Rachel Maenpaa and Leeara Creet join the Bundaberg Bears as new signings.
Rachel Maenpaa and Leeara Creet join the Bundaberg Bears as new signings. Max Fleet

Bears beef up talent

BUNDABERG Radiology Bears coach Dean Page believes he has filled the last two pieces of their playing roster puzzle for 2012 perfectly.

He will rest comfortably over the Christmas break after signing Rachel Maenpaa as their second American import and also recruiting Leeara Creet from Brisbane.

The Bears had their best season in 2011, making it all the way to the QBL women's grand final and leading at half-time in that game before being blown away by hosts Gladstone Port City Power.

Page said Maenpaa, 27, a 1.85m athletic power forward, was a native of Wisconsin who had a brilliant career at Indiana State University where she averaged 13.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in her senior season.

She has since played with distinction in first divisions in Portugal, Switzerland, Australia and Slovakia.

"Rachel has played out here the last two years for Brisbane Capitals and Northside Wizards and she is a very versatile player," Page said.

"Leeara comes from Brisbane and she played in several Queensland state junior teams and also went to Newberry College in America.

"She is a forward as well but is a defensive specialist and in her three years with Brisbane in the QBL has averaged 15 points and eight to 10 rebounds per game, which are good enough numbers for me.

"Leeara is only 21 and she is very athletic."

The duo spent this week in Bundaberg but will move here late next month, and Page is confident they will give the team the extra edge necessary to go all the way next year.

"They settled in well this week and got to know the town and the people a bit and they will move to Bundy at the end of January to get a good pre-season in," he said.

Page said Maenpaa would be a perfect replacement for fellow American Kisha Lee who has been a star for the team for the past two seasons.

"We are not bringing Kisha back - we just want to play a different style and we thought Rachel would be a better fit for that style," he said.

"Kisha did a good job but we have to go a different direction to close the gap between us and Gladstone.

"(Fellow American import of past two seasons) Vonnie Turner will be back, along with Hayley Munro and Alice Honnery and captain Kylie Giles, absolutely, and all the other girls, apart from Lucinda Doughty who has retired.

"Kylie will suit up for her 18th season for the Bears and despite the birth of her second child earlier this year, she has trained the house down. She is in fantastic shape and is the fittest out of all the girls here and she is working hard at getting better and better."

With their two recruits, Page said they would "certainly be better than last season".

"We will be more well rounded, athletic and quicker and I think we will be more talented as well than what we were. So hopefully it could be the Bears' season," he said.

While in Bundaberg this week, Maenpaa and Creet assisted Page and other Bundaberg Basketball coaches to conduct a junior clinic at WIN Stadium, also proving to be a hit.

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