NEW Dandenong Rangers signing Sara Blicavs has come through the gruelling tests of pre-season and is ready for life with the WNBL champions.
After two WNBL seasons with the Australian Institute of Sport, the 19 year old has been asked to play power forward and centre due to the lack of import centre Krista Phillips and other Rangers talls, while at training she has struggled to keep up with the intensive fitness work demanded by Rangers coach Mark Wright.
Yet Blicavs said she still loved being a part of the Rangers and learning the realities of WNBL basketball.
"This pre-season is going to be the death of me, "she joked. "It's been tiring but I love training hard and getting back into things. The girls have been awesome; I've fit in so well and they are a very accepting bunch."
With several of the Rangers missing from the side during the WNBL preseason tournament at Dandenong Stadium earlier this month, Blicavs got plenty of minutes to run herself up to WNBL speed.
But the majority of those minutes were in the post, rather than her favoured guard and small forward positions.
With taller players such as Phillips and Carley Mijovic returning to the team, Blicavs is getting used to moving back outside. "I will play inside a little bit at times, like when I have mismatches or when we are missing players," she said.
The Rangers are returning the core of their championship team with Olympians Kath Macleod, Jenna O'Hea and Phillips all back along with Steph Cumming, Tegan Cunningham and Alison Downie.
O'Hea could miss the first four or five matches due to WNBA play-off commitments with the LA Sparks.
Blicavs and best friend Mijovic join the team fresh from the AIS and will face a battle to earn minutes in the team. But for Blicavs, she has embraced the battle to prove herself to her new team.
"Our first training was a killer," she said. "It sounds corny but I idolise those players above me in our team. They show me the level I have to reach to be up with them. You want to beat them at training and they are so knowledgeable that it's helped me a lot."
Blicavs has also adjusted quickly to the demands of Wright, who wants to take his side to a second-straight title against Lauren Jackson's Canberra Capitals and a reloaded Bulleen.
"He is very forward, which is great," she said. "You need coaches who aren't afraid to speak their mind because you need to know when you are going good or doing bad.
"He is such a friendly and funny person, then as soon as training starts his mood changes and he becomes angry and intense for two hours, then straight after he is fine."
When it comes to her role this season, Blicavs has no idea how she will fit into the Rangers team but is committed to giving her all no matter what she is asked to do.
"I'm trying to prove I'm worthy of playing some minutes but I can't choose what happens. It's totally up to Mark," she said.
The WNBL season starts on Friday night when the Rangers host Bulleen Boomers at Dandenong Stadium at 7pm.
DANDENONG RANGERS WNBL DRAW 2012-2013
October 5 Dandenong v Bulleen Boomers at Dandenong Stadium 7pm
October 13 Dandenong v Bendigo at Dandenong Stadium 7pm
October 21 Dandenong v West Coast at Dandenong Stadium 4pm
October 26 Dandenong v Townsville at Dandenong Stadium 7pm
October 27 Bendigo v Dandenong at Dandenong Stadium 7.30pm
November 2 Townsville v Dandenong at RSL Stadium 7pm
November 3 Logan v Dandenong at Rockhampton 7.30pm
November 10 Dandenong v Bulleen at Dandenong Stadium 7pm
November 16 Adelaide v Dandenong at Adelaide Arena 7.30pm
November 17 West Coast v Dandenong at Lakeside Stadium 7.30pm
November 24 Dandenong v West Coast at Dandenong Stadium 7pm
December 1 Dandenong v Canberra at Dandenong Stadium 7pm
December 8 Bendigo v Dandenong at Bendigo Stadium 7.30pm
December 15 Dandenong v Sydney at Dandenong Stadium 7pm
January 4 Canberra v Dandenong at AIS Arena 7pm
January 5 Sydney v Dandenong at SUSAC 7pm
January 12 Bulleen v Dandenong at Veneto Club 7.30pm
January 13 Dandenong v Sydney at Dandenong Stadium 4pm
January 19 Canberra v Dandenong at AIS Arena 7pm
January 25 Dandenong v Adelaide at Dandenong Stadium 7pm
February 1 Dandenong v Logan at Dandenong Stadium 7pm
February 8 Townsville v Dandenong at RSL Stadium 7pm
February 10 Logan v Dandenong at Logan Metro 2pm
February 16 Dandenong v Adelaide at Dandenong Stadium 7pm