Steph Talbot Has It

Image via Basketball Australia

You know it when you see it in person.

It’s the way a player moves across the floor.  The footwork.  The motor.

It’s the ball whipping behind the back in transition or spinning off the hand towards the glass.

That ankle-breaking crossover executed quickly in-the-moment. That accidental showmanship.

Steph Talbot – Australia’s brightest young basketball star – has it in spades.

After securing an exhibition win over Japan last night in Melbourne, Opals coach Brendan Joyce spoke of how nice it is to play in front of Aussie fans on home soil.  His recap of what they saw was short, sharp and to the point.

“Now they know who Steph Talbot is,” he said with a smile.


On a night where Liz Cambage’s absence was an ever-present elephant in the room, Talbot turned the game into her own personal showcase.

It was this writer’s first time watching Talbot play for the Opals in person and at just 21-years-old – playing alongside Opals vets like Suzy Batkovic, Belinda Snell and Laura Hodges – she was clearly the best player on the floor.  And by some margin.

In 26 minutes of playing time, Talbot dropped a game-high 20 points on 8/13 shooting, pulled down 9 boards (another game-high) and added 4 dimes, 2 steals and a block in a mesmerising display of talent, endeavour and basketball IQ.

At times she looks like a young Penny Taylor; wheeling and dealing in transition and euro-stepping her way to the rim.  While at others there’s shades of the great Diana Taurasi; out-muscling slighter opponents on the boards and punishing defenders with a varied arsenal of offensive weaponry.

Taylor, herself, recognises the similarities.

“She’s a tall guard, pretty similar to myself. She’s strong and really talented,” Taylor told Canberra Times reporter Jon Tuxworth last year after battling Talbot on court. “She’s got a lot of skill and that’s just going to develop the more she plays.”

Opals Coach Brendan Joyce is well aware of Talbot’s elite talent and sees no reason to downplay it, describing her as the “21-year-old next big, exciting thing.”

“When we went to Europe she played against two of the best small forwards in the world,” Joyce added. “[Ana] Dabovic struggled against her, Steph locked her up.  Same with [Alba] Torrens.

“It’s not just the offensive end – we knew that’s there – Steph’s one of the best defensive players in the world right now.”

It’s that combination of skills at both ends of the floor that has coaches, scouts and fans crowing.

“She’s really become a great, dependable two-way player at this level. I think there’s a really exciting future for her,” her agent, Sammy Wloszczowski from SIG, told Downtown.

Two years ago Talbot was named in the All Star Five at the FIBA World Under-19 Championship, where she lead Australia to a bronze medal.

Then, last year, she was selected by Phoenix with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, but decided not to head stateside right away.  Instead, she stayed in Australia to play under Carrie Graf in Canberra, work on her game at BA’s Centre of Excellence and make herself available for Opals selection.

It was a tough decision that looks to be paying off in spades.

“I think that decision she made to stay at the Centre of Excellence to develop her offensive skills has really paid dividends,” Opals assistant coach Damian Cotter told Downtown. “We’re quite excited about her prospects for the future.”

“She’s really taken her game to another level this year and tonight she showed what she can do.”

With world-class defensive abilities already established, Talbot’s been working hard at the CoE on her handles and her shot.

“Defense has always been a strength of mine so I’ve just continued to work on that but I’ve been really working on my perimeter game and my three-point shot as well; getting that down pat,” she told Downtown.

After shooting 32% from long range last WNBL season with the Capitals, Talbot was 2/3 from beyond the arc last night. Her all-court dominance resulted in a whopping +30 point differential, +13 more than her nearest Opals teammate (point guard Tessa Lavey).

With offensive targets like Taylor and Cambage unavailable, Joyce will be looking to Talbot for important contributions during next month’s FIBA Oceania Championships vs New Zealand.

The young star’s not getting ahead of herself, though, keeping her eye on the prize of making the team.

“I’m feeling good out there, I’m feeling fresh and the body’s feeling good. If I keep playing like I am then I like my chances [of making the team to play NZ],” Talbot said. “But I’ve got to keep it up as there are lots of players pushing for the positions I play.”

It’s a terrific attitude, but bank on seeing her at Rod Laver Arena.  In fact, bank on seeing plenty of her as the Opals take on New Zealand.

“She’s going to play a very big role,” Joyce said.

As for the WNBA, Talbot’s in no rush, especially with the lead up to the Rio Olympics taking place over the next twelve months.

“That will be a decision that we take our time with,” Wloszczowski said. “Luckily she’s in a great situation with an Australian coach in Sandy Brondello who understands, better than anyone, how important it is to represent your country at the Olympics.

“That will be a decision that all of us make together based on what is best for Steph and what is best for the Opals long term.  If Steph has a chance to compete for the Opals that’s going to be something that’s a priority for her.”

When she’ll head to the WNBA is anybody’s guess, but one thing we know for sure: the New Zealand Tall Ferns are about to find out precisely who Steph Talbot is.

Article written by

I like to think that I bring the all-important little man’s perspective to the Downtown crew. The rim may be 10-feet high folks but the court, itself, is at ground level. My one season playing ball on the national scene was back in 2001/02, when I played the vital role of 4th-string PG as a member of the Victoria Titans. Go back and watch the tapes, I’m confident that only Patty Mills outranks me worldwide as an end-of-the-bench towel-waver. This experience, however, gives me the kind of an insight into pro hoops that can only be gained by spending time ‘behind the curtain’. These days I spend most of my spare time squeezing every last cent out of my League Pass subscription. And when I’m not playing, watching, writing about or podcasting about basketball, you’ll find me soundly outplaying all-comers at the fantasy version of the game. Safe to say that if I had a tattoo it would say ‘mum’. But if I had two tattoos, the second one would definitely be of a basketball. Follow me on twitter: @liam_santa

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