Opals star Ezi Magbegor blossoming in European evolution

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Ezi Magbegor is enjoying a European evolution.

The 23-year-old Tokyo Olympian and dual FIBA World Cup medallist is immersed in her first season playing outside the WNBL and WNBA and feels she is blossoming.

Magbegor is playing alongside fellow Aussie Alice Kunek for Hungarian powerhouse Sopron, averaging 13.2 points, 4.3 rebounds 1.5 assists and 1.2 blocks.

Home in Melbourne for a whirlwind five days during a FIBA break in competition, Magbegor told ESPN taking her game to Europe was one of the best decisions she's made.

"It was always where I wanted to go and the timing was just kind of perfect, we'd just won a championship with Melbourne (last WNBL season) and I think Europe was the next step in terms of my development. I'm glad I decided to go and am glad it's with a good team as well.

"My biggest improvement I think is physicality and matching up against tougher bigs. I think also learning the game, that's something that's going to be ever-changing and will continue as I go on but just playing a different game style, reading the game a lot better, learning from my team mates as well who have been in the game for a while.

"That's something I'm getting a different experience of over here in Europe - basketball IQ and reading different game situations."

Adjustments and learnings have taken place both on and off the floor.

"Practice has been a big one. We practice twice a day. For Euro League games, we travel the day before the game, get there afternoon/evening and practice at night so practice on a travel day is something I've had to get used to," Magbegor explains.

"Our first road trip we went to Turkey, got in quite late and started practice at 9.30pm, something I've got used to. Longer travel, too.

"In terms of the play, it's very physical, FIBA basketball so what we're used to at major tournaments like the World Cup we know what refs will let go and that's very similar in Europe. A lot of the calls that are made in WNBA, WNBL, you're not going to get those calls here so adjusting to that.

"It's fast paced, physical, there's also a lot of experience so players have been playing since they were 15,16-years-old in Europe they start quite young so they're the biggest differences I've found."

Sophron is top of the table with two Euro League games remaining. The team features the Aussie duo plus Serbian national representative Dragana Stankovic and WNBA veteran Yvonne Turner.

"We have a good team and I think we're a team that has everyone contributing," Magbegor says.

"Games are going to be a grind but we have an edge about us and we're competitive. We come across great teams, obviously playing in Euro League, but we've had a few upsets and beaten teams because of the team we are - we play hard and we play together."

Playing on home soil in last year's World Cup in Sydney where the Opals won a bronze medal was a career highlight.

"I went straight from Sydney to a mini-holiday, I went to Hamilton Island for three days and read, sat by the pool, ate great food and in that time I reflected on the World Cup. I then had four days with my family in Melbourne before coming to Europe," Magbegor said.

"Obviously seeing Darcee (Garbin) and Sandy (Australian coach Sandy Brondello) in Europe, you catch up and talk about the World Cup and the once-in-a-lifetime experience it was."

The 12th pick in the 2019 WNBA draft, Magbegor has just agreed to terms with Seattle Storm for the next two years and will enter her fourth season in the league.

"It'll be a different season, a lot of changes have happened and free agency. I'm excited to be back in Seattle and I think after a European season I'll hopefully be going into the new WNBA season with momentum.

"I'm excited and excited for a new-ish team. I'm excited to play with (Aussie) Sami Whitcomb again, we played together in the bubble season in 2020 but haven't had that real Seattle experience together.

"Seattle have made an effort to reiterate across the years and tell me that my development and being part of the team was big for them. This was my first free agency and I love playing in Seattle and I was just glad we were able to come to an agreement and sign for another two years which is exciting.

"I'm grateful that they see that player that they want in me."

Magbegor, who earned All-Defensive Second team recognition in 2022, is ready to spread her wings and there will be increased opportunity following superstar Breanna Stewart's bumper trade to New York.

"Stewie leaving is major. My role was bigger last year too so I think obviously continuing on from that. I'm ready to work hard, we've got a few players to integrate into the team as well and I'm ready to do what I can to help the team."