Unearthing an Opal

ALREADY a Sapphire, with hopes of becoming an Opal, Chelsea D’Angelo is a precious commodity on the basketball court.

The 16 year-old Traralgon local was this year named an emergency for the Australian Sapphires under 17 team as a bottom age player, capping off a sparkling season of domestic and representative basketball.

Chelsea starred at the Australian Junior Championships for the Victoria Country under 18s in April, where she finished in the top 10 for all stats despite being a bottom age player and helped the side finish third.

She has been a prominent figure for Latrobe City Energy’s Victorian Junior Basketball League and BigV division one sides this season, making an impact at both junior and senior levels.

As an invitee to an exclusive Basketball Without Borders Camp, run by the NBA, Chelsea was named MVP of the All Star match at the conclusion of the event and earned a trip to the world camp to be staged in Charlotte, in the United States next February.

Having played in front of the likes of Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Andrew Gaze and Lauren Jackson during the camp, Chelsea said she hoped to follow in their footsteps.

“I’ll try and make the under 19 Australian team in two years’ time and hopefully become an Opal in the long run,” she said.

Chelsea took up basketball in under 10s to play alongside friends and has made strides in the sport ever since.

She debuted for the BigV senior Energy side aged 13 and has this year become a star team member.

Averaging 14.7 points per game and 4.7 rebounds, with a season high of 27 points against Hawthorn, Chelsea has come into her own in 2016.

“I started pretty young in the women’s team,” she said.

“It’s just good to be able to match up against the older women. When I was younger I was a bit weaker on the court but now I’m as strong as they are and I can compete well.

“It (playing at senior level) has helped me become stronger on the court wherever I play.”

The experience held her in good stead for Victoria Country, where the bigger bodied under 18 competition proved a tough test.

Chelsea rose to the challenge and was fourth for rebounds, sixth for points and eighth for both assists and steals at the end of the carnival.

“Coming up as a bottom age was definitely a big change from under 16s but I think I held my own and could compete with the older girls,” she said.

“It’s a faster game, faster pace.

“We did play as a team the entire tournament so it wasn’t about individual stats, but it was good to be up there with some of the best players.”

Chelsea trains almost every night across her various teams and plays weekends.

She said she loves every minute of it.

“I enjoy it, I never have to complain about going to training or anything, I’m always there and ready to go,” she said.

Predominantly a guard, Chelsea can play positions one through five but generally crops up on a wing to devastating effect.

“I like penetrating to the ring hard, I also like getting rebounds but it’s a bit harder in the women’s with the bigger bodies. When I’m in my own age group I can still get them,” she said.

Chelsea is now gearing up for the BigV finals campaign ahead of a trip to Terrigal this month to play for the School Sport Victoria side.

It’s all part of the polishing process for an Opal in the making.