Jade Melbourne will return to the Canberra Capitals as one of Australia's brightest young stars maps out her path to the world stage.
The Canberra Times can reveal Melbourne has signed a two-year contract with the Capitals which will keep her at the club until the end of the 2022-23 WNBL season.
The 18-year-old sensation has committed to the Capitals after knocking back the chance to play college basketball with Arizona State in the United States.
Melbourne is widely regarded as one of Australia's hottest prospects and her return to Canberra looms as a massive coup for Capitals coach Paul Goriss.
The Capitals mentor is rebuilding his roster following the departures of Marianna Tolo, Maddison Rocci and Keely Froling, with Melbourne the eighth player revealed as part of a new-look squad.
Melbourne is poised to play a huge role for the Capitals after a breakout rookie season in the north Queensland hub last summer.
"There was no doubt in my mind she would compete in the WNBL," Goriss said.
That's why he unleashed the so-called smiling assassin in Canberra's starting five in her WNBL debut last season.
"What I didn't know was the impact she would have on our team, and on the games and results we had. She was a huge factor," Goriss said.
"For her to come in as a rookie, unheralded, to come in and have to start and play the role she did at both ends of the floor, that was more of a shock."
There's no doubt in my mind she is going to be an Opal. My job is to get her to be a consistent WNBL player, so she will reach her goals of being an Opal and playing in the WNBA.Paul Goriss on Jade Melbourne
Which is why Melbourne began to wonder if her verbal commitment to a United States college was the right move for her future.
"She'd verbally committed to Arizona State out of all the colleges she got offers from, but then COVID hit and it gave her the opportunity to play with the Caps last season in the hub," Goriss said.
"After the hub season, it had changed her mind a little bit and she was thinking about turning pro versus going to college, and what was the best route to take for her development to be an Opal and play in the WNBA, those are her two goals.
"Her mind got swayed a little bit after the WNBL season, from the standpoint she showed she can compete at the WNBL level. I think it shocked her a little bit at the same time.
"It's only been in the past month that she has made the decision to turn down college, turn pro and play in the WNBL."
Last year Melbourne was a revelation. She tore highly-fancied rivals to pieces and quickly emerged as a star on the rise.
This time around she enters as a known quantity. Goriss admits there will be questions around the second-year syndrome which threatens to bring down promising rookies.
But everything the championship-winning coach has seen to date suggests Melbourne will relish her chance in the spotlight.
Melbourne is the next cab off the rank in Canberra's staggering production line.
She follows in the footsteps of Ezi Magbegor, now an Opal bound for the Tokyo Olympic Games, Southside-bound Rocci, Sydney recruit Froling, and rising star Gemma Potter.
The latter may well have found herself in a Capitals uniform once more this season if not for an anterior cruciate ligament tear.
"We're a pipeline for developing young Australian talent. Jade is right up there with those aforementioned names," Goriss said.
"There's no doubt in my mind she is going to be an Opal. My job is to get her to be a consistent WNBL player, so then she will reach her goals of being an Opal and playing in the WNBA.
"We provide a great opportunity at the Caps for her to achieve those goals."