Phillips to join Team Australia
By CLIFF BRUNT, IndySportsLegends.com | June 1, 2012
Indiana Fever point guard Erin Phillips will miss three WNBA games to join the Australian national team in preparation for the London Olympics.
She will leave the U.S. following Sunday’s game at New York and join the Australians to play in the Czech Republic and Milan, Italy. She will miss Indiana’s games on June 8 against Connecticut, June 15 at Washington and June 16 vs. Chicago before rejoining the Fever for the June 19 game against Connecticut.
“I’m heading out next week to be with my Opals, my Australian girls,” Phillips told IndySportsLegends.com. “I’m really looking forward to being there. They’ve been working really hard back home.”
After she returns, she is not expected to miss any more Fever games before the Olympic break.
Phillips was the only Australian national team member to start this season in the WNBA – the rest of the team has been together training for London. She wrestled with whether to stay in the states or prepare with her national team and decided that playing in the WNBA would be better for her pre-Olympic growth.
“I felt personally, it was good for my development, becoming a better player, playing against the best league in the world, and playing against all the girls from Team USA, which is obviously going to be the favorites for the gold medal,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy decision. I found a good balance. Both Australia and Indiana compromised and worked their way around it.”
Phillips got her opportunity to shine in the WNBA after Fever point guard Briann January went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee early last season. Phillips filled in, averaged 8.6 points and 2.4 assists per game and led the Fever to the Eastern Conference Finals.
“Last year was definitely a big opportunity for me to step up and lead the team, and I had an absolute ball,” she said. “I had great teammates around me who made me feel comfortable and made life so much easier. If I can continue that development and keep getting better, I can take what I’ve learned here into my national team. You can only just keep building to your game.”
Australia has earned silver at the past three Olympics and has high hopes for better. One of the team’s stars, Penny Taylor, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament while playing overseas and is expected miss the Olympics and the entire WNBA season with the Phoenix Mercury.
“I think to be realistic, Penny Taylor out hurts us, but we’ve got young players ready to step up,” Phillips said.
Phillips said there’s more to worry about than the United States.
“It’s not just America, there’s so many other countries that are playing such good basketball,” she said. “Team USA is at the top of the peak, but before you start looking that high, you’d be highly mistaken to miss other countries like France, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Russia. We’ve got a lot ahead before we’ve got a crack at USA.”
Cliff Brunt is the editor and lead writer for IndySportsLegends.com which covers the Indiana Fever as well as the WNBA as a whole. Brunt recently completed seven years writing for the Associated Press where he was a beat writer for the Indiana Pacers, Purdue football and basketball and the Indiana Fever. Over a 15-year sports writing career, he has covered the 2008 Beijing Olympics, two men’s and one women’s NCAA Final Four, Super Bowl XLVI, the College World Series, the Indianapolis 500, the NFL Scouting Combine and the NBA and WNBA playoffs. He also loves and may be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cliffbrunt_isl.