'Next big thing': Shyla Heal latest Aussie taking WNBA by storm

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Shyla Heal has become the third Australian player to be selected in the top 10 of the WNBA draft, after the Chicago Sky chose her with the eighth pick. Pictures: Getty Images/Instagram
Shyla Heal has become the third Australian player to be selected in the top 10 of the WNBA draft, after the Chicago Sky chose her with the eighth pick. Pictures: Getty Images/Instagram

Shyla Heal has become the latest Aussie player to take the US by storm, after the 19-year-old was selected by the Chicago Sky with the eighth pick in the WNBA draft.

Heal, the daughter of Australian basketball icon Shane, became just the fourth Australian woman to be selected in the top 10 of the WNBA draft, following in the footsteps of Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage.

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Allana Smith, who was also selected with the eight pick, was the third Aussie taken in the top 10 when the was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in 2019.

Separating Heal from her top-10 predecessors though is her size - a 168cm guard, Heal represents a vastly different prospect than elite bigs Jackson and Cambage did.

Not short of professional experience after making her debut in the WNBL at just 14 years old, Heal averaged an impressive 16 points per game for the Townsville Fire last WNBL season.

Highlight outings of 30 and 28-point hauls in back-to-back WNBL finals helped the Fire reach the grand final, when they were beaten by the Southside Flyers.

Her father Shane, a four-time Olympian, had two stints in the NBA, with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996/97 and the San Antonio Spurs in 2003/04.

Heal was the sole Australian selection at the WNBA draft with compatriot Tiana Mangakahia overlooked.

Heal has just completed her first camp with Australia's senior team, the Opals, as she presses her claims for a spot in the squad for the Tokyo Olympics starting in late July.

Pre-draft, Opals coach Sandy Brondello - among the first Australians to play in the elite American league - said she had no doubt the 168cm-tall Heal had the qualities to flourish in the WNBA.

"Shyla's a good kid, super skilled, good pick-and-roll player who can score off the dribble or shoot threes and passes well," Brondello told AAP.

"That'll make her a pretty good pro, but it's that fearlessness that stands out.

"If she has one quiet game she's not going to have two quiet games; there's no fear, no intimidation factor and she believes in herself, she won't back down."

The WNBA's 25th season starts on May 14.

NBA star LaMarcus Aldridge retires over heart fears

LaMarcus Aldridge has retired from the NBA after saying he experienced an irregular heartbeat during his final game with the Brooklyn Nets.

The 35-year-old star posted a statement on social media saying the heart concerns he had during and after Brooklyn's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday was one of the "scariest things" he's experienced.

Aldridge, who was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome - an abnormality that can cause a rapid heartbeat - as a rookie in 2007, said he feels better now after getting it checked out but decided to end his 15-year career.

"For 15 years I've put basketball first, and now, it is time to put my health and my family first," Aldridge wrote.

The seven-time All-Star signed with the Nets on March 28 and he had become their starting centre.

LaMarcus Aldridge has announced his retirement from the NBA over concerns over a heart problem. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
LaMarcus Aldridge has announced his retirement from the NBA over concerns over a heart problem. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

He missed the last two games with what the team had called a non-COVID-19 illness.

Nets general manager Sean Marks said the team fully supported Aldridge's decision.

"We know this was not an easy decision for him, but after careful consideration and consultation with numerous medical experts, he made the best decision for him, his family and for his life after basketball," Marks said.

The 6ft 11in Aldridge had the best of his five games with the Nets in the one before his heart trouble, scoring 22 points in a victory over New Orleans on April 7.

The No. 2 pick in the 2006 draft was long one of the best at his position, averaging 19.4 points in a career that began with nine seasons in Portland.

He went on to play five-and-a-half years with the Spurs and was a five-time All-NBA selection.

"You never know when something will come to an end," Aldridge said. "So make sure you enjoy it every day. I can truly say I did just that."

With AAP

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