The Australian junior basketball scene has experienced an extremely successful 2014, with both the U17 Goannas and U17 Sapphires having impressive FIBA U17 World Championship campaigns, as well as both the U19 Emus and U19 Gems qualifying for their respective FIBA U19 World Championships.
In preparation for these events, as well as looking toward the future of Australia’s junior national teams, Basketball Australia is once again holding its annual Australian Development Camp (ADC). The camp, held at Basketball Australia’s National Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Canberra, ACT, will take place over five days from 19-23 January and will be overlooked by Boomers Head Coach Andrej Lemanis, Opals Head Coach Brendan Joyce and Rollers Head Coach Ben Ettridge.
Last year’s ADC gave coaches a chance to see potential U17 and U19 squad members before their respective tournaments later in the year.
This year we see 2 groups of athletes in the men’s and women’s training squads, respectively.
The first group are the 1999 and 2000 born athletes, all of whom will be looking to be a part of the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship campaign – a journey that begins in August when teams will be chosen for the 2014 FIBA Oceania U16 Championships.
The second group involves those who may be in contention for Australian U19 squads that will compete at the FIBA U19 World Championship later in the year. The U19 Emus compete in late-June while the U19 Gems compete in July. This camp provides a valuable opportunity for coaches to have a look at some athletes who may have just been on the cusp of making the team that competed in December.
Players to Watch
There’s no doubt that William McDowell–White is one of the most dynamic junior guards in the country, he’s a great athlete and finishes extremely well at the rim. Off-court issues held him back last year, with a reported fall-out with his coaching staff keeping the 6’5 guard off the U18 Queensland South squad and ultimately making him ineligible for selection to the Australian U17 squad.
McDowell-White has since had a very impressive adidas Nations campaign and will likely be on head coach Adam Caporn’s radar for a possible selection to the Australian U19 squad. With the Emus having a weak selection of back-court players, relative to their front-court options, this ADC will provide an ideal opportunity for McDowell-White to put himself back into national team contention.
Another player who will want to put himself back into national team contention is Jock Perry. The 7’1 centre out of Melbourne was a key member of the Australian U16 squad in the FIBA Oceania U16 Championships back in 2013, with a place in the subsequent U17 squad almost guaranteed.
However a series of unfortunately timed injuries held the big-man back, keeping him out of the Australian U17 squad and ultimately the Australian U19 squad last year.
Perry will be looking to show that he deserves to be back in the conversation for national team selection. He’ll be going up against the likes of Jordan Hunter and Andrew Ferguson at the ADC, both of whom are in the same situation as him.
Alex Sharp is another athlete who was held back by injury toward the end of last year. The Victorian slasher suffered a shoulder injury in the latter end of the year and was held out of contention for the Australian U19 squad.
Sharp has continued her rehab at the CoE and will enter the camp looking to show that she’s at the same level as her peers. Sharp averaged 5.3 ppg, 6 rpg and 1.9 apg for the Australian U17 squad at the FIBA U17 World Championship for Women last year, proving to be one of the more versatile players in the country.
Horvat has made a huge jump in her development since joining the CoE. Last year was a huge year for the wing player out of Geelong, helping her Victoria Country squad reach the championship game at the U18 Australian Junior Championship, as well as earning a call-up to the Australian U19 squad for the FIBA Oceania U19 Championships.
Like Sharp, Horvat is one of the most versatile players in the country and will be looking to show that she can perform consistently. Word is that Opals head coach Brendan Joyce and Gems head coach Paul Gorris have taken a liking to Horvat, a positive sign for the youngster as she looks to solidify her spot on the Australian U19 Gems squad,
With a very limited viewing of the athletes born in 1999 and 2000, this ADC is the first chance for national team coaches to get an effective look at the players. The group of athletes have been selected based on their respective performances at the U16 Australian Junior Championships last year and are currently on the radar to represent Australia in the upcoming FIBA Oceania U16 Championships in August.
The next group of potential Australian U17 athletes is relatively weak compared to previous years, with no-one likely to match the achievements of the likes of Dante Exum, Ben Simmons and Isaac Humphries. But there are still some players who have the ability to make some noise over the next few years.
Patrick Bines had a very impressive U16 Australian Junior Championship last year, averaging 10.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg on 46% FG and 38% 3pt. His Victoria Metro squad finished in 2nd place and a lot of that was due to the play of the 6’2 guard.
Bines has the ability to get to the rack, while using his length to finish in the paint. He also has range out to the 3-point line and is a more-than-capable defender. What’s most impressive about Bines, and will likely attract the attention of national team coaches, is his leadership. With his Victoria Metro team hurt by injury, Bines was able to step up and perform when his team needed him – an intangible trait that’s tough to find in junior athletes.
Another intriguing prospect attending the camp is South Australia’s Biar Garang. Garang continues the recent surge of Sudanese-Australian athletes coming through the junior national team system.
Garang is an extremely dynamic athlete, something that the Australian U17 squad hasn’t seen since Ben Simmons was a part of the program. Although he is quite raw at this point – with an ideal basketball body and what seems to be an exceptionally high ceiling, it will be interesting to see how this 6’4 slasher performs at the next level.
The women’s group coming through for the 2-year Australian U17 women’s squad campaign is looking relatively strong, with a diverse group of athletes in the mix. Although the female invitees of this year’s ADC are those looking to prepare for the U19 Gems squad, there are still a number of impressive 1999-born and 2000-born athletes attending.
Ezi Magbegor had an unbelievable U16 Australian Junior Championship, at around 6’3 she was one of the tallest women in this tournament and averaged an astounding 10.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg & 5.7 bpg as VIC Metro earned 4th place.
Australia hasn’t seen a female prospect with Magbegor’s potential in quite some time, proving she has the ability to turn into an elite-level rim protector. Although she is still a very raw prospect, this ADC will provide a great chance for her to perform in front of national team coaches and against some of the more accomplished bigs in the country.
Our selection for MVP for the U16 Australian Junior Championship last year was NSW Country wing Jasmine Simmons. Simmons was undoubtedly the most dominant player at the tournament, averaging 17.6 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 3 apg on 57% FG and 83% FT.
Simmons could be a key player for the Australian U17 women’s squad in a few year’s time, with her versatility and IQ really shining through in last year’s tournament.
This camp will also see some of Australia’s best wheelchair athletes in attendance, with Rollers Head Coach Ben Ettridge overlooking that segment of the week.
Not only does this camp provide a platform for the country’s national coaches to see some of the best junior talent, but it also gives the athletes a taste of the elite development opportunities involved in Basketball Australia’s program.