- National Teams
Grace George has made an instant impact in the WBBL since joining Oaklands Wolves in the midst of their early season struggles.
There was little time to waste as a young Wolves side had endured heavy opening defeats – losing their first three games by a combined margin of 244 points – prior to the arrival of their star Aussie trio.
George is currently averaging 19.1 points per game in the WBBL Championship – second only to teammate Jorjah Smith’s league-high mark of 20.4 with Cassidy Gould also amongst the top 10.
Oaklands have beaten Manchester Met Mystics twice as well as defeating Cardiff Met Archers at the buzzer as they form part of a lower league cluster all on three wins. The chase for spots in the playoffs could become an intense battle, but George remains focused on continuing to improve.
“Because we have quite a young core group, most of our games are quite challenging, but we are starting to figure out everyone’s strengths and how we can make that work as a team,” George told Hoopsfix.
“If we sort everything out, we might be able to make the playoffs – that’s what I’m aiming for, but we have to take it week-by-week.”
Despite only being 22 years of age, George has been thrust into a leadership role and entrusted with shouldering a lot of responsibility, both on-and-off the court.
“I’ve had to adjust to the role of being more of a scorer and having the others rely on me. To even challenge some teams, all three of us Aussies need to be on our ‘A-game’.
“It is quite challenging. I’ve always been one of the young players, so to come here and be one of the oldest on the team was definitely different. They do really rely on us seniors.
“I’ve also had to adjust to helping them on-and-off the court and giving that feedback when they need it. I’m quite a quiet player, too, so I was a bit uncomfortable at the start but I’m getting used to it.”
George grew up playing in Australia with numerous development camps and had a brief spell in college in America before returning home. Last season saw George impress in WNBL1 action at Mackay and the 2000-born forward will be back in the league in the summer after joining Ipswich Force alongside WBBL great Alison Gorrell.
Back in 2017, George won the FIBA Women’s Under-17 Oceania Championship title in Guam with Australia when Gould was also on the 12-player roster, and it has been Oaklands bringing them back together on the court.
George also holds a British passport having been born in Sunderland and could still come into consideration for the GB Senior team, despite representing Australia at youth level. And while there have yet to be any direct contacts, it’s that nationality status that could also appeal to other teams around the WBBL.
“I like this league,” stated George. “I want to play at the highest level I can play at, but it’s been good for me and I feel I’ve already made improvements.
“It’s allowed me to be the player I’ve always been and Oaklands has helped me build the confidence.
“I love Oaklands, but of course I hope to be playing at a higher level at some point. Playing in EuroLeague has always been one of my goals and I’ll do what I can to get there.”
George has also been dealing with a wrist injury since the start of the year – having looked in visible discomfort during the WBBL Trophy weekend in Essex – and has become accustomed to attracting close attention from opposing teams.
Mistakes will continue to be made and lessons will still be there to learn for this young side. They are at the halfway stage in the WBBL Championship with a 3-8 record with plenty of games still to be played for those improvements to follow.
“Sometimes our games are inconsistent with our performances,” admitted George. “There are three quarters where we’re great, but there’s always that one quarter where we drop off and then the gap gets too big.
“We know we can score. But as a core group, being able to play defence against these other teams, that’s going to be make-or-break. Stopping other teams from scoring if we can figure out what works.”
And, George is striving to ensure her own personal progression continues in an upward trajectory.
“I still need to work on that leadership and be able to help even more than I am now,” she concludes. “Performance wise, I can’t afford to be inconsistent in this team and just need to not worry too much.
“I do get quite nervous and I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. I know the games are going to be hard, so I need to make sure that I contribute everytime.
“But each week in practice, I just need to use the people here and the facilities to improve my game; working hard, playing my role and hopefully we can have a strong finish to the season.”
Oaklands resume their league campaign following the international break with a tough road encounter against Leicester Riders, and George’s ability to make things happen in the paint at both ends of the floor could be key in the second half of the year.