Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames guard Natalie Stafford is set to build on a busy winter of basketball as she commences preparations for the 2011/2012 WNBL season.
The versatile guard has had a hectic off-season as a member of the Great Britain national team and has spent much of the winter months playing and training in the northern hemisphere.
Stafford was one of the best performed players as the GB team made its first forray into the strong EuroBasket Championships in Poland as part of preparations for the 2012 London Olympics.
Coached by Bulleen mentor Tom Maher, the Great Britain team produced more than solid results against some of the heavyweights of European basketball, with Stafford playing a leadership role with the young team.
We caught up with Nat to talk about the Great Britain team and the Sydney Uni Flames.
Natalie, you recently returned from representing Great Britain at EuroBasket? Who were some of the teams that impressed you in the tournament?
I was impressed with Czech Republic although they didn't finish as well as I thought they would. Turkey punched above their weight.
Great Britain had some solid results at the tournament? How are you feeling about the teamís chances as the focus turns to the Olympics next year?
The tournament was very positive. We competed with all the teams we played which I think not many people expected. I think once our fitness improves we will be much better as we will be able to last the whole game and hopefully finish the games with winning results. We are a gritty team and underdogs so I think we will make other teams uneasy next year.
It has been a busy off-season for you, how are you fitting back into the Flames pre-season?
Been working hard on my weights and running. I need some muscles! I haven't started on court yet as my mind and body definitely needs rest in that department.
Last season was your first back in the WNBL for eight or nine years. What were some of the major differences between your last stint in the league?
In regards to offensive threats I think most teams have a lot of people who can hurt you. It might be one person one game and someone else the next. Also everyone is younger and fitter - or am I just a lot older?
Alicia Poto returns to the Flames this season after a successful stint in Europe, adding real depth to the guard rotation. How do you think the somewhat new look team will go in what looms as a very competitive league?
I am personally very excited to have Alicia back with the Flames. She's not only a fantastic basketball player but she is also a born leader which is something the Flames really needed this year - a general, someone who is going to fire us up and get us going. Really confident with our new look team. We really have some depth this year which is going to make practice a lot more competitive and will hold is in good stead throughout the season.