Article courtesy of Adam McKay, Helping Hoops
The 2016 South Sudanese Australian Summer Slam took over Eagle Stadium in Werribee, Melbourne from December 16-18 and built on the 13-plus years of tournament history that has made it one of the most exciting events in Australian basketball.
48 teams and 600 players, the majority from a South Sudanese Australian and multicultural background, competed across five division ranging from Under 16s right through to seniors. The Summer Slam began on Friday, December 16 with eight courts in use at Eagle Stadium with plenty of slam dunks, crossovers and jump shots on the court, and all the atmosphere and crowd support in the bleachers we have come to expect from the tournament.
Saturday was when things got even more interesting with teams vying for semifinal positions and their chance to compete for a championship the following day. With many divisions coming down to a matter of a few mere percent, the competition was intense. Despite the high pressure environment, all games were played with excellent sportsmanship and in the spirit of community that the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association (SSANBA) – the organising body behind the Summer Slam – strives to instil in all young people involved.
After carefully tallying results and calculating semifinals, Sunday kicked off with the top four teams battling for afternoon grand final positions. Heartbreak and triumph were often only separated by one defensive stop, one basket or one big play, and all coaches urged their players to find the focus and determination to rise above and claim a grand final berth.
Grand finals lived up to all the hype and wowed the 2,000-strong crowd that packed Eagle Stadium. Canberra Eagles, featuring U17 Australian National Team representative Ezi Magebegor, held off the Adelaide Warriors to claim the Open Women’s Championship. The Under 16 trophy went to Melbourne’s Longhorns which overcame a run of second places to finally claim a championship. The Under 18 title was taken out by Red Roo, who also claimed the Under 20 crown in what is being talked about as the greatest ever final in SSANBA history.
Red Roo came from behind and scored a basket with 0.8 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter – a score that sent the crowd into a frenzy. The Open Men’s division was a contest between the Adelaide Warriors and Melbourne’s City Kings. Adelaide ran out winners in the end to earn themselves the honour of being named Summer Slam Open Men Champions for 2016.
The Slam Dunk contest saw two of Melbourne’s high flyers, Pat Golong and Solomon Deer, wow the crowd with a display of pure athleticism. Solomon won the contest with his final dunk – a between the legs jam that got every spectator out of their seat. The dunk contest is a testament to the athletic talent all players possess and can hopefully one day use as a vehicle to take them places in their education and in life in general.
Only for the second time in SSANBA history, the grand finals were live streamed online to cater for the growing demand from people from all over the world to tune into the Summer Slam. The team from Live Sport Australia provided the stream, with The Pick and Roll providing the commentary and support. We would like to thank Damian and his team for volunteering their time and expertise and helping make the Summer Slam a global event thanks to their contribution.
Award presentations followed grand final games, with players and coaches relishing the opportunity to finally get their hands on their trophies and medals after many long months or years of hard work and preparation. In what is becoming an SSANBA tradition, the Uniting Values Player’s Award was presented to a player selected by Victoria Police for their outstanding sportsmanship throughout the tournament. This award went to Jason Johnson of Melbourne’s Longhorns, who also celebrated a championship in the Under 16 division.
Seeing relatives, families and community members from all over Australia come together for the Summer Slam reminds us that the event is so much more than a basketball tournament. Teamwork, encouragement, community and providing young people with a place to belong that teaches them how to be the best version of themselves they can be are all values that come with SSANBA tournaments, and we congratulate all the players, coaches, team managers and spectators on their tremendous effort over the three days.
An event like the Summer Slam is only possible thanks to the team of volunteers behind the scenes. Thanks to Basketball Victoria and Helping Hoops for providing over 50 volunteers and making the Summer Slam run smoothly. Thanks to Rod and the Eagle Stadium staff for their efforts and being a pleasure to work with. CDC Victoria should also be congratulated for volunteering their time and running a free shuttle bus for players from Eagle Stadium to the local Werribee train station. A special thanks to Victoria Police for their contribution and for providing a positive and supportive presence throughout the Summer Slam. Engaging with young people in a positive way through sport can herald huge results off the court, and we hope the work of the SSANBA also benefits young people in this regard.
We now look towards July when we will head to Sydney for the South Sudanese Australian National Classic. It has been three years since the National Classic has ventured to NSW and we are looking forward to another exciting event.