The Wagga Blaze are determined to make a genuine push for the Waratah League championship this season and have assembled an initial squad to help them get there.
Veterans Steph Male and Summa Colvin are among the returnees, while young guns Maddy Clyne and Abbey Morton have also been back at training.
The club is also looking for Narrandera-based development players Olivia Fawns and Maddie Claire to push for senior spots and round out the squad.
However, captain Jordan Barrett, Brooke Walsh, Hannah Martin and Ella Finemore are yet to commit.
Barrett was a particularly handy asset last season, leading the team in scoring with 13.7 points per game while providing invaluable leadership and inside presence.
But the Blaze are still negotiating with a handful of existing players and aren’t willing to rule out a return for anyone at this stage, according to Wagga Basketball senior representative director Darren Kuiper.
Kuiper added that securing commitments could be a lengthy process, with many of last year’s players have a string of other commitments, one of which is often netball.
But he said there was a distinct air of excitement within the organisation ahead of the new season.
“Training has been very intense and things are looking good,” he said.
“The squad is very strong and will give the championship a real crack this year.”
The Blaze’s lofty goals will be music to the ears of Wagga Basketball’s directors and supporters, with the club entering a rebuilding phase last season.
The club ultimately fought extremely hard to finish in fifth spot, just outside the playoff hunt in a result that thoroughly impressed coach Peter O’Leary.
Shifting gears to this season and the first pieces pressed into the puzzle were the side’s two imports.
The Blaze confirmed the signings of US point guard Shakera Barnes and powerful forward Khiani Clark on January 24.
The duo played together at St Edward's University in Austin, Texas and are expected to bring instant chemistry to the team.
The club has also billed them as the future faces of women's basketball in the region, as Wagga Basketball looks to boost the profile of the female game in the Riverina.