AUSTRALIA'S greatest basketball centre Suzy Batkovic-Brown has shocked the Sydney Uni Flames by asking if they would let her play for them in the coming WNBL season, writes Mike Hurst for The Daily Telegraph.
With two Olympic silver medals in her trophy cabinet, Batkovic-Brown's move to the Flames is akin to the likes of Aussie NBA centres Andrew Bogut or, in the past, Luc Longley turning out in the men's domestic league.
The 193cm and 89kg Batkovic-Brown is currently playing out the WNBA season alongside Lauren Jackson with the Seattle Storm which currently hold second place on the US table.
It is a move, however, which will cost "Batgirl" - as she has been affectionately nicknamed by Seattle fans - close to $500,000 based on what she would have earned in Europe.
Batkovic-Brown admitted she approached the Acuvue Flames for a place on their team when the new local season tips off on October 2.
"Every year before I go back to play in the European season I ask [Flames head coach] Karen Dalton to work me out, just to get some rhythm before I leave,'' Batkovic-Brown told The Daily Telegraph exclusively yesterday.
"So I rang Karen and it was like, hmm, do you have any space for me? She was like, 'Excuse me?' and I told her I want to come home to Australia and play. Karen said, 'Are you kidding me?' She's excited, I'm excited."
Batkovic-Brown, 28, said she needed a break from the relentless grind of the European league "just for one season" and there's no doubt every team in the WNBL would fall over themselves to sign the versatile post champion.
"Sydney is my home and Karen Dalton is amazing woman. I've played beside her and been coached by her. I could not see myself in that league [WNBL] playing under anybody else basically. She's a pretty awesome woman," B-B explained.
Recently married, she and husband Matt need time together and she wanted to get off the international treadmill for a while.
"I came back from Italy, rushed down the aisle, jumped on a flight to the US six days later. Since the end of the last European season and by the time the US season finishes [the WNBA regular season ends September 12] I will have been home for only two weeks.
"To be honest, I'm pretty tired. I've been doing Europe for eight years in a row. You have to live, eat and sleep basketball for eight months straight and after eight years of that it gets a little tiring.
"I want to play hard for Sydney, but I need to enjoy it. It's been a while since I've enjoyed the game. You get so much stress in Europe and the US, you're on the road constantly. So I'm excited about coming home."
Insiders estimate Batkovich-Brown would be turning her back on close to $500,000 in bypassing the European season. She would not comment, other than to admit: "I can't tell you, but it's a huge pay cut. Definitely."
Dalton is thrilled to have the services of the mighty Batkovic-Brown, remarking it would be the first time since the Flames last won the national title in the 2000/01 season that Sydney had a dominant presence on the low post.
The addition of Batkovic-Brown along with other recent signings of former league MVP and fellow Olympic medallist Natalie Porter as well as new Opals shooting guard Deanna Smith (Perth), power forward Ellie Manou (Oregon), point guard Deanne Butler (Bendigo) and swingman Mikaela Dombkins gives an already strong Flames squad a serious premiership chance.
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