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MIAMI _ Sandy Brondello grew up in the sugar-cane fields outside Mackay, Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef. She learned to play basketball on a grass court with a backboard her father built in the backyard.
"That grass court probably helped me develop my pull-up jump shot at a young age," said the 5-foot-7 guard. "I couldn't dribble so much because I would lose the ball with all the rocks in the grass."
Elena Baranova was born in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and was handpicked to play basketball because of her height and athleticism. At 17, the 6-5 center was playing for the Soviet national team and honing her skills at the Academy of Sport Moscow.
"She was considered one of the best players in Europe, if not the best player in the world," said Marynell Meadors, the Sol's director of scouting.