Flames pair selected in Australian Gems squad

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Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames WNBL rising stars Tahlia Tupaea and Vanessa Panousis have been rewarded for their efforts during their debut seasons, after both guards were announced in the Australian Gems team that will travel to China in May.

Tupaea, aged 15, and Panousis, 18, were named in a 12 girl squad of Australian under 19 players after impressing at a Gems training camp last month.

Both girls graduated from the Sydney Uni Flames Academy Program in 2012 – two years earlier the Flames launched the Program as part of the club’s ongoing commitment to developing elite young NSW female athletes. 

Tupaea’s selection comes after playing nine games for the Flames last season, where she averaged seven minutes and 1.4 points per game. Back in October last year the baby faced Tupaea debuted against the West Coast Waves – she was just 15 years and 133 days old.

It has been a meteoric rise for the 174-centimetre guard. The year-10 student won selection on the Australian All Schools team, which toured Texas and Arizona in 2011, and last year she put in an MVP performance to steer club side Penrith Panthers to a title.

Panousis also debuted for the Flames in the same season, where she played two games. In August 2012 Panousis inspired the Under 17 Australian women’s basketball team to finish the 2012 FIBA Under 17 Women’s World Championship in fifth place in Amsterdam.

Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness High Performance Manager Matthew Phelps, who has overseen the Flames Academy Program since its inception in 2010, was pleased with the selection of two Flames players.

“Both girls have handled the transition from the Flames Academy Program to the Flames senior squad extremely well, and it is great to see them selected in a talented Gem’s squad,” said Phelps.

“It is an excellent reward for the efforts that both girls have put in over the last couple of years at the Flames, in particular the last 12 months training and playing with the Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames in the WNBL.”

“The selection of both girls is also a reward for our coaching staff and academy program. We started the program to create the next generation of SU Flames players. This is a great start to our long-term strategy and developing NSW girls to play in the WNBL”.

Each of the 12 players selected have returned to their respective states for the month of April before flying out to China where they will play nine games in a four nation event.

Following the China tour, the team will return to Australia where a team to tour France in June will be selected.

A selection camp for the team to compete at the FIBA World Championship will be conducted
29 June – 2 July at Basketball Australia’s National Centre of Excellence at the AIS in Canberra.