Australian basketball's continent hopper: How Rebecca Allen navigated COVID-19

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On March 7, Australian Opals star Rebecca Allen played her last game of the 2019-20 season. A dominant win by Arka Gdynia improved the Polish team to an incredible 21-0 for the season.

As worldwide COVID-19 concerns escalated at an alarming rate, the sweet shooting Allen poured in 19 points on 5-for-7 from beyond the arc, while adding five rebounds and three assists in a continuation of an outstanding season that saw her knock down 46 percent of her attempts from range.

"At that point we still thought the season was going ahead as normal," Allen told ESPN. "[But] things changed rapidly."

It was exactly a week from that final game when Allen found herself in a race to book a flight home to Melbourne before borders closed on March 14.

"My parents were with me; they were there visiting so in some ways it was shocking timing, but it was so great to have them with me," she says. "They had booked their flights for the Sunday morning and I ended up doing that as well and then we found out on the Friday that borders were closing Saturday night and we weren't going to make our flight out of Poland.

"We had to do a really quick change of flights, thank god I got us a seat on one, packed up my apartment and we were out."

With the European season cut short and the WNBA postponed, Allen has made the most of her time in Australia, connecting with family, friends and above all else, resting her body physically and mentally.

"I haven't had an opportunity like this where you can just rest the body and mind without there being an injury or something like that, so I've really taken advantage of this," Allen explains. "It was so important for me; I know we had the Olympics coming up and that had my entire focus but, in the end, it's been a reset of the mind and changing my goals for now."

While the first few weeks on home soil consisted of bike work, palates, core workouts and boxing, easing restrictions in Victoria has meant Allen can finally get back on the court with her Opals teammates.

Joining Allen for twice weekly workouts are Liz Cambage, Jenna O'Hea, Sara Blicavs, Ezi Magbegor, Alanna Smith and Bec Cole, a Melbourne based group that are set to play a key part in the Opals' pursuit of Gold at the Tokyo Olympics, now in 2021.

"Everyone was missing the game so our first couple of sessions back I don't think I stopped smiling the entire time," she says. "It was so nice to be getting shots up and doing it with teammates and friends."

The time on court with world class talent is proving invaluable for Allen, with the WNBA season inching towards a resolution to the challenges coronavirus has presented.

ESPN reports suggest the WNBA is set to propose a 22-game schedule beginning on July 24, with a bubble set up at the IMG Academy in Florida a potential location.

Despite the uncertainty and the fact there is just 48 days between now and that date, Allen has been pleased with the communication between the league, teams and players during the unprecedented stoppage.

"[The WNBPA] are there for us, they answer all our questions and try to make sure it's a situation that's going to benefit us as players," Allen says. "It's my sixth year at New York [Liberty] and they've always looked after me, I definitely have a lot of trust in the organisation as a whole, but it's also good being an older player and being comfortable to ask those questions.

"To have a little bit more information now is a good thing. I know the league is going to put the health and safety of the players first but there is still a lot of things that need to be addressed before the season can go ahead."

Health and safety concerns aside, a return of the WNBA, in a significantly shortened season, will produce high intensity, high stakes competition, with every game holding playoff implication.

Adding to the intrigue will be the expected rust that will accompany the athletes back onto to the hardwood.

"There's a lot of muscle memory, I'm sure I'll be fine but at the same time you do want to be prepared, the WNBA is one of the best leagues in the world, you can't go in there underdone.

While acknowledging the unfamiliarity with the current situation, Allen points out any early struggles will be felt right across the league.

"The reality of is that almost all of my teammates and my opponents haven't had access to gyms or courts," she says. "It's just the reality we are all having to deal with. It's a concern for myself but I'm sure it's a concern for other players too.

"If I've got this one month where I know I might be going there in late June and we will have a preseason together you can work up your own program. I've done it before with different injuries, so I know how to do it and it's just that self-motivation."

More to the point, Allen just wants to be back playing the game she loves.