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‘It’s going to be tough for us’: Adelaide Lightning forced to prepare without key players ahead of WNBL season

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Adelaide Lightning coach Chris Lucas says this year’s WNBL preseason has been the toughest of his career.

South Australia’s COVID-19 requirements and border restrictions have meant he has only had a full squad together for a couple of weeks ahead of the upcoming season.

At one point he had just eight players available to train with.

His last two players arrived in Adelaide from Melbourne last week, after the state’s borders opened up on November 23.

Key players were missing from Adelaide Lightning training just weeks out from the season.(ABC News: Camron Slessor)

Adding to his frustration, other teams in the league haven’t had to endure the same restrictions interstate.

“Whether those girls physically can get through the training that first week [is a question],” he said.

“We may have to use a couple of our reserves in the first game.

“The states like Victoria and New South Wales that have been in heavy lockdown, they’ve been in full training for three weeks.

“The Melbourne Boomers’ imports arrived on the floor with no quarantine … that’s completely different to what we’ve experienced.”

‘You can’t go for a run or anything’

The Lightning had four players who had to quarantine for two weeks after travelling to Adelaide from America, including Alanna Smith and Kylee Shook.

Another forced to quarantine was US import Kiana Williams, who signed from the Seattle Storm in the WNBA.

Kiana Williams wearing a white cap
Adelaide Lightning import Kiana Williams.(Twitter: @Kiana__W)

The dynamic guard has only had a few days to get up to speed with her new teammates ahead of her first season in Australia.

“I had a bike and some weights but, you know, just knowing that you’re stuck in one place, you can’t go out for a run or anything, I think that was the challenging part,” Williams said.

Second-string players get their chance

Her Seattle Storm teammate and Lightning captain Steph Talbot also had to quarantine after arriving back in Adelaide.

Steph Talbot (supplied Adelaide Lightning)
Steph Talbot remains confident her side can play finals this season.(Supplied: Adelaide Lightning)

But the reigning WNBL MVP has remained upbeat, despite having limited time to prepare her team.

“Our second string of players have really had a chance to build and build a cohesion,” Talbot said.

“I think that’s going to be good for us because if they can be good off the bench we’re going to have really good depth.”

That depth is sure to be tested early in the season, but Talbot said finals basketball was still achievable for the Lightning.

“If we can build some chemistry we definitely have some potential to make finals and then hopefully go all the way,” she said.

Her coach’s expectations are just as high, but he acknowledged that the club was in for a challenging season.

The WNBL season starts this Saturday, with the Adelaide Lightning opening their campaign at home against Townsville on December 11.

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