Australian Amy Atwell impresses LA Sparks coaches after Liz Cambage is fouled out in WNBA pre-season match

The WNBA preseason for the LA Sparks has been headlined by the addition of Australian Liz Cambage. 

Anticipation had been building for weeks for her first pre-season run, but with the former Opals star fouled out and scoring just four points in the 87-84 win over the Phoenix Mercury, fans were stunned by another Australian who came off the bench.

It only took 15 minutes of court time for Amy Atwell to steal the show. The little-known Australian top scored for the Sparks with 19 points, sinking six from six three-pointers.

Before the game, Atwell said she had been struggling with the transition from college to professional basketball.

The 23-year-old was the 27th overall selection and the third pick of the third round for the Sparks in last month’s WNBA draft.

“It’s kind of been my dream ever since I started when I was seven or eight… very long way from home but I’m loving every second of it over here,” she said.

Atwell moved from her hometown Perth six years ago to play for the University of Hawaii.

Atwell in action for the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine against the Baylor Bears in March.(Getty Images: Darren Carroll)

“It forced me to grow up a lot at a very young age… it was a hostile environment coming over here, I didn’t really know anyone when I first moved over here, so it’s definitely helped my development on and off the court,” she told the ABC.

It hasn’t been an injury-free path to selection for Atwell, but her knee troubles may have had a positive impact on her shooting prowess, now being executed in one of the most competitive arenas for women’s basketball.

“I’ve put a lot of time into my shot… all I could really do is shoot for a while,” Atwell said.

Sparks coach Derek Fisher said Atwell is reaping the rewards of her hard work.

“Amy is a confident player because she’s worked at her ability to shoot the basketball. She also is just confident in general,” he said.


Atwell was the first University of Hawaii player to be named the Big West Conference player of the year, averaging 17.8 points and 6.9 rebounds a game.

Her credentials over the past five years with the side were unrivalled — 534 points in 30 games, with 13 games where she scored more than 20 points.

Even in Atwell’s short tenure with the Sparks, Fisher has witnessed her commitment to earning her spot in his side.

“You’re not going to shoot six from six from three every night but the confidence to shoot six from six from three, she does have that,” he said.

“It’s not that she’s only a shooter, she’s comfortable being on the floor in big situations, she recognises when she’s open, when she’s not.”

Being selected to the Sparks’ pre-season camp is just the first step to gaining court in the WNBA.

A roster of 20 players are fighting it out to make the final squad, which begins its regular season campaign on May 17 against the Minnesota Lynx.

Fisher is confident Atwell’s time will come but wasn’t clear if that will be this year with the Sparks.

“It will be great if there’s an opportunity there for us… whether it’s here or somewhere else she’s a WNBA player, that’s for sure,” he said.

If Atwell makes her debut, she’ll be in esteemed company. Fewer than 50 Australian women have played in the prestigious American league since its inception in 1996, including her Sparks teammate Cambage.

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