By BACT Media Unit – 4 December 2023

For fans of the game, the closer to the on-court action we sit, the better the experience.  You can hear the squeak of sneakers on the court and the instructions of the coach, as well as feel the efforts and energy of the players.

The same can be said for young players looking to make their journey along the pathway to success.  However, their focus is on a seat even closer to the action – the bench.

Claudea Waihape Andrews is one of those young players, who have been able to achieve that spot on the University of Canberra Capitals bench in 2023/2024, after securing an opportunity to be a Development Player in the program for their WNBL campaign.

Waihape Andrews has seen her stocks in the game continues in leaps and bounds over the last few season, after first coming to people’s attention as part of the Erindale College team that contested Basketball ACT’s Junior Premier League Grand Final in 2020.

Hailing from a talented sporting family, Claudea had to make a choice around this time to concentrate on basketball, and it certainly has paid dividends.

“As I was winding up at Erindale College, I really wanted to put my head down and make basketball my main sporting focus.  Each year since I have tried to work on my strengths  – I have always been and defensive player – even in other sports, so I want to continue to lock that down, and then use that as a foundation to build my offensive game.”, Claudea said.

Selection in the ACT Under 20’s representative teams soon followed, which then turned into an opportunity, and a Waratah Youth League championship, with the Canberra Nationals Academy in their debut year in 2021.  A championship in 2022, this time in the Waratah Women’s Division, along with receiving the Waratah League Defensive Player of the Year Award, underlined Claudea’s capabilities.

(Photo courtesy Discovery One Photography)

Claudea’s efforts at training and on-court, were enough for then Canberra Nationals coach, Natalie Hurst, to promote Claudea into the Canberra Nationals roster for the 2023 NBL 1 East season.  With defence as the cornerstone of her game, Claudea was able to go toe-to-toe with some of the conference’s big names, without letting her team down.

While injury curtailed Claudea’s NBL1 East season a little in 2023, the chance to attend the UC Capitals Development Trials was a good way to showcase her potential.  The Development Trials have allowed a better connection between the UC Capitals and Basketball ACT, and has strengthened the opportunities of the region’s talented young players to demonstrate their abilities, and learn what is required to succeed at the top level.

(Photo courtesy Discovery One Photography)

After only a few games into the season, Claudea was signed as a Development Player for the remainder of the season, and has been relishing the opportunity.

“I was asked to come in to pre-season by Coach Veal for three weeks, and was really excited about the opportunity to get as much as I could out of that experience.  After the three weeks, I was asked to stay a bit longer and was then offered the DP spot.  It has all happened so fast.”

Following in the footsteps of Canberra Nationals team-mates, Abby Solway and Chloe Tugliach (DP’s in 2022/23), the transition into the UC Capitals squad was made easier with so many familiar faces.

“When I first came into the UC Capitals squad, it made it easier to see familiar faces from the Canberra Nationals like Abby and Chloe. It made me feel more comfortable as they have been in my shoes before.  Continuing to work together and bringing that cohesion into next NBL1 East season will be really exciting.”

(Photo courtesy UC Capitals)

The familiar faces weren’t confined to Claudea’s Nationals’ teammates, with several NBL1 East opponents also on the roster.

“It’s amazing to be team-mates with players who I have played against in NBL1 East too.  Nicole Munger is a workhorse and her approach to the game, both on and off the court, is something I want to model my game on.  Having played against Munger in NBL1, I would much rather be on her team than against her.”

Claudea is relishing the opportunity to learn from UC Capitals, and recently announced Canberra Nationals coach for 2024, Kristen Veal, as well as being up close to many seasoned WNBL professionals.

“Having Nat and now Vealy as my coaches has been amazing this year.  They have different coaching styles, but I feel their experiences and knowledge, and the time they have spent with me will be beneficial for my continued growth but also the way our team plays together.”, Claudea said when asked about having two all time greats as coaches.

“In trainings I am seeing lots of different perspectives from our experienced players like Alex Sharp and Alex Fowler.  I really just want to learn and grow every training session.  Being so close to the action on game-day allows me to watch and study how opposition players like Lauren Jackson and Maddie Rocci go about their game and I can take elements from that to adapt to my own game.”

With a willingness to learn, grow and develop her game at every level, Claudea will no doubt get even closer to the action on court as the season and opportunities increase for this talented local star.

Season Passes for the upcoming Mitsubishi Motors NBL1 East season are now available. With a new coach, plenty of local stars and a 10 game Home game schedule, all we need is you to BRING THE NOISE in 2024. You can find out further details, including costs and inclusions, by clicking the below:

Mitsubishi Motors NBL1 East – Season Pass