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Sydney, AUSTRALIA (Dec 30) - "La Femme Nikita" with Australia's Peta Wilson is sweeping the Australian summer television scene, with Peta appearing on the December-January cover of GQ magazine, but still her basketball mystery continues.

Canadian studio biographical information states that Australian-born Wilson was "the youngest woman and best player on the Australian national basketball team".

But Basketball Australia has no record of her, and now Basketball New South Wales have completed research and turned up no sign either. And even Netball Australia have drawn a blank on the world television sensation.

"(I) have researched well and truly the fact that Peta Wilson had played basketball at a national level," says Tom Moore, the technology and registration manager of of Basketball New South Wales.

"I coached NSW at the National level from 1975 to 1985 and have checked the Basketball NSW History book and no such player has appeared in that time frame, unless she used a different name."

Meanwhile, over at Netball Australia (netball is sometimes mistakingly referred to as "basketball") they have aso completed research.

"I have searched our records here at Netball Australia and there is no recollection of a Peta Wilson having played for Australia," says Karen Miller, Netball Australia's national PR co-ordinator.

Many thanks to Basketball New South Wales and Netball Australia for their latest research, and to Basketball Australia for their earlier contributions.

Whatever the true history of Peta Wilson, the fact remains that "La Femme Nikita" is making her a world-wide sensation, and if basketball in Australia can get some more exposure, well and good.

Click here to see the Previous Story on Peta Wilson.

California, USA (Dec 30) - The 6-game Californian road-swing of Southwestern Louisiana University and its two Australians has taken a successful turn with its first away of the season.

However, Southwestern Louisiana lost the championship game of the Golden Bear Classic to the University of California 65-94.

California (8-1), who won their sixth straight, led 46-20 at halftime and never let up, hitting 70 points before the Ragin' Cajuns (4-5) reached 30.

Sydney-born Brett Smith scored 5 points for Southwestern Louisiana in front of a parochial Californian crowd of 9,011.

Earlier in the tournament, Southwestern Louisiana handed Mississippi State its first loss of the season 60-58.

It was the Rajun' Cajuns' first road win this season. Brett Smith, the Australian 6-8 forward, had 7 points and a team-high 7 rebounds.

Melbourne-born point guard David Patrick also plays with Southwestern Louisiana.

New York, USA (Dec 30) - The womens professional American Basketball League has suspended operations, unable to stem its financial losses in its third season, reports Associated Press.

The league, which had significant Australian connections, announced the move in a telephone recording, by fax and on its Web site, saying it would file for protection under the US federal bankruptcy code.

Shelley Sandie - in the ABL,
became the first Australian woman to play professionally in the US In the ABL's first season in 1996-97, Shelley Sandie (pictured) became the first Australian woman to play professionally in the US, while Rehema Stephens (Australia's CBA North Conference MVP with the Toowoomba Mountainettes in 1993) scored the first womens professional 3-point basket in US history in the ABL. Debbie Black (winner of a WNBL championship with Hobart, and a CBA national championship with Launceston) was the ABL's smallest player, recorded the first quadruple-double in US womens professional history, and appeared in two consecutive all-star games.

This year, Australians Natalie Hughes and Tully Bevilaqua were both included in the ABL Annual Draft.

The decision of the ABL to fold leaves the WNBA as the lone US professional women's basketball league.

"This is a sad day for our fans, employees, players, and coaches and for women's basketball in general," ABL co-founder and chief executive officer Gary Cavalli said in a statement. "We gave it our best shot."

"We fought the good fight and we had a good run. But we were unable to obtain the television exposure and sponsorship support needed to make the league viable long term."

The league had franchises in Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Nashville, Hartford, Philadelphia, Portland, San Jose, and Seattle. Two franchises, in Long Beach and Atlanta, had folded earlier because of poor attendance.

Fans of womens professional basetball in the US will now have to content themselves with the WNBA, which is sometimes guilty of adopting the sometimes sickly glitz of the governing NBA.

WNBA players recently voted to unionize. Hopefully, they won't be going down the same path as their NBA counterparts, now that they have the womens court to themselves.

Washington, USA (Dec 30) - Australia's Axel Dench scored a season-high 12 points in Gonzaga University's 39-point win over Idaho.

Gonzaga (8-3) out-shot and out-rebounded Idaho (4-5) to win 94-55, and finished the game shooting 48 percent from the field and from 3-point range.

They also out-rebounded the Vandals 58-27 for their fourth consecutive victory.

Gonzaga, which led 38-26 at the break, went on a 21-9 run midway through the second half to put the game out of reach.

Gonzaga had five players score in double figures, including Dench, who shot 3-6 from the field (including 2-2 from three-point range) and 4-4 free throws.

Gonzaga enjoyed home court advantage at Spokane, Washington, with a crowd of 4,008.

Connecticut, USA (Dec 30) - Although Perth's Justin Brown will "redshirt" at top-ranked University of Connecticut, he promises to be part of an Australian rivalry for the next three years.

Connecticut beat Fairfield University and won easily with Brown watching from the sidelines, but the news Australian Hoops likes is that Fairfield includes a 6-10 Australian-born freshman Matt Smith.

Against Connecticut, Smith played 9 minutes, finishing with 2 points, 1 rebound and 2 personal fouls.

With Connecticut and Fairfield playing each other every year, the Australian match-up of 7-0 Brown and Victoria's 6-10 Smith promises to be a feature for the next three years.

Steve Cox reports from Connecticut, "UConn plays Fairfield every year, so these two "towers" could go head to head for the next three years. Small world after all."

Fairfield is located in Connecticut, midway between Hartford, Conn. and New York City. It's a continuing intra-state rivalry.

Brown has previously played against Smith in high school.

Click here to see the Previous Story on Justin Brown.

Australian Hoops greatly appreciates the updates provided by Steve Cox, and other contributors from around the world.

Houston, USA (Dec 30) - A US court judgement is expected December 30 which could potentially free current NBA stars to play in Australia while the NBA lock-out continues.

A judge in the District Court in Houston has scheduled a hearing for December 30 on a lawsuit by NBA players Nick Van Exel of Denver, Marcus Camby of New York and Reggie Slater of Toronto, who want to be cleared to play basketball in Europe, reports Associated Press. Australia could be the next step.

The judge has said he'll decide after the hearing if an injunction should be issued to force USA Basketball to give clearance to the three players.

American players cannot play overseas without clearance from USA Basketball.

The lawsuit alleges that USA Basketball is conspiring with the NBA to keep the players from going overseas.

The players said time is of the essence since European teams do not permit players to be added to the playoff roster after December 31.

NBA teams have had a lockout of players in effect for months.

"It gives our players the opportunity to have a judge look at this impartially and give them a chance to play in Europe if the NBA season fails, which it looks like ... now," the players' agent said.

Craig Miller, a spokesman for USA Basketball, said the organization has no interest in whether the players go to Europe.

"It's up to FIBA (basketball's international governing body) and the NBA to make the decision because of their existing contracts," Miller said.

Click here for the Previous Story on the FIBA clearance legal challenge.

Sydney, AUSTRALIA (Dec 30) - Australian Goldmark Opals head coach Tom Maher has named a squad of nineteen players to take part in a training camp in Canberra in January-February.

Maher said when announcing the players, "This is obviously a major component of our preparation and our challenge is to ensure that we're building on that which is already in place".

The squad is : Tully BEVILAQUA - Perth Breakers, Allison COOK - Bulleen Boomers, Rohanee COX - Perth Breakers, Kristi HARROWER - Melbourne Tigers, Jo HILL - Adelaide Lightning, Lauren JACKSON - AIS, Jae KINGI - Adelaide Lightning, Annie LA FLEUR - Sydney Flames, Robyn MAHER - Sydney Flames, Emily MCINERNY - Melbourne Tigers, Alicia POTO - Sydney Flames, Shelley SANDIE - Canberra Capitals, Karen SMITH - Canberra Capitals, Rachael SPORN - Adelaide Lightning, Gina STEVENS - Perth Breakers, Penny TAYLOR - AIS, Michele TIMMS - Bulleen Boomers, Kristen VEAL - AIS, Jenny WHITTLE - Perth Breakers.

Six members of the squad have played professionally in the US - five in the WNBA and one in the ABL.

Four members of the 1998 World Championship Bronze medal winning team are unable to attend due to commitments overseas. These are Sandy BRONDELLO (Germany), Trisha FALLON (Italy), Michelle GRIFFITHS (Italy) and Carla PORTER (Germany).

Maher says that the loss of these players gives others the chance to train with the Goldmark Opals in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

"It's a great opportunity for players to further their claims for both selection and the particular role they hope to play," said Maher.

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