There’s an Anneli Maley sized hole on every WNBA team

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 23: Anneli Maley of Australia runs out during the 2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Group B match between Australia and Mali at Sydney Superdome, on September 23, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 23: Anneli Maley of Australia runs out during the 2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup Group B match between Australia and Mali at Sydney Superdome, on September 23, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images) /

At just 24, Anneli Maley has a long basketball career ahead of her. Standing at 6-foot-1 with an unrivaled ability to rebound, she’s ready to rejoin the WNBA as a handy wing.

In 2022, Maley was signed by the Chicago Sky to a training camp contract, waived, signed again, released and signed again. She played four games before being released again. After a tumultuous 2022, Anneli is back to being a free agent in the WNBA.

Maley earned the 2021-22 MVP in the WNBL (the Australian professional women’s league), leaving WNBA players Steph Talbot and Jackie Young settling for second and third. It was in large part due to her rebounding ability, blowing away her competition in this regard. She averaged a staggering 15.7 rebounds per game, 5.1 more per contest than second place. She also led the league in points per game last season and has shown an ability to lead the Bendigo Spirit in the early going of the 2022-23 season, beginning with a perfect 6-0 record.

WNBL fans of opposing teams will surely be thinking of a time in which their team full-court pressed the Spirit just to see the number 15 knife down the middle of the court after inbounding the ball, rim running, getting an easy 2 and making the defense look like traffic cones. Running and finishing in transition also come from her ability to read the flow and rhythm of a game and what it is asking for.

Maley’s stringy frame can lull opposing teams into a false sense of security and create second-chance opportunities for her team. Contrast this with her 3-point shooting and she’ll create space for an inside presence, as well as work as a zone buster. Tie it all together with her game sense and court vision and she can turn good defensive possessions into easy transition baskets and counter full-court presses with the best of them.

Challenging international experience has helped mold Anneli Maley

Maley’s approach to basketball isn’t just about what she does when she’s checked into the game. She represented Australia at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney this year and her role on the national squad was completely different from that on Bendigo.

In five appearances and 26 total minutes, Maley spent her time boxing out, rebounding, making extra passes, spacing out in the deep corner and lifting when the defense would shift. She was doing all of the things a role player needed to do and it didn’t end when she was on the bench.

Anneli was the first player up any time someone was subbed off, she was the first to cheer when her teammates would score, she was constantly communicating while she was on the bench and she brought consistency with her smile. Imagine every time you look over to your bench you have that on your side, that’s sure to give your team a push.

I had the opportunity to speak with Anneli at the tournament and I asked her how she was able to keep so much energy when game time wasn’t promised for her national squad:

“I mean just being there is a privilege, like being part of the group. Making the squad is a privilege, being in the team is a privilege. It’s hard not to have energy when you’re surrounded by greatness.”

When asked how she felt she had changed as a basketball player since making the World Cup team, she said, “Being able to adjust to different roles, I think is maybe the biggest thing. At any given moment your role might change. Like, I might sit on the bench for three games straight then they need me for a minute or two and it’s just being able to mentally stay ready all the time. I think that’s been my biggest growth area for me is always being switched on, never knowing when my time is gonna come.”

Her present nature and appreciation for every opportunity can be seen in all of her actions. Much is said about athletes wanting to do what’s best for the team, and Maley just does it. Whether it’s leading her team to a perfect start to the season or representing her country as the 12th player in a bronze medal run, she’s a chameleon who isn’t surviving, she’s thriving. Heck, she’s already had a cup of coffee with the Chicago Sky.

“I absolutely loved my time in Chicago and I think knowing that it was only temporary and it could end at any minute… that made me really appreciate every single moment,” Anneli said on Episode 1 of The WNBL Show. “The small things, meeting the media team, talking to fans, playing in [the Wintrust Arena], playing with Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Candace Parker, that was incredible,” she continued. “As soon as it started it felt like it was over but I had such an incredible, amazing experience and I would go back in a heartbeat.”

I can’t think of a WNBA team with a wing rotation of both starters and backups that Maley doesn’t fit into, they should all be looking to capitalize off of this heartbeat. Employers across the league wouldn’t just be adding someone to their payroll based on their potential, but would also be adding someone based on their production. Not only is she the type of basketball player you want wearing your team’s jersey, but she’s the type of person you want in your team’s locker room.

She can provide dependable forward depth for contenders like the Las Vegas Aces and the Seattle Storm, she can either dive to the cup or spot up on the break with the New York Liberty, she can add valuable minutes and experience to the Indiana Fever, Atlanta Dream and the Minnesota Lynx. She’s a floor raiser and a Swiss Army Knife that will figure out a way to make her team better from any roster position.

If I was in the front office of any WNBA team I would be calling on Anneli Maley’s duties ahead of the 2023 season.

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