BENDIGO Spirit will be without the services of one of the undoubted stars of its 2019-20 season, with free-agent point guard Shyla Heal opting to sign with Townsville Fire.
The 18-year-old averaged 12.1 and 4.1 rebounds in her sole season with the Spirit, highlighted by a 30-point performance against Perth Lynx in January, which followed a 24-point effort against eventual champions Canberra Capitals.
Heal will be reunited in Townsville with head coach Shannon Seebohm, who was at the helm of Australia's 2018 under-17 world championship team, which finished as bronze medallists.
The ultra-talented Heal led all Sapphires players with 16 points per game and was named in the tournament All Star 5.
Entering her fourth season in the WNBL, Heal felt the move to Townsville gave her the 'best opportunity' to further develop her game and realise her ambitions of representing Australia at Opals level and being drafted to the WNBA.
While there were some very interesting opportunities to consider, in the end I felt that the coaching expertise and development program in place in Townsville was the best thing for my career right now," she said.
"I'm looking forward to arriving in Townsville shortly to start season preparations.
Her new coach described Heal as 'the most talented young point guard in the country'.
Shyla is a perfect fit for the style of basketball we are looking to play in Townsville," Seebohm said.
"Having coached her before in Australian junior teams, I know what she is capable of on both ends of the floor and think our fans will love watching her play this season.
Heal's 12.1ppg average led all Spirit players last season, narrowly ahead of Carley Ernst (12ppg).