THE Bendigo Braves' recruiting for the 2021 NBL1 season is off to a dream start with the marquee signing of Australian Opals squad member Tess Madgen.
No stranger to Bendigo and the Braves, Madgen returns to the club following a stellar WNBL season with Melbourne Boomers.
The 30-year-old guard and forward averaged 13.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game for the Boomers, who finished the condensed hub season in third place.
Madgen previously played two seasons in Bendigo with the WNBL's Spirit in 2010-11 and 2011-12 and was named the club's most valuable player in her second season.
She returned to Bendigo to play six-games with the NBL1 Braves in 2019 as a replacement for the injured Nadeen Payne and averaged 12.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and four assists.
Braves coach Mark Alabakov hailed Madgen as 'the gold standard' in Australian basketball and the perfect role model for the current crop young and developing basketballers on the Braves' roster.
Madgen is clearly excited to be back in the Bendigo.
"Obviously there was no season last year, but I played a couple of games with the Braves the year before. It's a great club and obviously a very proud club with a lot of success," she said.
"I'm super-excited to get started.
"(2020) wasn't ideal, but it did give everyone a chance to rest - physically and mentally - and to refocus.
"It was a great opportunity for me to get my body 100 per cent right, especially going into such an intense WNBL hub season.
"Every cloud has a silver lining and I just try to do what I can and focus on what I can control."
Madgen, who has played professionally on three continents - Australia, Europe and North America - said she needed little persuading to continue her career in Bendigo.
"My first couple of seasons in the WNBL were with the Bendigo Spirit, so I know Bendigo well," she said.
"I know Mark the coach very well, so it didn't take a lot of convincing.
"I'm very excited to be coached by Mark and to try and take my game to another level."
With the NBL1 season tentatively scheduled to tip-off in April, Madgen expects to miss a small but late part of the Braves pre-season due to Opals training camp commitments.
A silver medallist with the national team at the 2018 World Cup in Spain, Madgen said her Braves coach would play a key role in preparing her for her shot at selection in the team for the Tokyo Olympics.
"I'll be working hard with him to try and get in the best shape possible to give myself a chance of making the next camp and hopefully the team," she said.
Alabakov, who previously worked with Madgen in his stint as an assistant under Guy Molloy with the WNBL's Melbourne Boomers, could not contain his excitement at landing the prized signature of Madgen.
"In my opinion, she is the gold standard of what it is to play to win," he said.
"The winning is really in the picking when you are recruiting a basketball team and there is probably no better player going around in Australia than Tess to announce as a marquee signing for the club.
"She's been in Bendigo before and is an incredibly worldly traveller in terms of the basketball game; she brings a high IQ and she's a very ferocious competitor and does so with humility and professionalism.
"With the culture we want to create with the Bendigo Braves, she is a great example of that and a great role model for the junior Braves coming through.
With more signings to follow in the next few weeks, Alabakov declared Madgen as the perfect start to their recruiting.
"She's not only a world-class basketballer, but also a first-class human being as well and that's exactly what we want around this club," he said.
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