BENGALURU:Australia's Agnes Emma-Nnopu is just 17 but she has come a long way in basketball. Having picked up the sport as a seven-year-old to have fun and make friends, she decided to pursue the sport seriously when she was around 14. The 6 feet player has an impressive resume. Helping her country win their first-ever gold in the FIBA 2017 U-16 Women’s Asian Championship is one of the highlights. After that high, she went on to represent Australia in the U-17 World Cup too. At present, she is in Bengaluru with the Australian U-18 team.
Born in Nigeria, Emma-Nnopu moved to the Australia in 2005 and she used to be one of the tallest players during her early days in the sport. However, things have changed as she has been regularly playing against players, who are taller or of the same height.Just to put that into context, one look at the Australian 12-member squad for the ongoing FIBA U-18 Asian Women’s Asian Championship gives a good picture. The tallest player stands at 6 feet 4 inches and the shortest (three players) stand at 5 feet 9 inches. She might have started as a center, but she is working on her game to become more versatile.
If one watched Emma-Nnopu play lately, she resembles a mixture of both guard and small forward. She is strong off the board, drives in quite strongly and handles the ball well too. The latter part of her game has taken shape after moving to Australia’s centre of excellence, where she has improved her shooting and ball-handling skills. However, she has the qualities to contribute on both sides of the floor.
“In this (Australia U-18) team, I am still one of the shorter ones, adapting to being a guard, rather than a big (center). I think I am making my way towards that. I moved to the center of excellence in Australia at the start of this year. That move really helped me turn from center to a guard. So I feel like from the start of this year till now, my shooting and ball-handling have definitely improved and my awareness of the basketball game has improved as well,” she said.
Emma-Nnopu, who averages 8.7 points in the ongoing FIBA championship, will have to bring all her skills into play in the business end of the competition. Australia will face New Zealand in the semifinal qualifiers on Thursday. It is in competitions like these, where she needs to impress in order to achieve her objectives of finally getting into the Opals team (Australian national women’s team) besides the Women National Basketball Association (WNBA).
“Right now, the objective is get to college first (NCAA). I am talking to a few colleges but I still have one full year left on my school. I also want to play for WNBL or WNBA or Euro League and hopefully, sometime in the future, play for the Opals,” said Emma-Nnopu.