|ESPN.com: News||[Print without images]|
Liz Cambage slept nearly the entire 24-hour flight from Australia to New York this week, a respite before what promises to be a tiring and eventful new chapter in the 19-year-old basketball star's burgeoning career.
Cast as an overindulged teen after being taken out of context, she says, by an Australian newspaper report claiming she would not sign if drafted by Tulsa in the WNBA draft on Monday, she comes across much differently. Sure, she still thinks she would look sharp in Los Angeles purple and yellow. But a Shock uniform is fine too, she said.
Either way, she's determined to make it a fun ride.
"I don't mind where I go," the 6-foot-8 center said in a phone interview with espnW.com. "Everyone is saying I'm a diva and a spoiled brat. I'm just saying L.A. has always been my favorite team. I've always loved [Lakers guard] Kobe [Bryant] and have been obsessed with L.A. for years. So I came out and said one day I'd like to play at the Sparks. I really don't mind where I go for now."
For now that would appear to be Tulsa, which went 6-28 last year and has the second pick overall. After the WNBA season, she plans to return to Australia, where she was named the most valuable player of the top league there, and then undertake another WNBA season. In the future, she said, she hopefully will play in Europe rather than Australia, but a commitment to that ultra-competitive environment is likely a few years away.
"Australia is more where I go to develop and Europe is about the money," she said. "Living in Europe is very hard. You're away from your family and friends for eight months and playing, traveling, training every day."
Cambage was named most valuable player of the Women's National Basketball League this season after leading the league with 22.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots per game as her Bulleen Boomers captured the championship.
Cambage understands her potential in the low post, admits she needs polish on all aspects of her game, but considers herself more versatile than her size would suggest.
"I'm a pretty athletic big, pretty versatile for how big I am," she said, beginning to chuckle. "And I can dribble down the court when I want to put my point guard pants on."
Shock coach and general manager Nolan Richardson called her potential "out of the box." She presumably would follow Maya Moore, former Connecticut multi-time player of the year, who is expected to go No. 1 overall to Minnesota. Fifteen prospects were invited to the draft.
Cambage began building her international reputation in 2010 as a member of the Australian national team at the women's world championships. UConn and Team USA coach Geno Auriemma told the Hartford Courant in September that Cambage could become a dominant player in American college basketball if she studied here. Instead, she takes classes online and lives in Australia, where her mother is a CEO and her father a nurse.
"There is no one else 6-8 who can impact on both ends of the floor," Auriemma told the Courant. "You can't score in the lane against her and you can't stop her from scoring. And she's skilled. She scores with both hands, makes her free throws, handles the ball well. The only thing she lacks is experience. But I have not seen a center her age better than her in a long time."
It's looking like a fun ride.