 the Boomers 2018/19 MVP winner, point guard Lindsay Allen is returning to the Boomers. Allen played the 2018/19 and 2019/20 WNBL seasons for the Boomers and was named in the 2018/19 WNBL All-Star five. Tall Ferns forward/centre Penina Davidson will be playing her third consecutive WNBL season with the Boomers in 2020/21. Lou Brown and Lily Scanlon have been recruited by the Deakin Melbourne Boomers, giving the club seven signings so far for the 2020/21 WNBL season.
After an outstanding junior career including being named the tournament MVP at the 2016 Under-17 World Championships and playing a pivotal role in Australia winning the gold medal at this tournament Magbegor was touted as a future Opal and WNBA player.
During her debut 2017/18 WNBL season Magbegor was able to adjust to playing off the bench for the University of Canberra Capitals to make an impact whilst on court and rank in the league’s top 10 for field goal accuracy and blocked shots.
In all four WNBL seasons from 2017/18 to 2020 Magbegor has taken on more responsibility and improved. During three seasons with the Boomers Ezi has roughly doubled her output in the following statistical categories, points (increased by 77% from 8.7 points per game in 2018/19 to 15.4 ppg in 2020), rebounds (increased by 105% from 4.3 rpg in 2018/19 to 8.8 rpg in 2020) and assists (increased by 100% from 0.7 apg in 2018/19 to 1.4 apg in 2020).
In Magbegor’s first year on the Australian Opals team in 2018 she demonstrated that she belonged at that level. The following year Magbegor led Australia for scoring at the 2019 Asia Cup and ranked second for rebounds.
As a 20 year-old Magbegor was able to establish herself in the core rotation of the Seattle Storm which went on on the win the 2020 WNBA Championship in emphatic fashion. Magbegor led Seattle for field goal accuracy and ranked second for blocked shots.
During the 2020 WNBL season with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers Magbegor was only of only two players along with Liz Cambage to rank in the WNBL’s top 10 for points per game, rebounds, blocked shots and field goal accuracy. Magbegor was rewarded for her superb season with selection in the All-WNBL second team and a fourth placed finish in the league’s MVP award.
Magbegor’s superb basketball performances at international level for Australia and at club level in the WNBL and WNBA have resulted in her deservedly achieving her goal of being selected in the Australian Opals 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games team.
By Dean Andrews
Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777
Milestones and Misses
Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL and AFLW). In sport as with life in general it is common that milestones are only achieved after overcoming adversity, so whilst the articles on the Milestones and Misses website celebrate sportspeople achieving milestones they also cover the misses along the journey, such as a player having minimal game-time or spending a prolonged period on the sidelines due to injury. The aim of the articles is to enable readers to gain a greater appreciation of the journey sportspeople have had during their career.
A link to Milestones and Misses homepage is below:
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