With the beginning of the new year upon us, Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) has made some additions to both the Men’s and Women’s programs.
The Centre of Excellence program, located at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, is a key part of the Basketball Australia national player pathway, with the primary objective of developing potential international athletes to represent the Boomers and Opals.
The Men’s program took a hit with Gerard Martin (Grand Canyon University), Abi Akintola (University of Denver) and Xavier Cooks (Winthrop) moving on to college while Isaac Humphries, the 7-foot big man out of Sydney, left the program to attend La Lumiere School in Indiana.
The current squad has a mixture of Australian U17 representatives, potential Australian U19 representatives, and up-and-coming talent.
George Blagojevic | 6’8 | F | VIC
Blagojevic is entering his 2nd year in the program, with the 6’8 forward making large strides throughout 2014. A member of the Australian U19 Emus squad for the FIBA Oceania U19 Championships, Blagojevic will be hoping to be a part of the squad for the FIBA U19 World Championship campaign later this year. He committed to the University of Hartford earlier this month.
Tom Fullarton | 6’5 | G/F | QLD
As the youngest player in the program, Fullarton has emerged as one of the most promising players for his age in the country. The athletic wing player was the youngest members of the Asia Pacific squad at last year’s adidas Nations Global event, averaging 3.8 ppg and 2 rpg. Fullarton was an invitee to the 2015 Australian Development Camp and will likely be a key member of the Australian U16 squad at the FIBA Oceania U16 Championships later this year.
Harry Froling | 6’9 | PF | QLD
Harry Froling is entering his 2nd year in this program and was a key member off the bench for the Australian U17 squad at last year’s FIBA U17 World Championship in Dubai. The 6’9 (borderline 6’10) forward will be teaming up with William McDowell-White at next month’s U18 Australian Junior Championships, with his Queensland North squad one of the favourites entering that tournament. Harry continues the tradition of Frolings at the AIS, with his father, Shane, and his sisters, Alicia and Keely, among graduates of the program.
Deng Gak | 6’10 | PF/C | NSW
Gak was a late addition to last year’s CoE squad and has made a lot of improvement since he joined the program. Still a very raw talent, Gak will look to lead the NSW Metro squad at next month’s U18 Australian Junior Championships. The 6’10 Sudanese-Australian big-man was a member of the Australian U17 squad last year and will look to compete for a spot in the Australian U19 squad later this year.
Jayden Hodgson | 6’0 | G | NSW
Hodgson joined the Centre of Excellence program toward the end of last year and, as expected, will remain a part of the program until the end of 2015. Hodgson was a member of the Australian U17 squad, averaging 1.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg & 1.3 apg in just under 10 minutes of action. He was the first point guard off the bench for the squad, contributing to the silver medal winning campaign for the ‘Goannas’.
Jordan Hunter | 6’10 | NSW
Hunter is one of the new additions to the program, with the big-man emerging during the Australian U19 Squad’s FIBA Oceania campaign. The recent St Mary’s signee made trips to the AIS toward the end of last year to train with the CoE squad and made an impression on the coaches, ultimately being named as an injury replacement for the Australian U19 squad. Hunter had a very impressive showing last year in the NSW Waratah Junior Metro League, leading his Norths squad to a championship.
Tanner Krebs | 6’5 | PG | TAS
Krebs has been one of the key members of the program since joining last year, leading the squad throughout last year’s SEABL campaign. The 6’5 point guard will likely remain with the squad before beginning his stint at St Mary’s later this year. Krebs was a key member for the Tasmanian squad that nearly upset Victoria at this year’s U20’s Australian Junior Championships.
Will Magnay | 6’7 | PF | QLD
Magnay is one of the new additions to the squad and joins fellow Queenslanders Harry Froling, Jack McVeigh and Tom Fullarton. The 6’7 big-man hasn’t had much experience at this level but has performed well at Australian Junior Championship events throughout the years. Look for this year’s U18 Queensland South squad to be competitive with Magnay and Tom Fullarton at the helm.
Jack McVeigh | 6’7 | SF | QLD
Jack McVeigh has been a part of this program since 2013 and will join the University of Nebraska when their season begins later this year. McVeigh was chosen as a member of the Australian U19 squad toward the end of last year but was unable to compete due to illness. He’s expected to be a significant member of the upcoming Australian U19 squad. The 6’7 wing has been fortunate to wear the green and gold on a number of occasions – most recently the Sino-Australia Challenge, where he would make his debut for the Australian Boomers.
Jock Perry | 7’1 | C | VIC
Perry has also been a part of the program since 2013, with some unfortunate injuries slowing down his development over the years. At 7’1, the imposing big-man was kept out of recent Australian junior squads due to untimely injuries but showed at this year’s U20’s Australian Junior Championship that he’s still able to produce quality inside the paint. If he continues to return to form, look for Perry to be in the running to make the Australian U19 squad later this year.
Dejan Vasiljevic | 6’1 | SG | VIC
Vasiljevic joined the CoE program last year and has reaped the benefits – being named to the All-Tournament team at the FIBA U17 World Championship, hitting the game-winner to send the Australian U19 Emus through to the FIBA U19 World Championship, as well as being a part of the Basketball Without Borders Camp at NBA All-Star Weekend this year. Vasiljevic will likely be one of the key guards moving forward in the Australian U19 campaign this year.
Jack White | 6’6 | SF | VIC
Jack White joined the program in June of last year, replacing college-bound Gerard Martin. White is one of the best athletes in the program and will look to focus on refining his skills throughout his time at the CoE. The 6’6 wing was one of the key members for this year’s championship-winning Victoria squad at the U20’s Australian Junior Championship and provided some good minutes off the bench for the Australian U17 squad last year.
Tom Wilson | 6’4 | G | VIC
Tom Wilson has also made some dramatic improvements over his time at the CoE. Having joined the program at the beginning of last year, Wilson has seen his skill-set grow to the point where he’s now serviceable at both guard positions. Along with Vasiljevic and Isaac Humphries, Wilson was among the invitees to the Basketball Without Borders Camp at NBA All-Star Weekend and is expected to be a key member of the Australian U19 campaign this year.
The women’s program at the CoE has kept its trend of including young up-and-coming athletes as well as emerging Australian Opals. This year’s squad is younger than previous years but the talent remains as promising as ever.
Katie Ebzery | 5’10 | G | NSW
Ebzery is one of the emerging Opals players in the CoE program, with the 5’10 guard having already attended the AIS from 2005-2008. Ebzery averaged 16.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 3 apg this past WNBL season as the captain of the Sydney Uni Flames and will hope to make the Australia Opals squad for the FIBA Oceania qualifiers later this year.
Chantel Horvat | 6’2 | SF | VIC
Horvat is entering her second year in the program and, although she’s one of the younger athletes in the squad, she will likely be in the running to make the Australian U19 Gems squad later this year. The 6’2 small forward is one of the most promising players for her age and is the daughter of former AIS footballer Steve Horvat.
Ezi Magbegor | 6’4 | C | VIC
One of the newest, and most intriguing, additions to the women’s program is Ezi Magbegor. The 6’4 centre made a statement at last year’s U16 Australian Junior Championship, averaging 10.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 5.7 bpg at the event. Magbegor will likely be one of the key players for the Australian U16 Women’s squad moving forward throughout this year.
Anneli Maley | 6’1 | G/F | VIC
Anneli Maley is entering her second year at the Centre of Excellence and has already made a lot of noticeable improvements over her time in the program. As one of the most impressive athletes in the country, Maley has developed a great finesse game over her time at the CoE. She was a key member of last year’s Australian U17 Squad and will likely be have a similar role for the Australian U19 squad this year.
Elyse Penaluna | 6’4 | PF | VIC
Another of the emerging Opals players, Penaluna already has a very impressive resumé. As a member of the 2012 Opals squad for the 2012 Olympic qualifying campaign, the 6’4 forward will be looking to regain her position in the squad for next year’s Olympic campaign.
Mikayla Pirini | 5’6 | PG | WA
Pirini is a new addition to the the women’s CoE squad after a great showing at this year’s U20 Australian Junior Championship – representing Western Australia. As a member of the Australian U19 squad for the FIBA Oceania U19 Championship, Pirini will be looking to cement her place in the squad for the FIBA U19 World Championship later this year.
Lauren Scherf | 6’5 | C | VIC
Lauren Scherf has been one of the premier junior players in the country for quite a while so it’s only fitting that she be a part of the CoE squad in preparation for the Australian U19 campaign. Scherf was a member of the 2013 Australian U19 team and was recently named the WNBL Rookie of the Year, playing for the Dandenong Jayco Rangers.
Alex Sharp | 6’1 | G/F | VIC
Alex Sharp is entering her second year of the program and seemingly has no ill-effects from her recent shoulder injury, putting on some great performances at the FIBA Oceania U19 Championship and the U20 Australian Junior Championships, respectively. At 6’1, Sharp is one of the most versatile young wing players in the country and will hopefully remain in good form as preparation for the Australian U19 Women’s campaign begins.
Jasmine Simmons | 5’10 | G/F | NSW
Simmons is one of the youngest athletes entering the program and, along with Magbegor, will likely be one of the key players moving forward for the Australian U16 Women’s squad. Simmons had an extremely impressive performance at last year’s U16 Australia Junior Championship – averaging 17.6 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 3 apg on 57% FG and 83% FT.
Demi Skinner | 6’1 | G/F | SA
Skinner is coming off an impressive performance at the U20 Australian Junior Championship where she averaged 18.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 1.6 apg. Skinner is extremely versatile and one was of the leading scorers for the Austrlaian U19 squad at the FIBA Oceania U19 Championship toward the end of last year.
Alanna Smith | 6’3 | PF/C | VIC
Alanna Smith has emerged as one of the most productive junior players in the country and will likely be one of the primary players for the Australian U19 squad this year. The 6’3 power forward will spend the most-part of the year at the CoE before heading to Stanford at the start of their season.
Elizabeth Tonks | 5’10 | G | NSW
Tonks is one of the smoothest junior point guards in the country and has been unlucky to be on the fringe of some recent Australian junior national teams. This stint at the CoE is the perfect time for Tonks to show her worth as Australian U19 squad preparation begins.
The Men’s program continues to be led by Adam Caporn, who has also been appointed as the head coach of the Australian U19 Emus squad. The Women’s program, as well as the Australian U19 Gems, has Paul Goriss at the helm.