Liz Cambage needed some time away from basketball to rediscover her passion for the sport.
The 6-foot-8 Australian center took more than a year off after the 2016 Rio Olympics to ”find herself.”
Now she’s back in the WNBA, signing a multiyear contract with the Dallas Wings earlier this month. She’s returning to the organization that drafted her second overall seven years ago.
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”(Last year) was just a big year of me wanting to step back from a lot of things and get the right mentality and take a lot of things off my bucket list,” Cambage said in a phone interview Monday before she was formally introduced at a news conference. ”I did a self-discovery. … I really needed it to remember who I am as a person and what direction I want to be going in. I matured a lot. It was great for me to step back and remember who I am.”
Cambage was only 19 when the Tulsa Shock drafted her and she acknowledged that the Oklahoma city wasn’t the right fit.
”I wasn’t happy in Tulsa. I was 19 and looking for a team that was going to support me and help me grow,” said Cambage, who only played in 2011 and 2013 with Tulsa. ”I don’t think that happened in Tulsa. I’m older now and more mature.”
When the franchise moved to Dallas a few years ago, Cambage began considering a comeback after her hiatus from the WNBA. A trip to the Texas city in May helped seal the deal.
Cambage got to talk with staff members, including coach Fred Williams, who weren’t in Tulsa when she was drafted. Also, former Australia teammate Erin Phillips was now working with the Wings. The two Aussies have been tight ever since Cambage started playing for the national team.
”It’s a pretty cool city,” Cambage said of Dallas. ”Erin’s been a big sister to me. When I joined the Australia team, I was 17 or 18. She took me under her wing. It will be great having her here as an assistant coach as well.”
Cambage also credited Australian national team coach Sandy Brondello for convincing her to play in the WNBA again. Brondello, who coaches the Phoenix Mercury, told Cambage that she should go up against the best competition, which exists in the WNBA. In the past, former Australian coaches would strongly encourage players to stay in Australia to train for the Olympics and world championships and not play in the WNBA.
”Sandy was one of the major factors. She understands that she works here as well. It’s the best league and the best place for me to develop,” Cambage said.
Cambage gives the Wings a dominant post player. Getting her to play was a priority for Wings president Greg Bibb when he joined the franchise in 2015.
”I made a short list of priorities. No. 1 on that list was sign Liz Cambage,” Bibb said at the news conference. ”Obviously, I was very familiar with her from her previous experience in this league and mine. I recognized her as a game-changer. When I looked at our roster back then, I saw opportunity. I saw talent. But I didn’t feel like we had the right mix of players. We’ve worked hard over the last two years to get the right mix. And we had one piece of the puzzle to add, and that’s Liz.”
Before her WNBA season starts, Cambage is returning home to play in the Commonwealth Games.
”We get to represent our country on our home soil,” she said. ”We haven’t been a part of the last couple Commonwealth Games, but now we are.”
AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this story from Arlington, Texas.
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