Former Australian Opals captain Jenna O’Hea has marvelled at Perth Lynx star Sami Whitcomb’s ability to play through adversity as the host nation advanced to the semifinals of the FIBA women’s World Cup.
Whitcomb has been outstanding throughout the tournament and shouldered a heavy workload while playing six games in eight days. She was left bloodied and bruised after a blow to the face mid-tournament and her right knee is taped, but was again influential as Australia beat Belgium 86-69 on Thursday night to earn a spot in Friday’s semifinals against China.
Whitcomb scored seven points and had seven assists from 26 minutes and O’Hea said the point-guard’s ability to push through fatigue and maintain high standards was why teammates love playing alongside her.
“That’s just Sami’s professionalism,” O’Hea said.
“She wasn’t playing big minutes in the WNBA so her preparation leading into this wasn’t probably ideal for her. But you know she is always putting in the hard yards off the court and you can see that coming through.
“She does her running sessions, she does her recovery and she’s been great. We’ve needed big minutes from her. We’ve picked a lack of point-guards and guards.
“We are the biggest team in the competition. So her ability to stay on the court and give big energy has just been so impressive.”
Australia raced to a 15-point lead at half-time and increased that to 24 points with one quarter to play.
Cayla George had 19 points and nine rebounds, Lauren Jackson had a huge impact with 12 points from 14 minutes and Sara Blicavs was superb with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Whitcomb captained Australia to a bronze medal during the Asia Cup and is part of the Opals leadership team under skipper Tess Madgen. She now has an opportunity to win her second World Cup medal.
Born in America, Whitcomb made WA her home in 2013 and was naturalised in 2018 on the way to winning a silver medal at the World Cup that year. Already a dual WNBA champion, Whitcomb always inspired her teammates, O’Hea said.
“She hits the big shots and to see the reaction she gets and how much it means to her to represent the green and gold is amazing,” she said.
“That is going through the entire team. The passion, the energy and the pride with all 12 players is shining through in this tournament.”