Oaklands Academy at the Centre of the Wolfpack
Oaklands Wolves will once again give a prominent role to junior players in the WBBL as they continue to invest in the best of the next generation at the senior level.
Oaklands will return four Academy players who featured in last year’s squad in the shape of Kata Fulop, Ciara Belsham, Khia Lee and Sami Brown - whilst adding a new youth star to the Oaklands College programme in Fionnuala Wharton.
The 6ft 2in Hungarian international forward Fulop has featured in all previous WBBL seasons for Oaklands and returns to the Academy after a frustrating last campaign through injury. Belsham, a 6ft 2in British forward will look to build on her debut season, which saw rapid development and great promise.
Head coach Lee Ryan stated: “We made the decision to stay young at the 5 spot this season. Both players learnt so much last year from Rachel (Morris who played a big part in their development. Now, it’s their time to shine and lead from the front.
“Kata’s injury has been a limitation to her for many years, but surgery this summer has her back on track to return stronger and better than ever.
“Ciara added so much both technically and tactically last season and she rightly earned her first start in the last game of 2018 and we’re excited to see what she can do this year. Once Kata returns from rehab, the pair will be pushing each other and the team all the way to post season”
Guard duo Khia Lee and Sami Brown, will be looking to build on last season when they showed flashes of promise in their first experience in the top flight. They will be joined by Fionnuala Wharton, a British guard who has lived and played in Sweden until making the move this year to Oaklands Academy.
The Academy programme in the WBBL provides opportunity and challenge in equal measure, with Coach Ryan ready to see his young guards grow in 2018-19.
He said: “The constant challenge that is the WBBL can make it difficult for the Academy guards, we could see their growth, but it took a while for their confidence to come through last year.
“I can see them making a big leap this season, they will get their chances in the WBBL, but also the ability to dominate with our new partner programme with the University of Hertfordshire in D2 NBL.
“Khia has such explosive talent and with Sami’s shooting ability, they will cause teams problems at both the levels. Fionnuala (known as Fio) is a tenacious guard with a huge upside, so it will be great to watch her rise this season.”
Oaklands will be announcing further signings throughout this week.