Harrower tips Hurst for glory

Natalie Hurst during Opals training. Photo: Jay CronanAustralian Opals great Kristi Harrower has backed Nat Hurst to become an international star and is so impressed by the point guard that she tried to lure her to WNBL champion the Bendigo Spirit.

Hurst and Harrower are in camp with the Opals at the AIS as new coach Brendan Joyce takes the reins for the first time since taking over from Carrie Graf.

Hurst – a six-time championship winner with the Canberra Capitals – will return to the WNBL for the 2013-14 season and is launching her bid to be the Opals’ general at the 2016 Olympic Games.

The 30-year-old is staking her claim to be 38-year-old Harrower’s successor as the four-time Olympian weighs up her future while battling an Achilles problem and contemplates starting a family.

And before the Capitals secured Hurst on a one-year deal, Harrower tried to convince her understudy to join Bendigo.

”Natty is a competitor, to be honest we tried to get her to the Spirit and then Canberra went ‘bang,”’ Harrower said. ”We think a lot of her, she’s got a bit of me in her and she’s a smart point guard. I don’t know what I’m doing [with my playing future] and she’s got so much experience. I think she can step up now. Nat is a pro.”

Joyce invited an extended squad to his first camp to test the depth and talent in Australian basketball.

Lauren Jackson was absent and is recovering from a virus which led to her losing five kilograms recently. Liz Cambage, Suzy Batkovic and Abby Bishop were also absent, and Harrower didn’t train as she weighs up her future.

Hurst has been in Opals squads before, but her playing and big-game opportunities have been limited behind Harrower and Erin Phillips.

”Nat … I like what I see,” Joyce said. ”I can see she knows how to play, she’s very impressive out there. I judge people on their merits and Natalie is getting things done that I like.”

In a major boost to Hurst and the Capitals’ championship hopes, the club announced on Tuesday it had snared the prized signature of young gun Carley Mijovic.

The 18-year-old Australian junior representative was the WNBL rookie of the year in 2011-12. At 196 centimetres, she bolsters the Capitals’ big-player stocks. Meanwhile, former Canberra star Marianna Tolo confirmed on Tuesday she would not be returning to the competition next season. Tolo will continue playing in France and has signed with Bourges.

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