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Alex Bunton ruled out of Australian Opals debut at FIBA Asia Cup

Australian Opals hopeful Alex Bunton has been left devastated after a knee injury shattered her dreams of an international debut.

The Opals are gearing up for the first step in a new era as they prepare to launch a charge for gold at the FIBA Asia Cup in India this month.

Alex Bunton's Australian debut is on hold. Photo: CASUAL CAS
Canberra product Bunton was set to make her long-awaited Opals debut before injury struck, ending her Asia Cup campaign before it even began.

Bunton has been a revelation in Europe and was hoping to put her injury demons behind her to launch an international career.

Instead she has become one of two late withdrawals with London bronze medallist Abby Bishop also ruled out with an ankle injury.

"It was just devastating because of my past history with injuries," Bunton said.

"It was the right decision in the end so I'd rather do the right thing and get back as quick as I can.

"I've been having a few problems over the past couple of weeks so it was more a precautionary thing because we wanted to see what was going on.

"It ended up being a little bit more so it's better to nip it in the bud where you can and move forward."

Bunton has had multiple knee operations and missed almost a year of basketball in 2015 after injuring her foot.

The latest setback is a devastating blow for the 23-year-old but she knows the door is open for another chance, and she will be ready when it comes.

"A little while back [I had knee problems] obviously, but in a way I still look at the bright side to know that it's not that serious compared to some of the other things that I've been through," Bunton said.

"This one is a happy knee injury for me. Depending on what I need to do for the rehab and everything, I'll get back as quick as I can and obviously look forward to the Opals stuff that's on next year.

"Then also figure out the overseas stuff that I'm planning to do. Obviously I signed with [AZS Gorzow in] Poland towards the end of the year, so hopefully I can get fit, fulfil my contract there and keep playing."

The Opals need to make the medal games at the Asia Cup to qualify for the worlds, with Korea, the Philippines and Japan standing between them and the quarter finals.

Alanna Smith has been called in to make her debut while FIBA Oceania gold medallist Alice Kunek will dust off the green and gold as replacements for Bunton and Bishop.

Opals head coach Sally Brondello won't be available to coach at the tournament due to her WNBA commitments with the Phoenix Mercury in the United States.

Capitals coach Paul Goriss will shoulder the load alongside fellow Opals assistant Cheryl Chambers, Penny Taylor and Olaf Lange.

It means the Australians will have four sets of hands guiding them when they fly out for India on Monday.

Australian Opals squad: Tessa Lavey, Alanna Smith, Lauren Mansfield, Madeleine Garrick, Stephanie Blicavs, Kelsey Griffin, Katie Ebzery, Laura Hodges, Belinda Snell, Alice Kunek, Marianna Tolo, Sara Blicavs

​Australian Opals FIBA Asia Cup schedule (all times AEST):

July 23: Australia vs. Korea at 3.30pm

July 24: Australia vs. Philippines at 5.45pm

July 25: Australia vs. Japan at 5.45pm

July 27: Quarter-Finals

July 28: Semi-Finals

July 29: Bronze and Gold medal games

Source: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/sport/act-sport/basketball-alex-bunton-ruled-out-of-australian-opals-debut-at-fiba-asia-cup-20170709-gx7xg3.html

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