Perth Lynx captain Sami Whitcomb reached 100 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) games in a home game at Bendat Basketball Centre against Sydney Flames on 16 November 2022 in Round 3 of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season. Whitcomb made her WNBL debut with Perth Lynx at 27 years of age as an American import in Round 1 of the 2015/16 WNBL season on 10 October 2015. In three consecutive WNBL seasons with Perth Lynx from 2015/16 to 2017/18 Whitcomb played exceptional basketball to lead the league in steals, three-pointers made and earnt selection in the WNBL All-Star five.
Whilst it is common for American imports to gain an opportunity to play in Australia’s WNBL after playing in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in the Unites States of America (USA) Whitcomb followed a very different career path. Without previous WNBA experience Whitcomb commenced her amazing Australian basketball journey playing as an import in the West Australian State Basketball League for the Rockingham Flames in 2013 with current Perth Lynx Head Coach Ryan Petrik as the club’s Head Coach.
A sliding doors moment was required for Whitcomb to gain that initial opportunity to play for the Rockingham Flames in WA’s SBL in 2013. Whitcomb played four seasons of college basketball for University of Washington but even after earning selection in the 2010 All-Pac-10 First Team in her senior year found it difficult to gain opportunities to play basketball overseas. After working as the video coordinator for University of Washington’s women’s basketball team in the 2010/11 college basketball season 178 centimetre tall Whitcomb had her first season playing overseas in Germany’s Damen-Basketball-Bundesliga (DBBL) in 2011/12. In Whitcomb’s second season playing in the DBBL in Germany for Wolfenbuttel Wildcats the team finished on top of the ladder but due to going bankrupt were unable to compete in the finals. Emma Cannon who had played for Rockingham Flames as an American import for the 2012 WA State Basketball League, opted out of the 2013 season just before it started, had played in Germany and recommended Whitcomb to the Flames. Whitcomb took up the opportunity to play for Rockingham in the WA State Basketball League in 2013.
In three consecutive seasons for the Rockingham Flames from 2013 to 2015 Whitcomb dominated to be named the West Australian SBL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in all three seasons. Whitcomb was influential in Rockingham winning the club’s first two SBL championships in 2014 and 2015, being named the Grand Final MVP in both seasons. Playing in the State Basketball League in 2015 Whitcomb competed against her future wife, Kate Malpass who was a point guard for Willetton Tigers. Whitcomb and Malpass were each named in the 2015 SBL All-Star Five.
During May 2015 Whitcomb signed as an import to play with Perth Lynx in the WNBL for the 2015/16 season. Whitcomb made an immediate impact to be named in the WNBL’s Team of the Week for Round 1 of the 2015/16 season and was named the league’s Round 3 Player of the Week for a 36 point performance in a home game at the Bendat Basketball Centre.
Whitcomb playing as a shooting guard made a total of 201 three-pointers across her first two WNBL seasons in 2015/16 and 2016/17, setting a league single season record for most three-pointers made with 105 in 2016/17. In 2016/17 Whitcomb averaged 24.1 points per game to lead the WNBL and finished second in the league’s MVP Award. Playing as a point guard in 2017/18 Whitcomb finished runner-up in the WNBL’s Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year Award. In each of Whitcomb’s first three seasons at Perth Lynx the club made the finals, including making the Grand Final in 2015/16 and winning the minor premiership in 2017/18.
In 2017 Whitcomb and Malpass got married in the United States of America. On 1 February 2018 Whitcomb became a naturalised Australian citizen. Whitcomb has been a member of two Australian Opals teams that have won a World Cup medal, winning silver at Tenerife, Spain in 2018 and a bronze medal at Sydney, Australia in 2022. At the 2018 and 2022 World Cups Whitcomb ranked in the top three for Australia in scoring and steals.
Whitcomb captained the Australian Opals at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup held in Amman, Jordan and the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in in Belgrade, Serbia. Whitcomb had a phenomenal Asia Cup to be ranked first overall at the tournament for scoring per game, second in assists, sixth for steals, seventh in rebounds and was selected in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup All-Star Five.
Phenomenal performances for the Perth Lynx in the WNBL contributed to Whitcomb making her WNBA debut with Seattle Storm in 2017, seven years after going undrafted at the 2010 WNBA draft. In four seasons with Seattle from 2017 to 2020 Whitcomb was a member of the Storm’s core rotation and ranked in the WNBA’s top 25 for three-pointers made in three regular seasons. Whitcomb was a member of Seattle’s 2018 and 2020 WNBA Championship winning teams.
Playing as a starter for New York Liberty Whitcomb made 76 of 179 three-pointers during the 2021 regular season at a WNBA career best accuracy of 42.5% to rank second in the WNBA for three-pointers made during the regular season. Playing predominantly off the bench for New York during the 2022 regular season Whitcomb ranked 14th in the WNBA for three-pointers made.
In 2019/20 and 2020/21 Whitcomb played for Lattes Montpellier in France, playing in the EuroLeague for the first time of her career in the latter season. Due to COVID-19 the 2020/21 season was unable to be completed. Late in the 2020/21 season Whitcomb had a short stint playing for Galatasaray in Turkey.
In late 2020 Whitcomb and Malpass’ son Nash was born. For the 2021/22 WNBL season Whitcomb returned to Perth Lynx to play her fourth season with the club. Whitcomb ranked third in the WNBL for steals per game and equal fourth for three-pointers made. Despite only playing four regular season home games due to border restrictions Perth were runners-up in 2021/22. Whitcomb is Perth’s captain in the current 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season and ranks fifth in the league for three-pointers made and in the top 10 for scoring.
Sami Whitcomb playing for Perth Lynx against University of Canberra Capitals at Selkirk Stadium, Ballarat on 19 January 2022
Sami Whitcomb’s incredible basketball career is comprehensively covered below, from playing in the USA for University of Washington and in the WNBA for Seattle Storm and New York Liberty through to playing in Western Australian for the Rockingham Flames in the SBL and for Perth Lynx in the WNBL as well as playing in Europe and representing the Australian Opals.
Samantha Whitcomb was born on 20 July 1988 and grew up in Ventura, California in the United States of America. During Basket Case podcast Season 3, Episode 4: The one with Sami Whitcomb, published on 3 November Whitcomb commented “Soccer was my first love, so I started that and then I just slowly fell out of love with it so I stopped playing. I was for my age quite tall so I just sort of fell into basketball that way and once I started I loved it and you couldn’t stop me from playing basically.” Whitcomb played year-round soccer for three years, playing club, AU and All-Stars soccer but got burnt out and wanted to try something different and stopped playing soccer.
During the 8 April 2022 episode of The Brad and Boti Basketball podcast Whitcomb spoke about how she started playing basketball at 12 years of age, commenting “I went to basic community tryouts for my brother, he was trying out for that. My mum kept asking me ‘Are you sure you don’t want to do this?’ I was like ‘I don’t want to do this’ and literally we are getting ready to leave and I was like if I don’t do this I am not going to be playing sport, there’s nothing else for me to basically sign up for so I just remember as we were leaving my mum looked at me because she knew better and she was like ‘You want to do this don’t you?’ and I was like ‘yeah’ so we had to get back in the line all over again and she let me sign up for it. I can’t explain it, but I fell in love with it absolutely instantly. It was so different to soccer in terms of how the team worked together, the physicality of it, the individual part of it as well, kind of combined all of it and I just loved it. I was not good straight away but I have always been that person that its’ never really bothered me. If I love something I am convinced if I work hard enough at it I can get good at it. When you are young you are naïve and you don’t really know to not dream to not think that I can do this, of course I can, I love it, everyone else is doing it, I just have to get in the gym and have fun and that’s the biggest thing at that age, you just want to have fun. That was all that mattered really.”
When Sami was young her parents divorced. During an interview with Swish Swish published on 31 May 2020 Whitcomb commented on her father “We didn’t have a fantastic relationship when I was a kid, we didn’t spend a lot of time together, and when I got older, the only times I really saw him was when he’d come to basketball games. He really loves basketball, so I think that I subconsciously thought that it would be a nice way to connect and develop a relationship with him. I really wanted to be good at basketball because of that, I wanted him to be proud of me. I was so motivated to please him and to impress him, and I think that it was a big part of why I worked as hard as I did. He also played a big part in me developing my toughness. He was one of my first early coaches, when I started playing in a recreational league.”1
Whitcomb attended Buena High School in Ventura, played for the girls basketball team and also competed in track and field events including shot put. In each of Whitcomb’s last three seasons at Buena High School she was a member of the girls basketball team that won the Channel League title. As a senior playing for Buena High School Whitcomb averaged 17.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game. Whitcomb’s exceptional performances resulted in her being named Ventura County Star’s 2005–06 Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.
College career with University of Washington from 2006/07 to 2009/10
In 2006/07 Whitcomb played her freshman season of College basketball for University of Washington. On debut against Marquette on 14 November 2006 Whitcomb started for Washington and scored six points and took five rebounds. Due to suffering a broken right hand at training in early December 2006 Whitcomb missed eight games. Against Stanford on 11 January 2007 Whitcomb scored a season-high and team-high 13 points. The Washington Huskies competed in the 2007 NCAA Tournament and were defeated in the first round by Iowa State 60-79. Whitcomb played 21 games in 2006/07 including four as a starter and averaged 4.3 points and 13.7 minutes per game. Whitcomb led Washington with a free-throw accuracy of 81%.
During her sophomore 2007/08 season Whitcomb played 31 games for Washington including 30 as a starter. In Washington’s upset victory against California on 3 February 2018 Sami made five of nine three-pointers at an accuracy of 55.6%, scored 24 points and was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week. Against UCLA on 10 February 2008 Whitcomb made five three-pointers, made eight of nine free throws, scored a season-high 27 points, took three rebounds and had three assists. In 2007/08 Whitcomb averaged 11.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.0 steals and 27.9 minutes per game. Whitcomb led the Huskies for steals and ranked second in scoring and assists.
The development of her three-point shooting was a critical factor in Whitcomb receiving more court-time in her sophomore 2007/08 college season with University of Washington. On the development of her shooting Whitcomb told Swish Swish “When I came out of high school, I was much more of a slasher, or a rebounder, I got to the rim, I got fouled, you wouldn’t have called me a shooter. And then during my freshman year, my college coach said that if I wanted to earn court time, I would have to become a good outside shooter. So, from college, I basically lived in the gym and I worked on it and worked on it so that it eventually became something that I was quite confident in. And then I started to develop my quick release, because obviously once you become a good shooter, that’s what the defense is trying to take away, so I really started to focus on that, and eventually getting the shot off quick— but obviously trying to make it as well — became a strength of mine.”2
As a junior Whitcomb was a co-captain of Washington in 2008/09. Against Arizona State on 31 January 2009 Whitcomb made five three-pointers, scored 29 points, took five rebounds and made four steals. In the first round of the Pac-10 tournament against Oregon on 12 March 2009 Whitcomb made 11 of 18 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 61.1%, made a career-high six three-pointers and scored 28 points. Sami played 30 games for Washington in 2008/09 including 29 as a starter and averaged 12.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.3 steals and 29.7 minutes per game. Whitcomb led the Pac-10 conference in steals and ranked fifth with 54 three-pointers made. Whitcomb ranked first at Washington in scoring, steals, free-throws made and three-pointers made, ranked second for rebounds, third in assists and was named Washington’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).
For the second consecutive season Whitcomb was a Washington co-captain in her senior 2009/10 season. Against BYU on 18 November Washington trailed 50-59 with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Whitcomb made two lay-ups and five free-throws to reduce Washington’s deficit to two points, 64-66 with seconds remaining. From two feet behind the three-point line Whitcomb made a game winning three with four seconds remaining. Whitcomb finished Washington’s 67-66 victory with 25 points. In a road game against Washington State on 29 January 2010 Whitcomb made 10 of 13 free-throws and scored a career-high 32 points in an overtime victory. During 2009/10 Whitcomb started all 31 games that she played for Washington and averaged 13.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists to lead her team in all three categories. Whitcomb also averaged 1.5 steals – ranked second at Washington and 31.7 minutes per game. Whitcomb was selected in the 2010 All-PAC-10 First Team. Whitcomb graduated from Washington with a degree in History.
In four seasons at the University of Washington from 2006/07 to 2009/10 Whitcomb played 113 games including 94 as a starter and averaged 10.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Whitcomb finished her “career ranked 15th all-time in UW scoring history with 1,205 points.”3 In 2007/08 and 2008/09 Whitcomb was an honourable mention for the Pac-10 All-Defensive Team.
Whilst playing college basketball for University of Washington Whitcomb’s desire to play in the WNBA was fuelled by being able to watch WNBA club Seattle Storm including star players Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird. During an interview with Swish Swish published on 31 May 2020 Whitcomb commented on watching Seattle Storm “I distinctly remember my senior year , because it was the year they won, and it was incredible to get to see them play. It must have been just after I graduated, in the summer. I remember watching them, I remember LJ just being absolutely dominant, Sue obviously being incredible. Whenever I went, the environment, the crowd, everything was so exciting. They were just so good and people loved watching them play, so it was probably my first taste of really thinking ‘Wow, playing professionally is amazing, it’s really cool, and it’s actually a possibility.’ Obviously I had to get a lot better, but seeing the support and that kind of atmosphere for women’s basketball at that level was really, really exciting. I think that I’m lucky that I went to college in a place where we had that, because there are a lot of places where you don’t really get a sense of what is possible after college, so that was really exciting for me.”4
2010 Chicago Sky WNBA Training Camp
After being undrafted at the 2010 WNBA draft Whitcomb signed a training camp contract with Chicago Sky and played three pre-season WNBA games but was waived before the 2010 season started.
During The Smart Athlete – Episode 4 with Sami Whitcomb, host and fellow WNBL player Brittany Smart had Whitcomb as a guest. In the episode Whitcomb spoke about her experience of attending Chicago Sky’s 2010 WNBA Training Camp, commenting “Once I graduated, wasn’t drafted, got cut from my one tryout that I had with a WNBA team and just saw how far off I was, honestly. Like as devastating as it was getting cut because that just always hurts I was very much in tune with the fact that I didn’t deserve to be there, I wasn’t good enough to be at that level. But I think what was so eye-opening was the gap was bigger than I would have hoped for it to have been. It was the physicalness, it was the fitness, it was the IQ, the speed and pace of the game. All of those things, I just felt like OK, now I have seen it, I have felt it, I have had a little taste of what it takes. I just felt like I will go and play overseas and figure that out and each year hopefully get better and have another opportunity.”
Working as the video coordinator at University of Washington during the 2010/11 college season
Whitcomb returned to University of Washington as an intern for the women’s basketball team and was later appointed to the team’s coaching staff as video coordinator for the 2010/11 season. The University of Washington coaches page for Whitcomb said “As the team’s video coordinator, Whitcomb is responsible for ensuring video exchanges with opponents and filming practices. She’ll also be involved in scouting, highlights and other areas of content creation, including the production of the team’s season-ending banquet video.”5
On working as a video coordinator at University of Washington during the 2010/11 college season Whitcomb told Basket Case podcast in Season 3, Episode 4 “I got to go to the Chicago Sky pre-season training camp and I did that for about a month before being cut. The agency that I was working with at the time weren’t able to find me anything overseas and I sort of reached this fork in the road where I could either continue trying to play overseas without much luck at that stage or I could take this job as the video coordinator on the women’s basketball staff at the College that I was just at U Dub. It was something that I always thought I would end up doing but I wanted to play first. It was a hard offer to pass up and they weren’t super confident they would be able to find anything for me playing so I thought, well I’ll try this and maybe at the end of that season have a crack at playing again and that is what I did. I did the video for a season, again another really challenging experience but one that I feel like has prepared me for lots of things. At the end of that season I was more sure than ever that I really wasn’t ready to stop playing so I quit my job there, signed up with a different agency and was fortunate enough that they were able to get me a gig in Germany so off I went.”
Whilst working as a video coordinator at University of Washington Whitcomb signed up for as many basketball leagues as she could to play, some women’s leagues and two men’s leagues including one which Sami’s team won.
In relation to coaching in the future Whitcomb told Basket Case host Carol Wical “It (coaching) has always been something that I really loved, even in high school and college I really enjoyed coaching young kids whether it was a team thing or individuals, just being around basketball in general I have always really liked. I was really lucky in that the men’s basketball coaching staff were really generous in letting me learn from them as well and get involved in some of the stuff they were doing, obviously I had the opportunity to do the same with the women’s staff. It is definitely something that I feel that I want to do when I am done playing basketball. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely step away from the game, I hope it is an opportunity I can step into when I am done.”
Playing in Europe from 2011/12 to 2013/14
Whitcomb changed agents and got an opportunity to play for in the Damen-Basketball-Bundesliga (DBBL) in Germany for ChemCats Chemnitz in 2011/12. The Head Coach got fired after five games. After playing one season in Germany it was easier to get a contract for the following season and Whitcomb remained in the DBBL and played for Wolfenbuttel Wildcats in 2012/13. In each season in the DBBL Whitcomb averaged more than 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Wolfenbuttel Wildcats finished top of the league in 2012/13 but due to going bankrupt were unable to complete the season.
In August 2013 Whitcomb signed with Slovakian club ŠKBD Rücon Spišská Nová Ves. Whitcomb scored more than 22 points in a game four times including a season-high and game-high 35 points against MBK Ruzomberok on 18 December 2013, making six of nine three-pointers at an accuracy of 66.7%, all five free-throws, made four assists and three steals in an 84-68 victory. Whitcomb played 15 games for ŠKBD Rücon Spišská Nová Ves and averaged 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
Playing State League Basketball in Western Australia for Rockingham Flames from 2013 to 2016
For the 2013 State Basketball League season in Western Australia Whitcomb signed with the Rockingham Flames, current Perth Lynx coach Ryan Petrik was the Flames Head Coach. In an article written by Roy Ward and published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 9 February 2017 Whitcomb recalled how the opportunity to play with the Rockingham Flames came about, commenting “I had been playing in Germany and our team made the finals then went bankrupt so we couldn’t play. So I was going to travel for a month or so and then go back home – hopefully someone in Europe would sign me for the next season. Flames coach Ryan Petrik was scrambling to find an import and the girl who dropped out had played in Germany and she recommended me – I was keen to keep playing and always had an interest in visiting Australia so we made the deal.”6
Whitcomb had enquired to her agent about playing in Australia during the European off-season previously however timing made it difficult due to several European leagues overlapping a bit with Australian State leagues. Emma Cannon played as an American import for the Rockingham Flames in 2012 and competed against Whitcomb in Germany. It has turned out to be very fortuitous timing that Cannon opted out of playing for Rockingham in 2013 and Whitcomb was available due to Wolfenbuttel Wildcats being unable to compete in the 2012/13 finals after they went bankrupt.
At the time of receiving the offer to play for the Rockingham Flames in the 2013 SBL season Whitcomb was traveling in Austria. Whitcomb quickly returned to Germany by train, packed and headed to Western Australia.
Whitcomb excelled in 24 games for the Rockingham Flames during the 2013 SBL season, averaging 22.4 points, 8.9 rebounds 3.6 assists and 2.8 steals per game. Whitcomb was named in the league’s 2013 All-Star Five and won the State Basketball League Most Valuable Player Award. When Whitcomb was playing for Rockingham she worked at a fish and chip shop to supplement playing basketball.
During the 2014 SBL season Whitcomb was influential in the Rockingham Flames winning their first Championship. In the Flames 80-75 victory against Lakeside Lightning in the 2014 Grand Final Whitcomb scored 32 points and won the Grand Final MVP Award. Whitcomb was selected in the SBL’s 2014 All-Star Five and won the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.
Whilst playing for the Rockingham Flames during the 2015 West Australian State Basketball League Whitcomb competed against her future wife, Kate Malpass who was a point guard for Willletton Tigers. From 2009 to 2011 Malpass played in three consecutive SBL Championships with Willetton and was selected as the point guard in the WA State Basketball League’s All-Star Five in all three seasons. Malpass made her WNBL debut with Perth Lynx in 2008/09 and played 66 games for the club.
From 2012 to 2014 Malpass worked for the Richmond Football Club as a physiotherapist and played basketball for the Sandringham Sabres in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL). On 12 July 2013 Malpass was named ‘Youth of the Year’ at the 2013 National NAIDOC Awards in Perth. “The awards highlight the outstanding contributions that Indigenous Australians make to improve the lives of people in their communities and beyond.”7 Malpass a Noongar woman from Perth was recognised for her achievements as a basketball player, physiotherapist and her work as a mentor. The last sentence of the Malpass winner profiles article on naidoc.org.au stated “An outstanding role model, Kate also mentors for the David Wirrpanda Foundation and is passionate about helping younger girls through the Deadly Sista Girlz Program.”8
Playing for opposition teams during the 2015 State Basketball League season Whitcomb and Malpass excelled for Rockingham and Willetton respectively to each be named in the SBL’s All-Star Five. In a dominant performance Whitcomb scored 41 points in Rockingham’s 68-63 victory against Willetton Tigers in the 2015 Grand Final and won the Grand Final MVP Award for the second consecutive season.
During a video Perth Lynx – Sami Whitcomb Bio published by Perth Lynx Basketball on 11 November 2015 Whitcomb commented on playing for the Rockingham Flames saying “My time in Rockingham has been great. Obviously we just went back to back with the championships and I just really enjoy playing with the girls there, we have a great core group that come back every year and the support in the community is really great as well.”
Malpass played in five State Basketball League Championships with Willetton Tigers including in 2016 when she scored her team’s last eight points in the 60-58 Grand Final victory against Joondalup Wolves and was named Grand Final MVP. Playing for the Rockingham Flames in 2016 Whitcomb was selected in the SBL’s All-Star five for the fourth consecutive season. In four seasons for Rockingham from 2013 to 2016 with Petrik as the Head Coach Whitcomb played 103 games for the Flames and averaged 23.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.7 steals per game.
In debut 2015/16 WNBL season with Perth Lynx Whitcomb led the league for three-pointers made and was selected in the WNBL All-Star Five.
In April 2015 National Basketball League (NBL) club 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 WNBL 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.
Whitcomb had aspirations to play in the WNBL before 2015/16, telling Basket Case in November 2016 “I tried to play for the West Coast Waves and they were always looking for as most teams do for those WNBA imports, obviously a lot of weight goes into the WNBA because you have to be fantastic to make it there so I think they were really trying to secure a couple of WNBA players and they were able to get those so there was just never room for me basically because I just didn’t have that background.”
In May 2015 Whitcomb signed as an import to play with Perth Lynx in the WNBL. Reflecting on her debut 2015/16 WNBL season with Perth Lynx Whitcomb told The Sydney Morning Herald in February 2017 “It wasn’t until the Lynx were set up that I was given an opportunity – we had a lot of WNBL experience in the side and those girls helped me adjust plus the team and the offence is a good fit for me and my style of play. More than anything I felt I had nothing to lose, most of the league probably thought I shouldn’t have been playing there anyway.”9
At the start of the 2015/16 season Perth’s starting line-up was shooting guard Whitcomb and small forward Betnijah Laney as American imports along with point guard Tessa Lavey and power forwards/centres Natalie Burton and Louella Tomlinson. Seven Perth Lynx players averaged more than 15 minutes per game with the season opening starters being joined in this category by Carley Ernst (nee Mijovic) and Toni Farnwoth (nee Edmondson). Andy Stewart was in his first season as Head Coach of Perth Lynx. Ryan Petrik was in his first season as an Assistant Coach of Perth Lynx and had been the Head Coach of Whitcomb at the Rockingham Flames in the WA State Basketball League.
Perth Lynx team huddle before the game against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 5 December 2015
Whitcomb on WNBL debut for Perth Lynx against Sydney Flames on 10 October 2015 at the Bendat Basketball Centre made six of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50%, was even more effective from long range, making four of seven three pointers at 57% and made both free-throws to score a game-high 18 points. Whitcomb also took seven rebounds made three assists and a game-high three steals in Perth’s 81-70 victory to earn selection in the WNBL’s Team of the Week.
Against the Dandenong Rangers in a Round 3 game at Bendat Basketball Centre Whitcomb scored a game-high 36 points – 17 more than the second ranked player for the game, took six rebounds, made two assists and an equal game-high two steals. Whitcomb shot the ball proficiently to make 11 of 22 field goal attempts, six of 12 three-pointers at an accuracy of 54.5% and was named the WNBL’s Round 3 Player of the Week.
During a Perth Lynx Basketball video, Perth Lynx- Smashing the glass ceiling published on 11 November 2015 Perth Lynx Head Coash Andy Stewart commented “Sami brings us great maturity, a really good basketball IQ but she is just a scoring threat all the time, she is an outstanding offensive weapon.”
In a home game on 20 November Whitcomb made 10 of 16 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63%, five of 11 three-pointers, scored a game-high 28 points, took three rebounds, made three assists and had a game-high four steals in Perth’s 93-85 win against Adelaide Lightning.
Sami Whitcomb shooting a free-throw for Perth Lynx against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 5 December 2015
Perth Lynx started the season well and maintained their form to record 16 wins and eight losses to finish second at the end of the 2015/16 regular season, one win behind the Townsville Fire and one win ahead of Dandenong and the SEQ Stars in third and fourth place respectively. Perth broke a long finals drought, making the WNBL finals for the first time since 1999/2000. Perth Lynx Head Coach Andy Stewart was named the WNBL’s 2015/16 Coach of the Year.
In the major semi-final Perth travelled to Townsville and upset the defending WNBL champions 91-72 to advance to the Grand Final. In the semi final Whitcomb made five of 10 three-pointers at an accuracy of 50%, scored 21 points, took eight rebounds, made three assists and an equal game-high two steals.
2015/16 was the first season that the WNBL Grand Final was a best of three game series rather than a stand-alone game. Perth led both game 1 and game 2 of the Grand Final at three quarter-time, however Townsville’s experience of playing in the previous three WNBL grand finals came to the fore and Perth were overrun in the last quarter of both games, being defeated 57-73 in game 1 at Bendat Basketball Centre and 70-80 in Game 2 at Townsville Stadium.
During a video Perth Lynx – Sami Whitcomb Bio published by Perth Lynx Basketball on 11 November 2015 Whitcomb commented “My strengths on the basketball court are shooting the three a lot.” Whitcomb has a very quick release when shooting and made 91 of 267 three-pointers at an accuracy of 34.1% in 2015/16 to easily lead the league for three-pointers made, 25 ahead of Belinda Snell with 66.
Whitcomb played 26 games for Perth Lynx in 2015/16 and averaged 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.6 steals and 34.1 minutes per game. Whitcomb led the WNBL for steals and three-pointers made per game and ranked second in scoring behind Suzy Batkovic (20.8 points per game), fifth for field goals made and 11th for assists. Whitcomb’s 3.5 three-pointers made per game was 25% more than Belinda Snell and Jordan Hooper ranked equal second with 2.8 three-pointers made per game. Throughout the 2015/16 season Whitcomb was named in the WNBL’s Team of the Week eight times including three consecutive weeks from Round 6 to Round 8. Whitcomb polled 106 votes in the WNBL’s MVP award to finish third behind Townsville Fire power forward/centre Suzy Batkovic (120 votes) and Sydney Flames guard Katie Ebzery (116 votes). Whitcomb was selected in the WNBL’s All-Star Five and won the Perth Lynx Most Valuable Player Award.
Sami Whitcomb playing for Perth Lynx against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 5 December 2015
After Whitcomb’s exceptional 2015/16 WNBL season many basketball followers were left wondering why Whitcomb hadn’t been given an opportunity in the league earlier. Whitcomb spoke about her desire to play in the WNBL during The Smart Athlete – Episode #4 with Sami Whitcomb which was recorded in October 2020, commenting “The WNBL one was a bit more frustrating because I felt like I could play at that level whereas there was still uncertainty about WNBA, I just wanted an opportunity to see if I could and try and prove that. Whereas the WNBL I did feel as though I could, so that one for me was like I am going to make a team. Going into that last year (2015/16) when Perth actually offered I was getting ready to call (WNBL) coaches and say I will fly over, I will try out, I will do whatever I need to do show you that I can play. I got lucky that that is when the Perth thing happened so I didn’t need to do that. I was very much prepared to, I had gotten all the emails and contacts that I needed and was getting ready to send all of this stuff out.”
During the 8 April 2022 episode of The Brad and Boti Basketball Podcast Whitcomb spoke about playing three seasons in WA’s State Basketball League before making her WNBL debut with Perth Lynx in 2015/16, saying “It’s one of those things that just as probably most of my career and life that it doesn’t bother me as much because one, I genuinely believe that things do happen for a reason and timing is so critical to so many things and for me looking at it now it is easy for me to be resentful of it all. That’s three years of missed opportunities that I could have been playing in the WNBL or whatever. When the time came for the Wildcats to buy the Lynx and to rebrand and to start over Jack Bendat and the owners and that group wanted to start fresh, they wanted to start over and bring in new names, that was coaching staff, that was players, they wanted to bring in new blood. I honestly think if I had played for West Coast Waves previously when they were that I don’t know that they would have given me an opportunity when that rebrand came. I think coming in and doing it the way that I did it with that new group, even with Andy and his style of play and him sort of saying ‘Here you go, do what you want to do in terms of the offense’, he gave me a lot of freedom and I really feel that that was all sort of how it had to happen for me to come out and do well. Yes SBL, maybe it is not as competitive, I had three years of getting better and improving, working on things. Feeling like these people don’t think I am good enough for this league, I am going to show them. Whenever the time comes I am going to be ready, I was so hungry that year that I think it all just needed to happen that way I really think.”
In 2016/17 playing for Perth Lynx Whitcomb led the league in scoring and was selected in the WNBL All-Star Five
In Perth’s opening game of the 2016/17 WNBL season against the Sydney Flames the Lynx starting line-up was comprised of Whitcomb and American import Monica Wright in the back-court along with Toni Farnworth, Carley Ernst and Natalie Burton in the front-court. Perth had a core rotation of eight players that averaged more than 15.0 minutes per game with the other three players in this category being Lavey, Ruth Hamblin and Tenaya Sooalo (nee Phillips) and Brianna Butler.
Wright played Perth’s first four games of the season in the first two rounds but due to a major knee injury didn’t play for the club again and returned to the USA. Against the University of Canberra Capitals in a low scoring Round 3 game at Bendat Basketball Centre on 22 October 2016 Whitcomb scored a game-high 22 points, took eight rebounds, made a team-high four assists, an equal team-high two steals in Perth’s 65-59 victory and was named the WNBL’s Round 3 Player of the Week.
Whitcomb fell just short of recording a double-double in Perth’s Round 4 home game against Adelaide Lightning on 30 October, amassing a game-high 29 points, a team-high nine assists, six rebounds and two steals in a 95-65 win. Whitcomb made 12 of 19 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63% and four of seven three-pointers at 57%. The WNBL named Whitcomb the Player of the Month for October.
Sami Whitcomb playing for Perth Lynx against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 15 October 2016
In the first quarter of a home game at Bendat Basketball Centre against Bendigo Spirit on 18 November Whitcomb put on a shooting exhibition to score 21 points in the first quarter. In the first seventy seconds of the second term Whitcomb made two three-pointers and a lay-up to increase her tally to 29 points after 11 minutes and 10 seconds of playing time to be the catalyst for Perth leading 35-27. Whitcomb finished the game with a game-high 39 points, shot the ball efficiently to make 14 of 21 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 67%, six of 10 three pointers at 60%, took six rebounds and made an equal game-high three steals in a 71-84 loss.
American import guard Brianna Butler joined Perth Lynx mid-season and played her first game for the club on 25 November. Whitcomb scored a game-high 36 points in a road game against the University of Canberra Capitals on 27 November in a narrow loss, 87-82. Whitcomb made 13 of 25 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 52%, made seven of 16 three-pointers at 44%, took five rebounds, made a team-high four assists and a game-high three steals.
At Bendat Basketball Centre on 7 January against Bendigo Spirit Whitcomb made 11 of 17 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 65%, made five of 10 three-pointers at 50%, made six assists and four steals to set game-highs in both categories as Perth defeated Bendigo 108-67.
Perth finished third at the end of the 2016/17 regular season with 15 wins and nine losses, the same record as the Jayco Rangers. The Rangers won the tie-breaker 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.
In game 1 of the semi final series at Dandenong Stadium the Jayco Rangers defeated Perth Lynx 66-73. Game 2 at the Bendat Basketball Centre on 3 March 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 a dominant performance from Whitcomb with a game-high and career-high 41 points – an astronomical 27 points more than the players ranked equal second for the game. Whitcomb shot the ball proficiently to make 15 of 24 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63%, was even more damaging from long range making eight of 12 shots behind the arc at 67%, took an equal game-high nine rebounds, made a team-high four assists and blocked one shot. At three quarter time of game 3 at Dandenong Stadium Perth trailed the Rangers 54-60. Perth were outscored 9-21 in the fourth quarter and were defeated 63-81.
Including finals Whitcomb scored 652 points in 2016/17 to break the record for most points scored in a season. Throughout the season Whitcomb was incredibly consistent to earn selection in the WNBL’s Team of the Week 13 times in the 19 round regular-season. Whitcomb polled 123 votes in the WNBL’s MVP Award and finished runner-up behind Suzy Batkovic on 129 votes.
During the 2016/17 season Whitcomb played 27 games for Perth and averaged 24.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 33.9 minutes per game. Whitcomb led the league in scoring ahead of Batkovic (20.9 points per game), three-pointers made and steals and ranked seventh for assists. Sami made 105 of 251 three-pointers at an accuracy of 41.3% and was one of only four players that had an accuracy of more than 40.0% and made at least 20 three-pointers for the season. Whitcomb made 3.9 three-pointers per game, 56% more than Belinda Snell ranked second with 2.5 three-pointers made per game. Whitcomb broke the WNBL record for most three-pointers made in a season and earnt selection in the 2016/17 WNBL All-Star Five. Whitcomb won Perth Lynx’s 2016/17 MVP Award, the Members MVP Award and the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Sami Whitcomb playing for Perth Lynx against Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 15 October 2016
On 6 April 2017 Perth Lynx announced that Whitcomb was the club’s first signing for the 2017/18 WNBL season. Whitcomb told WNBL Media “It was a really easy decision to come back. Perth’s my home now, so I feel very fortunate that I was able to sign for another two years and keep working towards that championship. I love playing here. Knowing the direction that we’re going in, it’s really exciting to be a part of that.”10
Whitcomb was selected in the WNBL All-Star Five for the third consecutive season in 2017/18 and finished runner-up in the league’s Defensive Player of the Year Award
For Perth Lynx’s opening game of the 2017/18 WNBL season on 8 October Whitcomb started in the backcourt alongside American import Courtney Williams with Alice Kunek, Kalya Steindl (nee Standish) and Amanda Dowe starting in the front-court. Perth’s nine player core rotation who each averaged more than 12.0 minutes per game also included Natalie Burton, Toni Farnworth, Alex Ciabattoni and Olivia Thompson. Whitcomb played predominantly as a shooting guard during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 WNBL seasons but with the departure of Lavey and arrival of Williams had a change of role in 2017/18 and mainly played as a point guard with Williams having the role of shooting guard.
Whitcomb and Farnworth were named as Perth Lynx co-captains for the 2017/18 season. At a press conference on 29 September 2017 Whitcomb commented “Moving forward with Toni, we are going to be co-captains and I’m really excited about that. I love how we balance off of each other. I have definitely learnt a lot about what it means to compete at the highest level.” On being co-captain Whitcomb commented “It’s really exciting, obviously it’s a privilege and sharing that with someone like Toni who is such a pro, I really have loved playing with her these past few years so it is exciting to share that with her. We have got a lot of new faces so I feel like they are going to look to us to set the tone and that means a lot as well because I do pride myself in working hard and all of those things.”
Perth Lynx lost their first three games of the 2017/18 season, losing a home game to Sydney and then being defeated in road games by Adelaide and Bendigo, being defeated 71-106 in the latter game on 14 October. Five days later Perth turned things around in dramatic fashion in a home game at Bendat Basketball Centre to defeat Bendigo 106-79. In the victory against Bendigo Whitcomb made five of 10 field goals at an accuracy of 50%, five of six free-throws at 83%, scored 17 points, took five rebounds, made a game-high nine assists and a game-high four steals.
In their fifth game of the season Perth Lynx lost to Melbourne Boomers 77-79 at the State Basketball Centre on 21 October and had a record of one win and four losses. Against the Dandenong Rangers at the Bendat Basketball Centre on 27 October Whitcomb played a brilliant all-round game of basketball to score a team-high 22 points, take a game-high 12 rebounds, make a game-high seven assists and three steals in Perth’s 88-78 victory which was the start of a winning streak for the club. Sami made seven of 14 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50% and five of six free-throws.
In the WNBL game of the week in the opening Sunday game of the Round 8 Cluster Round at the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna, Victoria Whitcomb played a critical role in Perth having a thrilling five point win against Townsville on 26 November. After Perth and Townsville were locked together at 61 points apiece at three quarter-time Whitcomb with 10 points in the final quarter was critical in the Lynx gaining the ascendancy to outscore the Fire 23-18 in the final quarter and win 84-79. Whitcomb scored a game-high 27 points against Townsville whilst also having six rebounds and a game-high five steals – three more than the second ranked player for the game. Whitcomb made nine of her 14 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 64% and made five of eight three-pointers.
Sami Whitcomb shooting a three-pointer for Perth Lynx against Townsville Fire at the State Basketball Centre on 26 November 2017
With six minutes and 30 seconds remaining in Perth’s Round 10 home game at Bendat Basketball Centre against the Dandenong Rangers on 7 December the Lynx trailed 58-65. In the remainder of the term Whitcomb made three three-pointers to spark a 20-8 Perth run and a 78-73 victory. Every shot Whitcomb attempted for the game was a three-pointer, making seven of 13 shots from behind the arc at an accuracy of 54% to score 21 points. In Perth’s fightback victory Whitcomb also took seven rebounds, made three assists and two steals. Two days later in a road game against Sydney Flames at Qudos Bank Arena on 9 December Whitcomb scored an equal game-high 23 points along with team-mate Kunek, took five rebounds, made four assists and an equal game-high four steals in Perth’s 84-79 victory. Whitcomb was named the WNBL’s Player of the Week for Round 10.
At the State Basketball Centre on 17 December Perth led Melbourne by a point at three quarter-time 66-65. In the Round 11 game Perth outscored Melbourne 26-24 in the fourth quarter led by 10 points from Whitcomb and eight points from Williams to win 92-89. Whitcomb scored a team-high 28 points and Williams scored 25 points in the Lynx win. Sami made 10 of 21 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 47.6%, four of eight three-pointers at 50%, and had a team-high seven assists.
Perth Lynx defeated Melbourne Boomers 84-66 in a Round 12 home game at Bendat Basketball Centre on 23 December to win their 14th consecutive game, setting a new club record. 10 of Perth’s victories during the winning streak were by at least 10 points.
To finish the regular season Perth had a Round 13 road double against the University of Canberra Capitals on 29 December and Townsville Fire on 31 December. Whitcomb made seven of 14 field goals at an accuracy of 50%, four of nine three-pointers at 44.4%, both free throws, took eight rebounds, made a team-high six assists and had three steals in a 69-74 loss to the Capitals at the National Convention Centre. In Perth’s final regular season game their three leading scorers for the season – Williams, Whitcomb and Kunek each played less than 20 minutes court-time in a 54-81 loss to Townsville.
Perth had 15 wins and six losses during the 2017/18 regular season to finish on top of the ladder, one win ahead of Sydney and Townsville and three wins ahead of fourth placed Melbourne. For the two semi final series the lower ranked team hosted game 1 and the higher ranked team hosted game 2 and game 3 if it was required. In the following season the finals system was changed, enabling the top ranked team to host game 1 and then game 3 if required with the lower ranked team hosting game 2.
In game one of the semi final series on 3 January 2018 at the State Basketball Centre. Perth trailed Melbourne Boomers 45-56 at half-time, were held to 10 points in the third quarter and were defeated 76-92. In the loss Whitcomb scored 19 points, had five rebounds, three assists and an equal team-high three steals. Just two days later the teams met in game 2 on the other side of the country at the Bendat Basketball Centre. Perth led Melbourne 53-48 at three quarter-time. In the last quarter Perth were outscored by Melbourne 16-30 and defeated 69-78, ending their season.
More than four years later during the 3 March 2022 episode of the Dribble Podcast Whitcomb reflected on the end to Perth’s 2017/18 WNBL season, commenting “I still remember that. It’s still very raw and real for me. I remember the expectations we had. I remember feeling jibbed at the time and going into it thinking ‘I can’t believe this is the schedule’ but kind of thinking you have to suck it up and just deal with the hand you’re dealt. I remember when the final siren was going off feeling so devastated that we weren’t able to pull it off because we felt like we should have.”
During 2017/18 Whitcomb played 23 games for Perth Lynx and averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.6 steals and 32.8 minutes per game. Whitcomb led Perth for steals and ranked second behind Williams in scoring and minutes played. Whitcomb led the WNBL in steals per game for the third consecutive season, ranked fifth for scoring and ninth for assists per game. Whitcomb was one of three Perth Lynx players that ranked in the WNBL’s top 11 for scoring per game along with Williams – second with 21.3 points per game and Kunek – 11th with 14.0 points per game. Whitcomb made 68 of 181 three-pointers at an accuracy of 37.6% to lead the league in made three’s for the third consecutive WNBL season.
Sami Whitcomb shooting a free-throw for Perth Lynx against Townsville Fire at the State Basketball Centre on 26 November 2017
Perth Lynx Head Coach Andy Stewart was named the WNBL’s 2017/18 Coach of the Year. In the WNBL’s 2017/18 MVP Award Whitcomb polled 82 votes to finish fifth behind Batkovic (117 votes), Liz Cambage (104), Lynx team-mate Williams (95) and Asia Taylor (85). Whitcomb was selected in the 2017/18 WNBL All-Star Five along with all the top five vote getters in the MVP Award. Whitcomb finished runner-up in the WNBL’s 2017/18 Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year Award, polling 18 votes to finish seven votes behind Dandenong Rangers centre Kayla Pedersen.
Whitcomb commented on Perth’s 2017/18 season during The Derek Rucker Podcast – Sami Whitcomb ep 42, saying “It was fun, I remember that season we laughed so many times about for whatever reason our trademark was getting down by like 15 points, like we would get down every game and everyone thought it was over, not us, everybody else, every game we just came back. We stayed steady, we figured it out at halftime and we like 13 (officially 14) games in a row or whatever we got to, it might have been more than that. It was one of those years where it was just kind of bizarre because we were a bit unpredictable, we were up and down. I think we were exciting at the end of the day because we never quit and we had players like Court who is flashy, she’s cocky but like she’s good man, she’s good and fun to play with, she’s fun to watch. Alice, obviously the slasher that she is and everything she brings, her competitiveness. That was a fun season, obviously didn’t get the result that we wanted but always fun to compete with players like that.”
Sami Whitcomb playing for Perth Lynx against Townsville Fire at the State Basketball Centre on 26 November 2017
In early 2018 Whitcomb became an Australian citizen. On 30 May 2018 Perth Lynx announced that “Sami Whitcomb has informed the club that she will exercise the European out clause in her contract, and will not be returning to the club for the 2018/19 WNBL season.”11
Reflecting on her three seasons with Perth Lynx from 2015/16 to 2017/18 Whitcomb told wnbl.basketball “My time with the Lynx has been nothing short of transformative and fulfilling. The people, the organization, the community; it’s been a second family for me and I’m so grateful the Lynx organization took a risk on me and gave me an opportunity three years ago. Playing in the WNBL and for the Lynx has definitely changed my life. To the fans, I’ll certainly miss playing at the Bendat Basketball Centre in front of them. Their passion and commitment to the team and what we were trying to accomplish these last three years was so critical to our success and to my enjoyment. Thank you Lynx fans.”12
Playing in Europe from 2018/19 to 2020/21
During 2018/19 Whitcomb played for Lattes Montpellier in France. In a road game against Nantes on 13 January 2019 Whitcomb made five of 10 three-pointers at an accuracy of 50%, scored 26 points, took five rebounds and made four assists in a 102-75 victory. Against Charleville-Mezieres in a home game on 19 January Sami scored 22 points, took seven rebounds and made three assists. In 2018/19 Whitcomb played 22 regular season games for Montpellier and averaged 14.0 points. 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Whitcomb ranked second for Montpellier in scoring, rebounds and assists per game and led the team in steals. Montpellier finished runners-up in the French League Championship, losing in the final series to Lyon two games to three.
In Lattes Montpellier’s home game against Bourges on 30 November 2019 Whitcomb made 10 of 18 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 55.6%, five of eight three-pointers at 62.5%, scored a game-high 29 points, took four rebounds, made three assists and blocked one shot. Against St Arnaud in a home game on 29 February 2020 Whitcomb made six of 12 three-pointers, scored a game-high and season-high 30 points, took five rebounds and made two assists in Montpellier’s 85-74 victory. Montpellier qualified for EuroLeague quarter finals. Due to COVID-19 the season was paused in early March. Sami isolated alone in France for several weeks before the remainder of the 2019/20 season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Whitomb spoke about the 2020/21 season in France with Montpellier during The Derek Rucker Podcast – Sami Whitcomb Ep 42, commenting “This was my first year playing EuroLeague so that was really, really exciting. I really enjoyed that experience. We just qualified for the quarter finals so that was really cool too. Everything started to get cancelled and suspended (due to COVID-19) right before we were headed to, I think it was 2am the day we were supposed to catch a flight to Russia and we got the group message alert ‘Hey we are not going’, we risk being quarantined in Russia for two weeks if we get off the plane and anybody had like a fever, they were going to take everyone’s temperature on the plane. They just decided it wasn’t worth that risk so we didn’t go. Then everything started to escalate quickly from there, every day it was something new, something different. We had a very good team, we were getting a few players back from injury that were really critical to how well we played. It’s disappointing that we didn’t get a chance to finish it out and see how we would go. It was a fun season with a really great group and I am happy I got that opportunity.”
In relation to quarantining in Montpellier Whitcomb told The Derek Rucker Podcast “I was relatively quarantined there. They had pretty strict rules that we had to follow and the police were out sort of enforcing them so that was interesting. We had to stay inside our homes with the exception of we could go to the grocery store, we could go to the pharmacy and we could exercise but you weren’t supposed to be out for more than an hour at a time, you had to have your ID with you at all times and a note in French explaining why you were out, when you left, it was pretty intense. For the most part I was by myself in my apartment. The fact that I could go outside and it was beautiful weather at the time helped alleviate some of the stress and that feeling of being stuck inside. I want to say I was in that for three weeks, so coming from that to two weeks being stuck in a room (quarantining in Perth) has been an experience for sure.”
Late in the 2020/21 season Whitcomb had a short stint playing for Galatasaray in Turkey. Whitcomb played six games for Galatasaray in the Turkish Women’s Super League and two EuroLeague games. In a EuroLeague quarter final game against Fenerbahce on 17 March Whitcomb made four of nine three-pointers at an accuracy of 44.4%, scored 17 points and made a game-high four steals.
For the 2021/22 season Whitcomb signed with French club ESB Villeneuve-d’Ascq but after a change in family circumstances opted out to be in Perth with wife Kate and son Nash.
WNBA training camp with Seattle in 2017 and debut WNBA season
Seven years after going undrafted at the 2010 WNBA draft Whitcomb attended her second WNBA training camp with Seattle Storm in 2017. In February 2017 Whitcomb told The Sydney Morning Herald journalist Roy Ward “It’s a dream move. When (agent) Sammy Wloszczowski told me Seattle were interested I wanted to laugh, I couldn’t believe it. I’m so fortunate to be given this opportunity but it’s kind of crazy for me at the same time – I’ll believe it completely once I’m in training camp.”13
Whitcomb spoke in depth during The Smart Athlete – Episode #4 with Sami Whitcomb about her experience at Seattle Storm’s 2017 WNBA training camp, commenting “I did a bunch of things to try and get ready. My little pre-season that I had leading into that try-out as well was the hardest that I felt like I had ever worked, I was in as good a shape and as prepared as I could be which is important for me. My confidence really comes from my preparation, I am not really a confident person naturally, I am not one of those people that thinks ‘I’m amazing’, I very much get any kind of confidence that I have through reps and prep and all of that. It was really important to me to have my best preparation so I felt really good going into it because I knew my confidence would be tested and it was. Once camp started Kate actually had to go back because she is a teacher, so she was there for her school holidays break. She literally left the day before the camp started which was fine because it meant that I could lock in.”
“I was playing really well and doing really well in everything until the camp started and I was so nervous. I was working really hard and doing all of those things but I wanted it too much. I literally had the coach pull me aside on day 4 and said ‘There is such a thing as wanting in too much. I know you want it, you are working harder than anybody but it is almost working against you now.’ That conversation was kind of the fork in the road for me because it was like how do I handle this. She has basically just told me that I have played myself off the roster. I was just like I have come here, I have worked so hard, I am not going to let ‘trying too hard’ be the reason I don’t make it, like that’s just the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. After that I just kind of settled in I think and stopped stressing. It is hard to pinpoint how I did that other than I think I just had this moment because I had already had that moment of hey it has gone wrong. Because that’s what you fear is right when you go into these things, you are going to mess up or do something wrong or it is not going to go as perfectly planned and it already had so it can’t get any worse in terms of that. That was like my exhale moment of let’s put that over and move on and see if we can get something out of this now. How can I make the most of this, if I don’t end up making this team I want to make this a learning experience for the next time. It wasn’t like I had given up on making this team, I really wanted to make this team but I think I changed my mentality from this being all or nothing and my only opportunity to ever make a team again to if I don’t make this team this can catapult me into the next opportunity. So maybe changing that and taking a little bit of pressure off really allowed me to just play and have fun. I made it to the last cut and on the last day she called me and told me I had made the team and it was like wildest moment ever.”
Seattle’s full-strength starting line-up in 2017 was Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd in the back-court along with Alysha Clark, Breanna Stewart and Crystal Langhorne in the front-court. Whitcomb was a member of Seattle’s core rotation playing off the bench. Jenny Boucek was in her third season as the Head Coach of Seattle Storm.
At 28 years of age Whitcomb made her WNBA debut for Seattle Storm in a road game against Los Angeles Sparks on 13 May 2017. On debut Whitcomb scored three points and took three rebounds in a 68-78 loss.
After playing a total of eight minutes in Seattle’s first three games of 2017 including not playing at all in the club’s second game Whitcomb made a massive impact in the second half of the Storm’s fourth game of the season. With Seattle trailing New York Liberty 53-63 with one minute and 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter of a home game on 26 May 2017 Whitcomb made a three from the left corner to reduce New York’s lead to seven points. Less than 30 seconds later Whitcomb made a three pointer from the right wing and then followed up with another three from a similar position just before the three-quarter time buzzer to make three three-pointers in the last 90 seconds of the third quarter. 28 seconds into the last quarter Whitcomb made a three from the right corner. Whitcomb made her fifth three pointer of the second half from the top of the three-point line to give Seattle a 76-74 lead with seven minutes and five seconds to play. With 56 seconds remaining Whitcomb added the exclamation mark on her brilliant performance, making a shot from the right wing a metre behind the three-point line to give Seattle an 85-81 lead, Seattle went on to defeat New York 87-81.
Whitcomb made six three-pointers in the second half against New York to tie the record for most three-pointers in a half in a WNBA game. Whitcomb finished the game with a team-high 22 points, made six of eight three-pointers at an accuracy of 75%, made all four free-throws, took four rebounds and had one steal in a match winning performance playing just 14 minutes court-time in Seattle’s victory. After the game Whitcomb commented “I was just trying to stay ready in case they need me. Those first three games were a learning curve and trying to gather as much information as I could. I trained as much as I can, so I’m more comfortable each game. Nothing was really going right. Coming off the bench when we’re down, it’s less of a pressure situation. No one is really expecting much from me. So I just tried to make plays.”14
On Whitcomb’s phenomenal shooting exhibition Seattle point guard Bird commented “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a game. I’ve never seen that on a floor that I’ve been on. Ever. And I’ve played with some pretty good people, too.”15
On the road against the Las Vegas Aces on 5 August Whitcomb scored 11 points shooting at 50% from the field, took five rebounds and made four assists in a 87-80 loss.
Seattle Storm had 15 wins and 19 losses during the 2017 regular season and finished eighth in the league. In a first round single elimination game Seattle lost to Phoenix Mercury 69-79. During the 2017 regular season Whitcomb played 33 games and averaged 4.5 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 12.2 minutes per game. Whitcomb made 34 of 102 three-pointers at an accuracy of 33.3 during the 2017 regular season and ranked 25th in the WNBA for three-pointers made.
During a Perth Lynx press conference on 29 September 2017 Whitcomb commented on her debut WNBA season with Seattle “It was pretty special, pretty incredible being surrounded by the best players in the world. It is hard to not feel like you are getting better or at least learning so much from them, just daily getting to train with people like Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart. Compete against them and then you get on the court, even for limited minutes the pressure is always on when you are coming on for players like that to keep up the intensity.”
Whitcomb plays in Seattle Storm’s 2018 WNBA Championship winning team
On 1 February 2018 Seattle Storm announced that Whitcomb had signed a multi-year deal with the franchise. Whitcomb commented “I am so incredibly thrilled for the opportunity to return to the Storm. The city of Seattle and its phenomenal sports community has been home to me ever since my UW days. It’s a dream to be back on a multi-year deal with the best teammates and the best organization.”16
Seattle Storm President & GM Alisha Valavanis told storm.wnba.com “Sami is an explosive player on both ends of the floor. Her ability to score in bunches, combined with her energy and ability to mix it up on the defensive-end makes her a special player. We are excited to watch her WNBA career continue to develop.”17
During the 2018 regular season Seattle’s usual starting line-up was Bird, Loyd, Clark, Stewart and Natasha Howard, all five starters played at least 30 games for the season. Dan Hughes was in his first season as the Head Coach of Seattle in 2018 and had vast experience as a basketball coach including 11 seasons as the Head Coach of WNBA club San Antonio Stars in two stints between 2005 and 2016.
Whitcomb played off the bench for Seattle and in the first two months of the 2018 season only played more than 10 minutes in a game twice. On June 24 in a road game against Dallas Wings Whitcomb made four oof eight three-pointers at 50%, scored 12 points took three rebounds, and made two assists in 15 minutes court-time in a 97-76 victory.
Seattle had 26 wins and eight losses during the 2018 regular season to record the best record in the WNBA. Seattle received a bye to the semi finals. The home side won the first four games of the semi final series with Seattle winning games 1 and 2 at KeyArena and Phoenix winning games 3 and 4 at Talking Stick Arena. In game 5 at home at KeyArena Whitcomb made two of three pointers at an accuracy of 66.7%, scored 11 points, took three rebounds and made four assists in the Storm’s 94-84 victory to progress to the 2018 WNBA Finals.
The third seeded Washington Mystix rebounded after trailing second seeds Atlanta Dream one game to two in their semi final series to win games 4 and 5 to make the WNBA Finals. Washington had 22 wins and 12 losses during the 2018 regular season. Seattle defeated Washington 89-76 in game 1 at KeyArena. In game 2 at KeyArena Whitcomb made two of three field goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7% and scored seven points in Seattle’s 75-73 win. Seattle Storm defeated Washington 98-82 in game three at Eagle Bank Arena to win the 2018 WNBA Championship, the third title in Seattle’s history, having previously won in 2004 and 2010. Bird is the only player that played in each of Seattle’s first three championships in 2004, 2010 and 2018. Australia’s greatest ever basketball player, forward/centre Lauren Jackson played her entire WNBA career with Seattle from 2001 to 2012. Jackson played in the Storm’s first two WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010 alongside Bird and won the 2010 WNBA Finals MVP Award. Whitcomb and Jackson were teammates on the Australian Opals team that won a bronze medal at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney.
During the 2018 regular season Whitcomb played 31 games and averaged 2.9 points and 8.5 minutes per game. Whitcomb played at least five minutes court-time in all three games in the WNBA Finals. During the playoffs Whitcomb played six of Seattle’s eight games and averaged 6.2 points and 12.5 minutes per game to rank sixth for Seattle in scoring per game and seventh for court-time. All five starters averaged more than 28.0 minutes per game in the playoffs. Whitcomb was one of three players off the bench that averaged more than 10.0 minutes per game in the playoffs along with Jordin Canada (13.6 minutes) and Crystal Langhorne (10.4).
Reflecting on Seattle’s 2018 WNBA Championship winning season and her role Whitcomb commented in The Derek Rucker Podcast – Sami Whitcomb ep 42 published on 20 April 2020 “It was kind of this magical year where everything kind of came together. Stewie was MVP and incredible all year, Sue was amazing. We had so many important people that really played a large role that whole season. It was really fun to be a part of that whole year. All of our starters basically are All-Stars, they are all really fantastic players so if they’re playing well unfortunately it sometimes meant that we are not going to get as much of a go even if we are going OK. It is important to be mentally tough, you have to really just accept the role and the situation that it is. You have to be willing to work hard every single day and not because you know that someone is seeing and you are always going to get rewarded but because you know that you have to stay ready because you just don’t know when you are going to get an opportunity, you literally don’t know. There were games where I wouldn’t play in the first half and then you would get thrown in the end of the third and you have to be ready, there is no excuse.”
“I am so lucky to play with the people that I play with. It is hard to come off the bench, particularly if 1 you are not used to it and 2 if it is just for a few minutes at a time or different stages of games. But when you are playing with Sue and Stew and some of those amazing players that I get to play with I was the one that people would leave open, I was the one that people helped off of and that people leave. Sue finds you, they find you so they make it a lot easier, is what I will say about that. They do a really fantastic job of creating, Sue knows the plays that we like as shooters, she knows how to get us open, how to use us when we are out there. As much as it is tough and you want to play more and you want to be out there it is really nice to know that when you do get out there your team believes in you and they try and find you, they try to utilise you in the best way obviously that is going to help the team. I think that was a really important understanding that I got in that second season (2018), I felt that shift of belief that they had in me and respect that they had for me. In that when I did come in it wasn’t like she’s just in there to fill minutes or for someone to get a break. I really felt like they trusted me and were trying to find me, there’s a lot of power in that and that gave me a lot of confidence to do my thing kind of even if was for two minutes. I was going to go in and give them my best two minutes and I was fine with that, honestly and I think that is why by the end of the year come finals I ended up getting kind of a larger role and was rewarded and I felt ready for it in the moment.”
Playing for Seattle Whitcomb ranked 7th in the WNBA for made 3’s during the 2019 regular season
Stewart and Bird each missed the entire 2019 WNBA season with an Achilles injury and knee injury respectively. In most games throughout the 2019 regular season Seattle’s starting line-up was Loyd, Clark, Howard, Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell. Whitcomb was the only other Seattle Storm player to start at least five games for the season, starting 13 of the 33 regular season games that she played.
Whitcomb had the first start of her WNBA career in Seattle’s home game against Chicago on 28 June 2019, scoring nine points and taking two rebounds in 28 minutes court-time in a 79-76 Storm victory. In the following game hosting Phoenix Mercury on 30 June Whitcomb scored a team-high 13 points, took six rebounds, made a game-high five assists, had one steal and one blocked shot in a 67-69 loss.
On the road against Minnesota on 17 July Whitcomb made five of 11 three-pointers at an accuracy of 45.5%, scored 15 points, took two rebounds, had a team-high and new career-high eight assists, made two steals and blocked one shot in a 90-79 win.
In a road game against New York Liberty on 11 August Whitcomb made seven of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63.6%, made four of six three-pointers at 66.7%, scored 18 points, took two rebounds and made four assists in Seattle’s 84-69 victory.
Seattle had 18 games and 16 losses during the 2019 regular season and finished sixth in the WNBA. Seattle defeated Minnesota Lynx 84-74 in a single round elimination game. In a second round elimination game Seattle lost to Los Angeles Sparks 69-92. Whitcomb’s 63 three-pointers made in the regular season ranked seventh overall in the WNBA. Chicago Sky shooting guard Allie Quigley led the league in this category with 80 made three-pointers. During the 2019 regular season Whitcomb averaged 7.2 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals and 20.4 minutes court-time per game. Sami led Seattle with 1.9 three-pointers made per game, ranked third for assists, equal fourth for steals and sixth for scoring and minutes played.
Whitcomb is a member of Seattle Storm’s 2020 WNBA Championship winning team
Due to COVID-19 the entire 2020 WNBA season was played in a hub at IMG Academy in Florida and fans were unable to attend games. The regular season was shorter than usual with each club playing 22 regular season games. 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.
At the 2019 WNBA Draft Seattle Storm selected Australian power forward/centre Ezi Magbegor with pick 12. Magbegor was 19 years old when drafted and spent another year in Australia developing her game before joining Seattle for the 2020 season. Whitcomb and Magbegor had been teammates on Australia’s silver medal winning team at the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Tenerife, Spain.
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. The other players on Seattle’s 12 player roster for the 2020 WNBA season were Whitcomb, Magbegor, Russell, Canada, Epiphanny Prince, Morgan Tuck and Crystal Langhorne.
On 11 August 2020 against Chicago Sky Whitcomb made six of nine field-goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7%, made all three three-pointers and both free-throws, took three rebounds, made six assists, an equal game-high four steals and blocked an equal game-high two shots in Seattle’s 89-71 win.
Against Atlanta Dream on 13 August Whitcomb made six three-pointers in the second half to tie the record for most three pointers in a WNBA half for the second time in her career in a 100-63 victory at the IMG Academy in Florida. Whitcomb made six of nine three-pointers at an accuracy of 66.7%, made both free throw attempts, tied her career-best for three-pointers made in a game and scored an equal game-high 20 points along with teammate Loyd.
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 fourth seeded 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. Whilst in hotel quarantine in Sydney Whitcomb told sbs.com.au “We made that call, it wasn’t really a call more of how do we do this. I wasn’t going to risk missing it or with things changing every day, every week if I didn’t take the flights now and something else happened. It was incredibly stressful and if it was that stressful for me I can only imagine how stressful it was for Kate. She’s sacrificed so much for me to participate in the WNBA season at all, she’s been so strong and done so much alone as it was, so it was important to me to make sure she knew that her and the baby are No.1.”18 Before returning to Kate in Perth Sami was required to do two weeks quarantine in Sydney and then another two weeks quarantine in Perth.
Number one seeds Las Vegas Aces trailed number 7 seeds Connecticut Sun one game to two in the WNBA semi finals. Las Vegas won game 4 by nine points and defeated Connecticut by three points in game 5 to make the Finals. In the 2020 WNBA Finals Seattle Storm swept the series, defeating Las Vegas Aces 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.
Whitcomb played all 22 regular season games off the bench for Seattle in 2020 and averaged 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 16.5 minutes per game. Whitcomb had a three-point accuracy of 38.1% to set a new WNBA career-high.
Whilst Whitcomb was in quarantine after the 2020 WNBA season she commented during The Smart Athlete – Episode #4 with Sami Whitcomb “Trying to survive double quarantine as well which has been difficult in itself. Now that I am here and the games (WNBA Finals) were happening and I could watch that was probably the hardest part really. It was amazing seeing them win. It was amazing still trying to be a part of it through the group chats and calls and did some videos with them. At the end of the day I wasn’t there, I didn’t get to celebrate with that trophy and all that stuff so that was difficult but I am happy with my decision, I know I made the right one and pretty soon I will be home and I will get to meet baby boy and that will be worth it.”
Whitcomb played 119 games in four seasons for Seattle from 2017 to 2020 and had a three-point accuracy above 33.0% in each season.
Playing for New York Whitcomb ranked 2nd in the WNBA for made 3’s during the 2021 regular season
Seattle Storm traded Sami Whitcomb to New York Liberty on 10 February 2021 in exchange for player rights to Australian Opals teammate Steph Talbot. New York Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb told liberty.wnba.com “Sami Whitcomb will be an instant fan favorite, not only for her elite shot making ability, but also for her tenacity and drive. A two-time champion in her own right, Sami knows what it takes to win in this league, and is exactly the kind of tough, talented, culture-first player we covet in New York.”19
On changing WNBA clubs Whitcomb commented on the 21 February 2022 episode of The Basketball Show “It was a really tough decision to leave Seattle, I love that organisation, I love the team, obviously had been a part of success there. So I think that is always difficult to walk away from but for me, I wanted to really challenge myself and just see what my ceiling was and see how good I could be in the WNBA and I think that opportunity was just scarce in Seattle because of how good and experienced that group was. Stepping away was important for me to really develop and grow and see what kind of opportunity I could get and New York was just a really perfect fit for that. I handled the ball a little more, played a little bit more in that point guard role but I think it was just a case of got to be on court a little bit more and I think the more that you do that the more confidence you get so it was a really, really exciting and fun year and I’m really excited to kind of grow on that and continue to develop with this group this year.”
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. At New York Liberty in 2021 Whitcomb played alongside fellow Opal Bec Allen. Whitcomb started the majority of games for New York and was one of four Liberty players to have at least 26 starts for the season along with Sabrina Ionescu, former Perth Lynx teammate Betnijah Laney and Michaela Onyenwere. Another three New York players had between 13 and 19 starts for the season – Kylee Shook, Bec Allen and Natasha Howard. Walt Hopkins was in his second season as New York Liberty’s Head Coach.
On the road against Atlanta Dream on 27 June Whitcomb made 10 of 16 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 62.5%, made seven of 12 three-pointers at 58.3%, made all three free-throws, scored a game-high and new career-high 30 points, took six rebounds, made five assists and a team-high three steals in New York’s 101-78 victory.
Against Dallas Wings on 6 July Whitcomb 10 of 16 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 62.5%, made six of 11 three-pointers at 54.5%, scored a game-high 26 points, took seven rebounds, made four assists and an equal game-high three steals in Liberty’s 99-96 victory.
In a home game against former team Seattle Storm on 21 August Whitcomb made eight of 15 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 53.3%, made five of nine three-pointers and all five free-throws to score a team-high 26 points. In the 83-99 loss Whitcomb also took five rebounds and had a game-high eight assists.
New York finished eighth at the end of the 2021 regular season with 12 wins and 20 losses. In a first round single elimination game New York lost a thriller to Phoenix Mercury 82-83. During the 2021 WNBA season Whitcomb played 30 games for New York Liberty including 28 as a starter and averaged 11.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 28.1 minutes per game to set career-highs in all four categories. “Sami finished No. 2 in the WNBA in three-point field goals made on the season (76), which also ranked third most all-time in Liberty history.”20 Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale led the WNBA during the 2021 regular season with 8- three-pointers made four ahead of Whitcomb who played two less regular season games. In 2021 Whitcomb made 76 of 179 three-pointers at a WNBA career best accuracy of 42.5% and also shot at a career-high 47.3% from the field. Whitcomb ranked equal third at New York in scoring per game, third for assists, rebounds, steals and minutes. Among players that made at least 15 three-pointers during the 2021 regular season Whitcomb’s three-point accuracy of 42.5% ranked fourth in the WNBA behind Epiphanny Prince (50.0%), Moriah Jefferson (46.0%) and Quigley (45.4%).
Playing for New York in 2022 Whitcomb ranked in the WNBA’s top 20 for made 3’s for the fourth consecutive regular season
Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello was appointed New York Liberty’s head coach for the 2022 WNBA season. Brondello had been the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury from 2014 to 2021, 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.
During the 2022 WNBA regular season Whitcomb predominantly played off the bench for New York Liberty, starting six of her 35 games. Four New York players had more than 25 starts – Ionescu (36), Stefanie Dolson (36), Howard (35), Crystal Dangerfield (27). Whitcomb was one of nine players that had more than three starts for the season with other players in this category being Allen (19), Marina Johannes (10) Laney (6) and Jocelyn Willoghby (4), the latter is playing as an import for the Sydney Flames during the current 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season.
Against Connecticut Sun on 15 May 2022 Whitcomb made four of eight field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50%, made five of six free-throws, scored 15 points, took five rebounds, made five assists and a team-high three steals in New York’s 81-79 win.
In a 91-73 road victory against Dallas Wings on 11 August Whitcomb made five of eight field goal attempts at an accuracy of 62.5%, her only free-throw, scored a team-high 15 points, took four rebounds and made five assists.
New York Liberty had 16 wins and 20 losses during the 2022 regular season and finished seventh. In the first round of the playoffs New York upset second seed Chicago Sky 98-91 in game one. Chicago won the series two games to one, defeating New York by more than 17 points in both game 2 and game 3. Playing for New York Liberty in 2022 Whitcomb averaged 6.5 points, 2.3 rebounds. 2.3 assists and 21.3 minutes per regular season game. During the 2022 regular season Whitcomb made 59 of 168 three-pointers at an accuracy of 35.1%. For three-pointers made during the 2022 WNBA regular season Whitcomb ranked 14th in the league and second at New York behind Ionescu.
During a six season WNBA career Whitcomb has played 184 regular season games including 47 as a starter and has averaged 6.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists and 17.9 minutes per game. Sami has made 289 of 786 three-pointers at an accuracy of 36.8% and has had a three-point accuracy above 33.0% in each season. In five of her six WNBA regular seasons Whitcomb has ranked in the WNBA’s top 25 for three-pointers made including two seasons in the top 10.
Representing the Australian Opals
On 1 February 2018 Whitcomb became a naturalised Australian citizen at a ceremony in Perth. During the 8 April 2022 episode of The Brad and Boti Basketball Podcast Whitcomb commented “Obviously getting the citizenship that was beautiful in itself for so many reasons, I love Australia, Australia is my home, my wife is Australian, I very much felt Australian. I knew I was going to leave the States and be a wanderer and a traveller. To get citizenship in a place that really felt like home was amazing but then to have that lead to something really incredible in terms of my career in basketball was also really special.”
The day after getting Australian citizenship Whitcomb was a member of an Australian Opals squad that flew to Italy for a training camp in the lead up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Queensland in April. The Australian Opals Head Coach was Sandy Brondello. During an illustrious basketball career Brondello played as a shooting guard, in the WNBL, WNBA and represented the Australian Opals in 302 games including at four Olympic Games and four World Championships. Brondello 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. Brondello was appointed as the Australian Opals head coach on 18 April 2017.
As per Clause 20 a of the FIBA Internal Regulations Book 3 Players and Officials
“A national team participating in a Competition of FIBA may have only one player on its team who has acquired the legal nationality of that country by naturalisation or by any other means after having reached the age of sixteen (16), regardless of whether the additional nationality acquired is deemed effective at birth.”21
Whitcomb was one of three players at Australia’s February 2018 training camp in Italy along with Leilani Mitchell and Kelsey Griffin that were classified by FIBA as naturalised. Whitcomb missed out on selection for the 2018 Commonwealth Games with Griffin being selected. Mitchell had played for the Opals at the 2014 World Championships and 2016 Olympic Games.
On 1 August 2018 Whitcomb was included in the Australian Opals extended 20 player squad for the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Tenerife, Spain from 22 to 30 September. Whitcomb missed out on selection for the 12 player team with Leilani Mitchell being selected. Due to a lower limb injury Mitchell was a late withdrawal from the Opals World Cup team and was replaced by Whitcomb.
On the decision to replace the injured Mitchell with Whitcomb for the 2018 World Cup Opals Head Coach Sandy Brondello commented in the documentary video Opals Retrospective 2018 “Well obviously you are losing a point guard like Leilani so I was replacing her with a guard but knowing that Sami is a shooter and she is a specialist shooter, she does more than just shooting obviously, you have seen that. I just thought, well we have Liz inside so we need another perimeter threat so it was a no-brainer. Obviously Kelsey Griffin has done great things and she has represented the Opals so well but we already fives posts so I had to go with another guard and Sami I knew that she would fit in, she’s very passionate, she loves Australia and look she was so excited when she got the phone call that I needed her to step up.”
During Opals Retrospective 2018 Whitcomb commented “When Sandy called me it was really overwhelming honestly because it did sort of hit me out of the blue but it was really exciting. It was something that for the whole previous year I had hoped would happen. So it was really exciting to get that opportunity, and it still is something really exciting and it is something that I am really, really grateful for.”
On 12 September 2018 Whitcomb was a member of the Seattle Storm that defeated Washington Mystics in game 3 of the WNBA Finals on the road to win the WNBA Championship. Whitcomb flew back to Seattle, packed and caught a flight the next day to Tenerife, Spain for the World Cup. The rest of the Opals team had been in Tenerife for about a week.
Throughout the 2018 World Cup Australia’s starting line-up was Katie Ebzery, Bec Allen, Steph Talbot, Cayla George and Liz Cambage. Whitcomb was one of five players at their first major championship in the traditional five on five format of the game being along with Tess Madgen, Alex Bunton, Alanna Smith and Ezi Magbegor. Completing Australia’s bench was Jenna O’Hea and Whitcomb’s former Perth Lynx teammate Tessa Lavey. Due to a calf injury Opals captain O’Hea missed Australia’s three Group B games.
Whitcomb made her Australian Opals debut in the team’s opening game of the 2018 World Cup against Nigeria on 22 September. On debut Whitcomb made three of six field goals, scored eight points, took two rebounds, made two assists and one steal in the Opals 86-68 win.
Against Argentina in the Opals second game Whitcomb made five of 10 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50%, three of eight three-pointers, three of four free-throws, scored 16 points, took four rebounds, made a game-high five assists and one steal in Australia’s 84-43 victory, playing 19 minutes and 52 seconds off the bench.
The Opals won their three Group B games and quarter final against China to advance to the semi finals. Australia started their semi final against host nation Spain in front of a passionate crowd of 8,000 people in scintillating fashion to lead 21-6 with three minutes and 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Spain outscored Australia 52-29 in the next two and a bit quarters to lead 58-50 at three quarter time. The Opals fought back to level the scores at 64 points apiece with three minutes remaining in the game. George scored the next five points of the game to gain the ascendancy for the Opals, making two free-throws with two minutes and 56 seconds left followed by a corner three-pointer with 2 minutes and 12 seconds remaining to extend Australia’s lead to five points, 69-64. Australia won the semi final 72-66 after dominating the final quarter 22-8. In the Opals semi final victory Whitcomb scored five points and took three rebounds.
It was the first time that the Opals had progressed to a gold medal game at a major championship since they played America in the final at the 2008 Olympic Games, 10 years later USA would again be the Opals opponents. For Whitcomb it was unusual experience in her first tournament for the Opals to play USA in the final, the country that she was born and grew up in. In the gold medal game on 30 September Australia trailed USA 27-35 at half-time. USA dominated the third quarter 26-11 and defeated Australia 73-56, resulting in the USA winning the gold medal and Australia receiving the silver medal. Whitcomb scored three points, took six rebounds and made three assists in the final.
As a member of the Opals silver medal winning team at the 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Spain Whitcomb played all six games and averaged 8.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 19.8 minutes per game. Whitcomb ranked third for the Opals in scoring per game behind Cambage (23.8 points per game) and Allen (8.8), equal second for steals, equal fourth for assists, equal fifth for rebounds and sixth for minutes played.
The Tokyo Olympics were postponed for 52 weeks due to COVID-19 and commenced on 23 July, 2021. Whitcomb was part of the Opals extended 23 player squad for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and was left out of the final 12 player team with Mitchell being preferred for the restricted player spot and having the role of starting point guard.
The Opals had a disrupted lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics with starting centre Cambage being involved in some incidents during a pre-Olympics game against Nigeria. Cambage withdrew from the Opals team on 15 July 2021, citing mental health concerns. The Opals lost their first two Group C games of the Olympics against Belgium and China. In their third and final Group C game Australia defeated Puerto Rico by 27 points, 96-69 and advanced to the quarter finals. Australia were defeated by USA 55-79 in a quarter final.
Just two months after the Olympic Games Australia had their next international tournament, the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup held in Amman, Jordan from 27 September to 3 October. Australia had an inexperienced team with none of the members of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games team playing. Whitcomb was selected in Australia’s 2021 FIBA Asia Cup team and was also named the Opals captain. Whitcomb, Darcee Garbin and Lauren Nicholson were the only three members of the team with previous experience representing the Opals. Garbin and Nicholson had both been members of Australia’s bronze medal winning team at the previous Asia Cup held in India in late-September 2019. Nine members of the team made their Australian Opals debut at the 2021 Asia Cup. With Australian Opals Head Coach Sandy Brondello unavailable for the tournament due to commitments in the WNBA with Phoenix Mercury, Opals Assistant Coach Paul Goriss took over as the Head Coach for the 2021 Asia Cup.
After Whitcomb’s 2021 WNBA season with New York Liberty concluded she caught a 12 hour flight and arrived in Jordan less than 24 hours before the Opals 2021 Asia Cup commenced. In the Opals opening game Whitcomb made four of nine field goal attempts, three of five three-pointers at an accuracy of 60%, scored 13 points – ranked second for the Opals behind Garbin with 15 points, took six rebounds and made a game-high 11 assists in Australia’s 76-65 victory.
Australia won their second game against Philippines 120-56 with Whitcomb having a game-high seven assists. Against China in Australia’s third and final group game Whitcomb scored a game-high 24 points, took seven rebounds and had an equal game-high five assists in Australia’s 64-82 loss. The Opals finished second in Group B with two wins and one loss, behind China who won all three games.
The top team from Group A and Group B advanced to the semi finals. The second ranked team from each group played the third ranked team from the other group to determine the other two nations in the semi finals. In Australia’s qualification semi final game against New Zealand Whitcomb made four of seven three-pointers at an accuracy of 57.1%, scored a game-high 29 points, took an equal game-high seven rebounds, made an equal game-high six assists and a team-high two steals in the Opals 72-61 victory.
After leading Japan 55-53 at three quarter time of their semi final the Opals were outscored 10-14 in the final quarter to be defeated 65-67. In the semi final Whitcomb made four of seven three-pointers, scored a team-high 16 points, took seven rebounds, made a team-high eight assists and an equal game-high three steals.
An Opals 23-10 second quarter against Korea in the third place game set up an Australian 88-58 victory to win the bronze medal. Whitcomb played an outstanding game to make four three-pointers, three of three free-throws, scored a team-high 15 points, took a game-high nine rebounds, had a game-high eight assists and one steal. In the gold medal Japan defeated China 71-68.
After the Opals victory against Korea in the bronze medal game Whitcomb commented “It was a tough loss against Japan, and it’s easy in those moments to carry that in the next game but we didn’t come here to come this far, to lose in a medal game, so I was really proud of the response and the effort top to bottom, it was really fun to watch.”22
Whitcomb played all six games for Australia, averaged 17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 28.3 minutes per game. In each game of the 2021 Asia Cup Whitcomb led the Opals in at least one of the three major statistical categories of points, rebounds and assists including three games in which she led Australia in all three categories, the final group game against China, the semi final classification game against New Zealand and the bronze medal game against Korea, which highlights Whitcomb’s sustained excellence throughout the tournament. Whitcomb ranked first overall at the tournament for scoring per game, second in assists, sixth for steals, seventh in rebounds and was selected in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup All-Star Five.
At the FIBA 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in in Belgrade, Serbia from February 10 to 13 (Serbian time) Whitcomb was the Australian Opals captain for the second consecutive tournament. Whitcomb told Australia.basketball “I’m honoured to have been selected to lead this team once again. We have a really special group so a huge year ahead of us. There’s a rich history of being an Opal, there’s a sisterhood there and that’s something that we’ve really tried to highlight again. It’s really important to this group and means a lot for so many.”23 As the hosts of the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Sydney from 22 September to 1 October Australia automatically qualified but were able to gain valuable experience against world class opposition at the World Cup Qualifying Tournament.
Australia’s starting line-up for the opening game of the tournament was Whitcomb, Bec Allen, Steph Talbot, Alanna Smith and Cayla George. In Australia’s second game against Serbia Whitcomb made seven of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63.6%, three of five three-pointers at 60% and made an equal game-high six assists in the Opals 71-78 loss.
Australia won two of their three games for the tournament, defeating Brazil 65-52 in their first game and had a 79-61 victory against Korea in their third and final game. At the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament Whitcomb played all three games for the Opals and averaged 13.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 28.7 minutes per game. Whitcomb led the Opals in scoring, assists and minutes played and ranked second for steals behind Bec Allen.
In the lead up to the 2022 World Cup the Opals had several training camps in Australia and a three game friendly series against Japan held in New South Wales. Due to overseas commitments in the WNBA or Europe several players including Whitcomb were unable to attend these camps and play in the friendly series against Japan.
On 29 June 2022 Basketball Australia announced that the Australian Opals 2022 leadership group was comprised of three players – Whitcomb, Tess Madgen and Steph Talbot. A 15 player Australian Opals training camp held in New York in July included five WNBA players – Whitcomb and Bec Allen (both New York Liberty), Steph Talbot and Ezi Magbegor (both Seattle Storm) and Kristy Wallace (Atlanta Dream). During the camp the Opals won two practice games against Canada but WNBA players Whitcomb, Talbot, Magbegor and Wallace were unable to play in the practice games due to their WNBA schedules.
Whitcomb was one of six members of Australia’s silver medal winning team from the 2018 World Cup held in Spain along with Tess Madgen, Cayla George, Steph Talbot, Bec Allen and Ezi Magbegor that was a member of the Seven Consulting Opals team for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup held in Sydney from 22 September to 1 October. Three other members of Australia’s 2022 World Cup had played for the Opals at a major championship – Marianna Tolo, Sara Blicavs and Lauren Jackson who was making her ninth appearance at a major championship, having been a member of the first three Opals teams to win World Cup medals in 1998, 2002 and 2006. The three members of the Opals team that made their major championship debut in Sydney were Kristy Wallace, Darcee Garbin and 2021/22 WNBL Most Valuable Player Anneli Maley.
Australia were hosting the FIBA Women’s World Cup for the second time in 2022, having previously hosted in 1994 when the tournament’s official name was 1994 FIBA World Championship for Women and was also known as OZ 94.
Eight of the top 10 ranked nations in the world were among the 12 nations competing at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup with the 12 nations split into two groups of six teams. Group B was quickly labelled the ‘Group of death’ after five of the top 10 nations in the world, Australia (3), Canada (4), France (6), Japan (8) and Serbia (10) were all drawn into this group. With a world ranking of 37 Mali were the underdogs of Group B. In the first six days of the World Cup from Thursday 22 September to Tuesday 28 September each nation played five games comprised of one game against each of the other five nations in their group. All of the Seven Consulting Opals games were played at the Sydney SuperDome (also known as Qudos Bank Arena).
In Australia’s opening game of the tournament against France on Thursday 22 September Whitcomb was the Opals starting point guard and was joined in the starting line-up by Allen, Talbot, George and Magbegor. After trailing France by five points at three-quarter the Opals were outscored in the final term 10-18 and lost to France 57-70.
The Opals won their next two games, defeating Mali 118-58 and Serbia 69-54. The win against Serbia came at a cost with starter Allen suffering an injury to her ribs in the last quarter which forced her to miss the Opals final two Group B games. During the group phase Allen led the Opals with 13.3 points per game.
With four minutes left in the second term against Canada the Opals trailed by 14 points, 19-33. The Opals with Whitcomb, Madgen, Talbot, Garbin and Magbegor on the court went on a phenomenal 19-0 run to end the half to lead 38-33 at half-time. Australia defeated Canada 75-72 to advance to the quarter finals. Whitcomb made four of nine three-pointers at an accuracy of 44.4%, scored 15 points – ranked second for the Opals behind Magbegor with 16, took two rebounds, made six assists and made a game-high four steals.
After losing their opening game to France, Australia had three consecutive wins to have the same win-loss record as Canada and France with one more day of group play remaining on Tuesday 27 September. If Australia, Canada and France all finished Group B tied on four wins and one loss, the points difference in the head to head games between these three nations would determine their positions, resulting in Canada finishing first, France second and Australia third.
In the first Group B game on Tuesday 27 September Canada defeated Mali 88-65 to secure a top two finish in the group. Australia got the result they wanted in the second Group B game at the Sydney SuperDome with Serbia defeating France 68-62. If Australia defeated Japan in their final Group B game they would finish on top of Group A but if they lost to Japan they would finish third, resulting in a quarter final game against one of the top two teams from Group A, the undefeated USA or China who’s only loss was to USA. Belgium finished third in Group A with three wins followed by Puerto Rico in fourth place with two wins. Korea with one win and Bosinia and Herzegovina with no wins were both knocked out of the competition at the end of the group phase.
With their speed and three-point shooting Japan had posed match-up problems for Australia in recent years, having defeated the Opals in three consecutive Asia Cups in 2017, 2019 and 2021. Japan won the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics but had been unable to recapture that form at the 2022 World Cup and regardless of the result against the Opals would not advance to the quarter finals.
In the Opals final Group B game against Japan Australia had their fourth different starting line-up in their five group games with only Whitcomb and Talbot being starters for every game. Other starters against Japan were Blicavs, Magbegor and Talbot. The Seven Consulting Opals kept this starting line-up for the rest of the tournament. Australia led Japan by two points at half-time, 36-34. The Opals outscored Japan 20-9 in the third quarter to set-up a 71-54 victory. Whitcomb made four of seven three-pointers at an accuracy of 57.1%, scored a game-high 15 points, took two rebounds, made three assists and an equal game-high two steals.
Australia had four wins and one loss to finish on top of Group B ahead of Canada who had the same win-loss record. The Opals won the tie-breaker due to defeating Canada by three points in the head- to-head match between the two nations. Serbia and France were third and fourth respectively in Group B with three wins each, ahead of Japan with one win and Mali with no wins. The top four teams in each Group advanced to the quarter finals.
After playing five games in six days all eight nations remaining in the tournament had a rest day on Wednesday 28 September before playing their quarter final on Thursday 29 September. Australia’s quarter-final was against Belgium in the fourth and final game of the day.
Belgian power forward Emma Messeman suffered a calf injury in her nation’s fourth group game which ended her tournament. Messeman was selected in the All-Star five at the 2018 World Cup and scored 32 points in Belgium’s victory against Australia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games. In their quarter final at the 2022 World Cup Australia led Belgium 26-16 at quarter time and went on to win 86-69 to progress to the semi finals.
At the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Australia played China in a semi final, just as they had in 1994 when China defeated host nation Australia 66-65. The 2022 semi final at the Sydney Superdome between China and Australia was an intense battle in front of 11,916 fans. Whilst there was plenty of crowd support for host nation Australia, China had a vocal fan base in the stadium as well.
With eight minutes remaining in the second quarter the Opals led China 23-20. China went on a 16-7 run for the rest of the second quarter led by seven points from centre Han Xu to lead Australia 36-30 at half-time. The Seven Consulting Opals reduced the margin to three points, 44-47 at three quarter time. The Opals led China 59-57 with one minute and 50 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. China scored the final four points of the game to defeat Australia 61-59.
On the day of the Opals bronze medal game against Canada Lauren Jackson announced that it would be her last game representing the Australian Opals. After Australia led Canada 51-43 at half-time the Opals dominated the second half 44-22 to have a 95-65 victory and win the bronze medal. During the bronze medal game against Canada Jackson put on an exhibition to score a phenomenal game-high 30 points.
At the World Cup Whitcomb played all eight games and averaged 11.0 points, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 27.6 minutes court-time per game. Whitcomb led the Opals in scoring, ranked equal first for steals and second for assists and minutes played.
Reflecting on the World Cup after returning to Perth Whitcomb told WNBL Media “I’m probably still coming down from all the worlds stuff but it’s been really nice to be back home. My immediate reflections just from coming home and being away from it was just how incredible and special it was to be part of it. I got to share all of that with my family and even just close family and friends who were able to come. I really loved that group we had too and that’s one of the things I’ve thought about the most being away from them is what a special bond we had. We ended up spending about 30 days together in total so that was a lot, but it was a really enjoyable group and people keep asking me how I’m feeling and you come away from something like that which you’ve been working on for so long feeling like you were part of something special. Obviously you always want gold, but to medal was our ultimate goal so to come away from that and having accomplished that is a really fantastic feeling. For the moment I’m still in that period of thinking I can’t believe we did and being so proud and relieved that we did. It was really fantastic that we were able to do it in front of so many people.”24
Between the World Cup and the start of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season Whitcomb had a short vacation with wife Kate and son Nash in Bali. During the 23 November 2022 episode of the ESPN TV program The Jump Australia Whitcomb commented on how she felt physically after the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup, saying “I was wrecked, I was absolutely wrecked and I did need like 10 days to really recover. You find things to do still as you are a professional to keep your body engaged and physically doing things even if it is pilates, yoga, whatever that looks like but I have never been as wrecked as I was after that tournament. As I continue to get older I feel very fortunate that I still get to play this game at a high level. I love it, I am passionate about it but I know there are a lot of people who are as well that aren’t able to, I really am grateful.”
Playing for Perth Lynx in the 2021/22 WNBL season Whitcomb ranked in the league’s top five for steals and three-pointers made
On Christmas Day, 25 December 2021 Perth Lynx announced that Whitcomb had signed with the club for the 2021/22 WNBL season. Perth Lynx Head Coach Ryan Petrik told WNBL Media “Like everyone else, we thought we’d lost her to Europe. So when she calls and tells you she is coming home, it’s a pretty quick pivot into making that happen. The gravity Sam will provide our offense alongside Marina and Jackie is obviously world class; but it’s also her leadership and work ethic that’ll provide our youngsters coming through our development pathways that’ll be invaluable. We can’t wait to see what this team can do together.”25 Petrik had been appointed as Head Coach of Perth Lynx in June 2020 and was in the role for his second season in 2021/22.
After signing with Perth Lynx for the 2021/22 WNBL season Whitcomb told wnbl.basketball “I am thrilled to be back in Perth playing in this incredible league. I’m VERY excited about the team Ryan has assembled and can’t wait to compete with them!”26
Perth experienced a very different 2021/22 WNBL season to other clubs due to Western Australia having tighter border restrictions than other Australian states to combat COVID-19. Perth Lynx had an extended pre-season and didn’t start their WNBL season until Round 5 with an extended time on the road, based in Victorian country town Ballarat. Perth’s seven rival WNBL clubs had started their 2021/22 WNBL season in the first half of December, before Whitcomb had joined the Lynx for the 2021/22 season.
Throughout the 2021/22 WNBL season Perth Lynx’s full-strength starting line-up was Whitcomb, American import duo Jackie Young and Marina Mabrey along with forward and club captain Darcee Garbin and centre Lauren Scherf. Other members of Perth’s 10 player main roster were Alex Sharp, Alexandra Ciabattoni, Emma Clarke, Ashleigh Isenbarger and Tayah Burrows. The bronze medal winning Australian Opals team that Whitcomb was captain of at the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup held in Jordan had a strong Perth Lynx flavour with Garbin, Scherf and Sharp all being members of the Opals team.
Perth Lynx team huddle after their victory against University of Canberra Capitals at Selkirk Stadium in Ballarat on 19 January 2022
During the 21 February 2022 episode of The Basketball Show Whitcomb was interviewed by host, Shane Heal. Whitcomb commented on playing for Perth Lynx for the 2021/22 WNBL season after initially signing with ESB Villeneuve-d’Ascq in France, saying “Yeah, I was signed in France originally but then Kate my wife got a job teaching here and Nash and her were both going to be in Perth and that just sort of changed the landscape of our decision. I didn’t want to be away for WNBA and then for overseas stuff. The WNBL’s actually a really, really enticing league to be a part of because of the length of season, as well it is still really competitive, so I’m not surprised that you see players like Marina, Brittany Sykes, Tiffany Mitchell, Jackie Young, really quality WNBA players deciding to come over. That’s obviously a real draw for me as well, the fact that it is such a quality league. I love Perth and its home and just being here with the family was really, really important.”
The 2021/22 season was Whitcomb’s fourth WNBL season with Perth Lynx and first since 2017/18 when Perth won the minor premiership. Whitcomb had initially signed with Perth Lynx for the 2020 WNBL season but later opted out to be with wife Kate for the birth of their son Nash. The entire 2020 WNBL season was played in hubs in North Queensland. Sami and Kate married in the USA in 2017. After same-sex marriage became legal in Australia in December 2017 Sami and Kate had their marriage recognised in Australia.
On adjusting her game at Perth Lynx for the 2021/22 WNBL season alongside Young and Mabrey Whitcomb told The Basketball Show “I’m not at a stage in my career where I feel like I need to prove myself too much in this league so I really just want to help. I want to help be as good as I can be and help the team be as good as we can be and if that means facilitating a bit more and taking a back seat to the likes of basically everybody else in this team who is really, really good I’m really happy to do that if it ultimately means we win a championship.”
Perth commenced their 2021/22 WNBL season with a road game against Adelaide Lightning at the Lights and Community Sports Centre on 2 January. In Perth’s fourth and final game at Selkirk Stadium, Ballarat on 29 January against Bendigo Spirit Whitcomb made 10 of 15 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7%, made two of four three-pointers, took five rebounds, made an equal team-high four assists and an equal game-high two steals in Perth’s 90-82 victory.
Sami Whitcomb shooting a free-throw for Perth Lynx against University of Canberra Capitals at Selkirk Stadium, Ballarat on 19 January 2022
During the 3 March 2022 episode of the Dribble Podcast Whitcomb commented about being adaptable on offense, saying “Obviously sometimes the way people defend you changes and the way your offensively structured and playing. Sometimes those three’s open up a bit more for you, sometimes the lane is a bit more available to you. I think sometimes you have to just take what is given and I do think more and more the older I have gotten and the more experience I have gotten, I just think that I have been able to read that a bit better and I have been able to not force a three when actually the drive is there. I am just trying to develop a little bit more poise in my decision making over the course of the last few years. Obviously the best place to do that in terms of facing the toughest defenses and being able to practice that is the WNBA so hopefully my time there has served me well in regards to that.”
In a road game against Sydney Flames at Brydens Stadium on 16 March Whitcomb made nine of 15 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 60%, five of ten three-pointers at 50%, scored a game-high 23 points, took six rebounds, made a team-high five assists and a team-high three steals in Perth’s 84-72 victory.
Perth played their first nine games of the season outside Western Australia and only played four regular season home games at Bendat Basketball Centre, all in an eight-day period from March 5 to 12. Despite being away from home for most of the season Perth maintained a high standard during the 2021/22 regular season to have 11 wins, five losses and finished second on the ladder behind the Melbourne Boomers who had a record of 12 wins and five losses.
Whitcomb registered a double-double in Perth’s home semi final 91-77 victory against University of Canberra Capitals at Bendat Basketball Centre on 24 March. Whitcomb was very effective from long-range, making four of five three-pointers at an accuracy of 80%, scored a game-high 20 points, took a game-high and season-high 11 rebounds and made two assists.
Perth Lynx were on the road in game 1 of the Grand Final series at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville against the Melbourne Boomers. During the middle stages of the first quarter Perth went on a 15-2 run to gain the ascendency, played phenomenal basketball and defeated Melbourne 98-71. Whitcomb made three of six three-pointers, scored nine points, took six rebounds, made a game-high six assists and a game-high three steals.
At home in game 2 of the Grand Final series at Bendat Basketball Centre Perth led Melbourne 28-25 at quarter-time. A buzzer-beating three from Boomers point guard Lindsay Allen on half-time gave Melbourne a 42-39 lead at the main break. The lead changed 13 times during an entertaining high quality game. On an attempted three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter Marina Mabrey was fouled. Mabrey made the first two free-throws with swishes, however the third free-throw was short, hitting the front of the rim, and Perth were defeated 75-76 to send the series to a third game. Mabrey scored a game-high 30 points and Whitcomb scored 14 points – ranked second for Perth and took five rebounds.
In the middle two quarters of game 3 of the Grand Final at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville Perth were outscored by Melbourne 26-48 and were defeated by the Boomers 66-84. In game 3 Whitcomb made four of eight three-pointers, scored 14 points and took six rebounds.
During the 2021/22 WNBL season Whitcomb played 19 games for Perth Lynx and averaged 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Whitcomb ranked third in the WNBL for steals and 13th in assists per game. Including finals Whitcomb made 44 of 128 three-pointers at an accuracy of 34.4% and ranked equal first for total three-pointers made with Melbourne Boomers power forward/centre Cayla George. Whitcomb made 2.3 three-pointers per game, ranked equal fourth in the WNBL with two Perth Lynx teammates Garbin and Mabrey, behind Brittany Smart (2.7 three-pointers per game), Lauren Mansfield (2.6) and Maddie Garrick (2.4).
2022/23 WNBL season as Perth Lynx captain
Perth Lynx announced on 11 June that Whitcomb had signed with the club for the 2022/23 season. Head coach Petrik told wnbl.basketball “The gravity Sam will provide our offense once again will help make life easier on everyone else. But it’s also her playmaking, leadership, and desire to win which will help drive our program in 22/23.”27
In October Whitcomb commented to WNBL Media on what her expectations were for Perth Lynx in the 2022/23 Cygnett season, saying “From what I’ve seen with this team I really like what we are going to be running and I think it will suit this group. There’ll be some continuity from last year, but also some different things more tailored for this group where we don’t have Marina and Jackie. It will be a little different but still with some similar things and hopefully it’s something that makes all of us feel good and comfortable out there.”28
In an article Winning, providing pathway the double goal for Lynx published by WNBL Media on 19 October Perth Head Coach Petrik commented “We’ve always built our teams around our two or three best players, and having everyone fit around that. We obviously speak with a bias, but we think we’ve got the best two in the league with Sam and the best five in the league with Loz. It’s then all about if we have enough around those two. We are pretty bullish on what we can do.”29
“Moving Sam back to the two where she’s just a nuclear warhead even though clearly she can play the one. But at the two, she has so much gravity and that’s why we wanted to bring in Robbi to play that one and work alongside Sam.”30
Three of Perth’s starters from 2021/22 are playing for European clubs in 2022/23- Darcee Garbin (DVTK-Hun-Therm – Hungary), Jackie Young (Hatay – KBSL in Turkey) and Marina Mabrey (Famila Wuber Schio – Serie A1 in Italy). Whitcomb is one of four players from the Lynx’s 2021/22 main roster that are suiting up for the club again in the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season along with centre Lauren Scherf, guard Tayah Burrows and guard/forward Alex Sharp. Guard Emma Gandini and forward Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard have each been elevated to Perth’s 10 player main roster for the 2022/23 season after being development players in 2021/22. Ryan Petrik is coaching Perth Lynx for the third consecutive season in 2022/23 and won the WNBL’s Coach of the Year award in his second season in the role in 2021/22.
Two players with previous WNBL experience joined the Lynx for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season, centre Jessie Edwards returned after playing two seasons for the club previously in 2013/14 and 2020 and guard/forward Chloe Bibby returned to the league after playing five seasons of College basketball. As a teenager Bibby played in the WNBL for the Jayco Rangers from 2013/14 to 2016/17.
In the off-season Perth recruited two players who made their WNBL debut in 2022/23, Amy Atwell and import American point guard Robbi Ryan. West Australian Atwell played her junior basketball with Willetton Tigers in WA. In her senior year with University of Hawaii in 2021/22 Atwell was named the Big West Conference Player of the Year. American import point guard Ryan played for the Joondalup Wolves in the 2022 NBL1 West season and was selected in the conference’s All-Star Five.
On 27 October a Perth Lynx player profiles and preview of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season article was published on Milestones and Misses. Detailed profiles of all 10 members on Perth Lynx’s 2022/23 roster and Head Coach Petrik are provided in this article.
After only playing four regular season home games in 2021/22 Perth Lynx hosted the 2022/23 season opener against the Melbourne Boomers at Bendat Basketball Centre on Wednesday 2 November in a game broadcast on TV by ESPN. On gameday Perth Lynx announced Whitcomb as the captain and Scherf as the vice-captain for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season. Perth’s starting line-up was Ryan and Whitcomb in the back-court along with Atwell, Bibby and Scherf in the front-court. Whitcomb started the season in exceptional form to make 11 of 21 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 52.4%, made six of 11 three-pointers at 54%, both free-throws, scored a team-high 30 points, took seven rebounds and made two assists in Perth’s 88-104 loss.
Against the Bendigo Spirit in a Round 1 road game on Sunday 6 November Perth were defeated 66-85. The Lynx registered their first win of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season in Round 2 on Saturday 12 November, having a 97-62 victory against the University of Canberra Capitals at Bendat Basketball Centre.
In a Round 3 home game for Perth Lynx at Bendat Basketball Centre on Wednesday 16 November against Sydney Flames Whitcomb played her 100th WNBL game, becoming the 23rd player on a 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL roster that has reached this milestone during their career. Between Round 3 and Round 4 the Southside Flyers announced that they had signed Monique Conti for the remainder of the 2022/23 season. Conti’s previous game was her 100th in the league as a member of the Flyers 2020 Grand Final winning team. Whitcomb is one of two 100 game WNBL players on Perth’s roster along with vice-captain Scherf (190 games). Southside Flyers rank first with eight 100 game WNBL players followed by Bendigo Spirit with five and Melbourne Boomers with three.
Whitcomb has played her entire WNBL career for Perth Lynx and is the only one of the 24 current WNBL 100 game players to be one club players. Whitcomb is the third current player to play their first 100 games for one WNBL club, joining Kelsey Griffin – first 119 games for Bendigo Spirit, and Aimie Rocci – first 117 games for Dandenong Rangers in this category.
Perth Lynx had an 80-72 victory against Sydney Flames in Whitcomb’s 100th WNBL game. Whitcomb had an equal game-high five assists, two steals and scored 13 points to be one of five Perth players that scored more than 12 points for the game along with Atwell (15), Bibby (15), Scherf (14) and Ryan (13).
After three rounds of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season Perth had two wins and two losses to be fifth out of eight teams on the WNBL ladder. Whitcomb has played all four games for Perth and is averaging 15.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 32.4 minutes per game. Whitcomb leads the Lynx for minutes played, ranks equal first for steals, second in scoring, third in assists and fifth in rebounds. After Round 3 Whitcomb ranked equal ninth in the WNBL for points per game and had made 2.5 three-pointers per game ranked equal fifth in the league.
After attending Chicago Sky’s 2010 WNBA training camp and getting cut after playing three pre-season games Whitcomb knew that she had to improve across the board to reach WNBA standard.
Whitcomb is a strong believer that things happen for a reason, although it was a long journey for her to get an opportunity to play in the WNBL and WNBA the work she did on her game in the years leading up resulted in her flourishing when she was able to play in these two leagues.
Reflecting on her basketball career Whitcomb told The Brad and Boti Basketball Podcast in the 8 April 2022 episode “I am very lucky, I have had some incredible opportunities and I am so fortunate that this game has given me all it has given me. It has been the craziest ride. I didn’t even have some of these dreams, you play the game because you love it and you chase these goals and these opportunities and you hope that it leads to something remarkable and I have been so lucky that every time a door has closed somewhere something else has opened, I have chased that one down and it has led to some amazing things.”
Whitcomb’s second season in Germany’s DBBL ended suddenly due to her team, the Wolfenbuttel Wildcats going bankrupt on the eve of the 2012/13 finals. Another door opened with Whitcomb receiving an offer to join the Rockingham Flames in in the State Basketball League in Western Australia. Whitcomb excelled playing for Rockingham from 2013 to 2015 to win three consecutive league MVP Awards and play in back to championships in 2014 and 2015, winning the Grand Final MVP in both seasons.
In May 2015 Whitcomb signed as an import to play with the Perth Lynx and was given considerable freedom in the Lynx offense. Whitcomb thrived to lead the WNBL for three pointers made and steals and earn selection in the WNBL All-Star Five in three consecutive seasons from 2015/16 to 2017/18.
After three season playing in Europe Whitcomb returned to play for Perth Lynx in 2021/22 as an Australian player. Whitcomb has played a critical role in Perth making the WNBL finals in her four completed seasons with the club including the Grand Final in 2015/16 and 2021/22. Whitcomb ranked third in the WNBL for steals in 2021/22 and equal fourth for three-pointers made per game.
During the first 100 games of her magnificent WNBL career with Perth Lynx Whitcomb has averaged 19.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Whitcomb’s career average of 19.0 points per game ranks fifth on the WNBL’s all-time list behind Lauren Jackson (21.9), Julie Nykiel (20.3), Kia Nurse (19.7) and Liz Cambage (19.3). Whitcomb has made 323 of 869 three-pointers at an accuracy of 37.1% and led the league for three-pointers made in 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18.
From 2017 to 2022 Whitcomb played six consecutive WNBA seasons comprised of four seasons for Seattle from 2017 to 2020 and two seasons with New York Liberty in 2021 and 2022. Whitcomb played in two WNBA Championships with Seattle Storm in 2018 and 2020. Whitcomb has ranked in the WNBA’s top 25 for three-pointers made in five regular seasons including two seasons in the top 10.
In February 2018 Whitcomb became an Australian citizen. Whitcomb has an Australian wife Kate, a son Nash and has represented the Australian women’s basketball team, the Opals with distinction. Whitcomb has won three medals with the Opals, a silver medal at the 2018 World Cup and bronze medals at the 2021 Asia Cup and 2022 World Cup held in Sydney. Whitcomb’s superb performances at the 2021 Asia Cup where she led the Opals in scoring assists were rewarded with selection in the tournament’s All-Star Five. At the 2022 World Cup Whitcomb was Australia’s starting point guard and led the team in scoring and ranked second for assists.
When Sami Whitcomb arrived in Australia to play with the Rockingham Flames in the West Australian State Basketball League for the 2013 season I don’t think anyone could have predicted how Whitcomb’s basketball journey would evolve over the decade from 2013 to 2022. Australia made a massive impact on Whitcomb’s life and basketball career with Sami now calling Australia home and having an Australian family. Australian basketball has been all the richer for Whitcomb’s involvement in it playing for the Rockingham Flames in the SBL the Perth Lynx in the WNBL and representing the Australian Opals on the international stage. It was a fantastic achievement by Sami Whitcomb to reach 100 WNBL games with Perth Lynx in Round 3 of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season, adding further to her list of accomplishments in Australian basketball.
Article and photographs by Dean Andrews
Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777
23 Opals name Captain ahead of Qualifying Tournament. | Basketball Australia
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 and WNBL category is below:
The Milestones and Misses website was set up in December 2015. From 2020 onwards articles have been published on the following sportspeople:
Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin
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