Abby Bishop... she's just signed a deal with the Capitals. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
They missed out on superstar Lauren Jackson but the Canberra Capitals have declared Abby Bishop ‘‘the next best thing’’ and are adamant she can help them reclaim the WNBL championship.
Olympian Bishop signed a deal with the Capitals on Wednesday and will play at least two of the next three seasons in Canberra.
Fairfax Media can also reveal the club will complete a hat-trick of French signings next week when they unveil guard Isabelle Strunc as the last recruit to join Bishop and Natalie Hurst.
Contract and payment bungles at French club Perpignan opened the door for Bishop to return to the Capitals after a three-year absence.
Canberra coach Carrie Graf said marquee recruit Bishop was the perfect replacement for four-time Olympian Jackson.
Jackson walked away from a Capitals contract last month because of delayed negotiations and the club missing a signing deadline.
‘‘I’ve been an Abby Bishop fan for a long time and will continue to be, she’s a huge addition to our program ... she’s got unbelievable basketball IQ,’’ Graf said.
‘‘We don’t have Lauren, but if you think of the next best, you can’t go too far wrong with Abby Bishop. She’s part of the culture ... she’s special.
‘‘That’s why she made the Olympics at a young age, that’s why she’ll probably be a triple or four-time Olympian.’’
Bishop had one more year remaining on her deal with Perpignan, but the club stopped paying its players in January.
The 24-year-old wasn’t paid until last month when the French government stepped in and paid the players.
Her Perpignan teammate Strunc will sign with the Capitals next week while Canberra junior Hurst has returned from a stint with French club Aix Provence.
Bishop joined the Capitals in 2006 as a teenager and is a three-time championship winner.
After leaving Canberra at the end of the 2009-10 season, she played with the Seattle Storm in the WNBA, the Adelaide Lightning, Dandenong Rangers and Perpignan.
She also made her Olympic Games debut in London last year.
‘‘Everything happens for a reason and now I’m back here at the Capitals,’’ Bishop said.
‘‘It feels like I’m coming home ... it will be a bit of a reunion.’’
Bishop already has nine years of WNBL experience.
‘‘She’s incredibly versatile, she’s older, wiser, better, bigger and stronger - when [she] left she was already bloody good and now she’s even better,’’ Graf said.
The Capitals have struggled in the past two years, missing the finals in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
‘‘Hopefully we can get the Caps back to where we used to be in the day - back to a winning team. We’ve got winning players who have been part of a winning team,’’ Bishop said.