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EZI Magbegor never intended to play basketball professionally and now the 18-year-old Canberra Capitals player is being described as the next Lauren Jackson.
Her coach, Paul Goriss, doesn’t like to compare the two, saying she has a skillset of her own. But, like Jackson, Ezi has the potential to make an impact on Australian basketball.
“I don’t think women’s basketball has seen a player like her for 10 years,” Paul says.
“We haven’t seen a player of her age, with her skill set, athleticism and ability to block shots.”
Ezi, who recently finished year 12 at Lake G in Belconnen, says she only started playing basketball because her siblings were.
It wasn’t until she was trying out for the under-16 state team for Victoria, as a bottom ager, at 14, that she realised she wanted to represent the country.
And while she didn’t get in that year, she made sure she did the next.
It was while playing for the under-16 state team where Ezi was recruited by Paul, who at the time was working at the Australian Institute of Sport, Centre of Excellence.
While it was hard for Ezi’s mum to see the baby of the family move to Canberra for basketball, she’s grateful to have her in the same country, unlike her brother who plays basketball in the US.
Paul was coaching the under-19 Australian team in 2015, when Ezi made her international debut at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship in Russia. She was 16.
She then represented the under-17 Sapphires at the 2015 Oceania Championships, where the team took home gold.
At the inaugural World Championships in Spain, the Sapphires received gold again and Ezi was awarded most valuable player.
NZ-born, Ezi moved to Australia at the age of five, with her parents who are of Nigerian descent, just like Nnemkadi “Nneka” Ogwumike, an American basketball player that Ezi has always looked up to.
And now, basketball fans will be looking up to her with Paul saying she’s a major contributor to the team.
While this is her first season with the Canberra Capitals, it seems like the humble teen has a promising basketball career ahead of her.
“I’m really enjoying my first season as a Capital. We have a really good group of girls,” she says.
“We haven’t got the results we’re hoping for yet, but we’re still trying to find our groove.
“We have nine new people this season so we’re finding our rhythm. But it’s such a great opportunity and I’ve learnt a lot playing against some great teams and playing with my team.
“It’s given me an insight to what is at an international and high level.”
And what does the future look like for Ezi?
Well, she hopes to be representing Australia in the Olympics, saying it’s her number one priority.