No surprises in Opals' preliminary Games squad

Last updated 18:44 16/02/2012

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Australian women's basketball coach Carrie Graf has called in the superstars, but also rewarded those who secured Olympic qualification in a preliminary Games squad featuring few surprises.

Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor and Liz Cambage headline the 24-player squad as expected.

But Graf has also kept faith with the best performers in the second-tier outfit which secured Olympic qualification last September, clean-sweeping the Oceania series against New Zealand.

Talls Suzy Batkovic and Abby Bishop, and Hungarian-based small forward Hanna Zavecz have all been included.

The three were excellent against the Tall Ferns, while Batkovic and Bishop have been dominant for the Adelaide Lightning this season in the WNBL.

Graf said although there was a core group of players likely to make up much of the 12-player team for London, there were still spots up for grabs.

The Opals' Games preparation starts with a selection camp in mid-March ahead of the official pre-Olympic training camp in May at the AIS.

"We're getting to the pointy end of things now and it's about the 2012 campaign and who can force their way into the group and who can help us in the process," Graf said.

"Six of the athletes are in Europe so they won't be a part of that first selection camp, so it's a really good opportunity for some of those other athletes to show their wares.

"Who are the specialists who are potentially going to fill one or two or three spots on that Olympic team? That's what were looking for."

Also included in the squad is veteran point guard Kristi Harrower, who has been playing well in the WNBL for Bendigo Spirit despite battling injuries for the past 12 months.

Graf sees the 36-year-old, who is aiming to make her fourth Olympics, as a vital part of the squad if she can maintain her fitness ahead of the tournament.

The final Olympic squad will be named in late June.

Opals squad: Suzy Batkovic, Abby Bishop, Liz Cambage, Rohanee Cox, Rachael Flanagan, Cayla Francis, Kristi Harrower, Laura Hodges, Natalie Hurst, Lauren Jackson, Rachel Jarry, Kathleen Macleod, Jenna O'Hea, Elyse Penaluna, Erin Phillips, Alicia Poto, Sam Richards, Jennifer Screen, Belinda Snell, Penny Taylor, Marianna Tolo, Kristen Veal, Carly Wilson, Hanna Zavecz.

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- AAP

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