Cassidy McLean cannot wait to be back on court in the WNBL after securing a contract with Bendigo for the 2020-21 season.
The Newcastle guard, who turned 21 on Tuesday, produced a promising rookie season with the Spirit in 2018-19. But she spent the last national league watching on as spectator while rehabilitating a knee injury sustained playing for the Hunters in the Waratah Basketball League in March last year.
McLean had intended to use the NBL1 season with the Bendigo Braves this year to push for another WNBL contract but the competition was cancelled before it began due to coronavirus pandemic.
She spent lockdown back in Newcastle, wondering when she would get the chance to reignite her national career.
The offer came last month from Spirit coach Tracy York and the decision "was a pretty easy one" to make.
"I've obviously played in Bendigo before and loved it and I've got the relationships there with the coaching staff and also the organisation and a couple of players as well, so it definitely wasn't hard to say yes and didn't take a lot of persuading either," McLean said.
McLean was the fifth player to be contracted by the Spirit, joining Australian representative Tessa Lavey, Carley Ernst, Demi Skinner and Alicia Froling.
"It's been 15 months since I've played a game of basketball and played competitively, so it's a bit of a confidence booster in my ability to be signed," McLean said.
"Obviously, I've been able to make a pretty good impression on them, and I hope that it was not just my basketball ability but my character off the court as well that made it a lot easier for them to give me the offer. I'm just so excited to get back down there."
Last week, Basketball Australia announced a ban on imports for the 2020-21 season, which is scheduled to start on November 20. That means home-grown, emerging talent like McLean, an Australian under-17 player, have the opportunity to establish themselves in the league.
"Without imports playing in the league, you definitely move up a spot and I guess you've just got to prove yourself ... so it's good to have that security and also a challenge," she said.
McLean plans to use a modified Waratah Basketball League with the Hunters, expected to start on July 18, to rebuild confidence.
"I don't necessarily have that pressure of having to perform [for a WNBL contract] in this upcoming Waratah League season and I can just find my feet again, in the league and in playing basketball, and have a bit of fun with it as well," McLean said.