After a decade of playing in the WNBL and other leagues overseas, one of Penrith’s most decorated exports is returning to the club.
With their inaugural season in the NBL1 East right around the corner on March 11, Penrith have landed the signing of proud local junior Tahlia Tupaea on a one-year deal.
Making her WNBL debut at just 15, the now 25-year-old has played in the WNBL since 2012 with the Sydney Flames and UC Capitals.
The 2017 WNBL champion and WNBA draft pick with the Minnesota Lynx was most recently with the Capitals in Canberra, before being granted personal leave from the team.
Last year Tupaea was named the Most Valuable Player in the NZ WNBL, averaging 18.5 points, 3.3 boards, 4.1 assists and 2.7 steals per game.
On top of the Tupaea signing, the Panthers have also secured the services of fellow local junior Meg Jefferson, who returns to the club after graduating from the University of Virginia.
Jefferson, currently a Flames development player, spent most of her junior years at Penrith and represented NSW at several Australian Junior Championships before moving to the US for college.
Long-time Penrith Basketball Manager Leonie Moore said it was exciting to welcome back Tupaea and Jefferson to the Panthers.
“Both Tahlia and Meg have always remained great friends to Penrith Basketball – it has always been one of our hopes that our college players return to Penrith,” she said.
“In relation to Tahlia, it has been fantastic to be able to find a way for her to fulfil her commitments to other professional leagues and gain valuable training and game time with Penrith during that process.
“It is a valuable experience for our next generation of players to share the court with such a talented, acknowledged athlete who has always valued her grassroots basketball with Penrith.”
Tupaea and Jefferson aren’t the only familiar names joining the women’s program, with former Championship-winning Youth League captain Dominika Faber (née Offner) returning to Penrith to help lead the team this season.
Penrith’s NBL1 East men’s team, coached by Championship-winning coach Jarrod Moore, are also building a strong squad for their debut season, made up of young and athletic players.
“Kaylis Beaumont Tafua, Preston Matia, James Cabban and Ammaron McCarthy are exciting prospects, while Luke Griffiths returns as one of our past seniors,” Moore said.
“Luke is a great role model for the team, who are training hard and committed to performing at their very best.
“Overall, Penrith is proud to have nine of 12 players in both the Men and the Women programs having played for Penrith in representative basketball.”
More signings are expected to be announced soon.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.