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2017 Queensland U18 State Championships preview
Some of Australia's most promising talent from across Queensland will gather on the Sunshine Coast for the U18 State Championships from 16-20 January. Conducted at the Caloundra Indoor Stadium, Meridan State College and Sunshine Coast Grammar School, 68 teams from across Queensland will take to the court with a number of state and Australian junior representatives set to feature.
We preview the event, and highlight the teams and players to look out for.
QLD U18 Boys State Championships
Cairns should be considered one of the favourites to win the State Championship this year, however, they will only go as far as Cody Statmann can take them.
Stattman is a key player for the Marlins team and is currently averaging 23.3 points per game in the QNBC. He has proven that he can carry the load over the course of a week of tournament play, arguably the MVP of the North QLD Gold Medal team at the Australian U16 National Championships two years ago. He also suited up for Australia at the 2017 FIBA U17 World Championships, helping his side place 7th where he averaged 3.7 points and 2 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game. He is definitely one of the players to watch and could end up being MVP on the championship winning team.
Ryan Runnalls is another player to look out for. He helped the North QLD U16 State team to win the National Championship two years ago and has been a member of various national squads. If Runnells has a solid Championship, it will further cement Cairns' chances of winning the State tittle.
Alongside Stattman, Townesville's Sam Froling is the other player likely to compete for MVP honours. The 6’10 forward will have to be at his very best if his Townsville Heat team are to challenge for a medal at the State Champs.
Froling joined Stattman on the Australian U17 side in 2016, playing a lead role in averaging a double-double of 10.6 points and 10.4 rebounds with 1.3 blocks per game. Winless in the QNJBC competition despite Froling posting 22.8 points per game, the Heat will have plenty to play for at the State Champs. The output of Froling is sure to be the barometer for his sides chances.
Brisbane Capitals Gold
Reminiscent of last year’s State Championships, the Brisbane Capitals will be hoping to have two teams finish in the top 4. The Gold team has claimed top spot in the South, but at times they have looked shaky, especially in late game situations. Figuring out their strengths is a job for Head Coach Michael Vandongen, however he doesn’t need to look past one of the State’s best players in Nick Stoddart.
Stoddart, a member of the 2016 Australian U17 national team squad that just missed out on selection to the World Championships, has the ability to get a shot off over anyone at any time and will need to rise to the occasion when required late in games. Averaging almost 20 point per game (19.75) in the BQJBC, he will likely be the key to whether his side will challenge for gold.
Brisbane Capitals Silver
The Sliver team is paced by a number of top-aged players who have played with a chip on their shoulder all year. Mutasim Eltima, William Jang, Ramy Kodi and Aaron Tseng have all played BQJBA Premier League before and they will be out to prove they belong among the elite teams in the State.
The duo of Eltima (26ppg) and Kody (23ppg) are currently leading the BQJBC in scoring after 1 game in the Premier League. They can light it up from outside and could be one of the most exciting duos to watch out for.
Two years ago Mackay stunned everyone by placing in the top 4 in the state. Aiden Krause is the engine for the Mackay team. A a flat-out scorer, he is currently delivering 27.8 points per game in the QNJBC and he will prove a handful for any team at this event.
If he can remain on the floor and stay out of foul trouble, he will give Head Coach Chris Cedar many options on what is a very deep, skilled and well coached Meteors team. He will still expect to receive great support from Samson Haughton who has been good for 14.4 points per game so far this season.
Gold Coast Waves
Two years ago Gold Coast won the U16 State Championship, however this year’s team has had to deal with players missing games, disruption of training sessions, and inconsistent player commitment. Can they pull things together at the last-minute and recreate the magic they had two years ago?
They have two of the State’s best players in Callum Dalton and Flynn Cameron turning out for their side. They are a team talented enough to win the title, but it may be a tough assignment to recapture the magic of past success. Dalton is likely to be the key to their success. Currently averaging a league-best 30.3 points per game in the BQJBC, he is a scoring machine and the go-to player on the team.
Southern Districts Spartans
The Spartans are loaded with talent, having won the BQJBC in 2016. Head Coach Sid Mines has done a wonderful job of spreading the workload of a team led by Hussein Kosanda (14.5ppg). However this team is more than a one-man show, with Rob McCowan pacing the team in scoring (21.6ppg), supported by Wesley Rowe (18.3ppg).
They have weapons in most positions and should be considered one of the favourites to win the title if they can remain disciplined defensively. Definitely a team to watch as they can win it all.
South West Metro Pirates
One of the more intriguing teams this year is the South West Metro Pirates. Arguably loaded with as much talent as any side in the state, they have yet to put all the pieces together to become a dominant force. Blessed with state team level guards and tall timber, they are missing the edge when it comes to finding a way to win when it matters the most.
While Jarrett Hepehi-Karini leads the team in scoring in the BQJBC with 18.6 points per game, Frazer Roberts (14.6ppg) is likely to be the most important player for the Pirates. With wins over Mackay, Gladstone and the Gold Coast, they will finish in the top 4 - which is where they probably deserve to be given the talent they have on the team.
Ipswich has yet to play its full team with the injury and commitment bug hitting this team early in the BQJBC season. Despite the challenges they have faced, they still have the potential to get things together in time for the tournament. Doubt remains as to whether Moses Majok and Chol Guet will actually play, and if they are fit and suit up, they could be a team that could do some damage.
Despite all the uncertainty, there is no doubt that Dut Chol is one of the best players in the state in his position. Currently delivering 21.1 points per game in the BQJBC, he will be the one certainty entering the Championships.
Gladstone Power struggled to qualify for Division 1 in this year’s State Championships, having a tough time of beating Central QLD rivals Bundaberg. Now with a spot secured in first Division, the team can now focused on finishing in the top 6 at the State Champs.
The Ray Cooper coached side is well and truly one of the deepest and most skilled teams to come out of Gladstone in a long time. If Mitchell Knight can lead his team with consistent play and a display a high level of intensity and effort, they could certainly surprise with some big scalps.
QLD U18 Girls State Championships
Last year's Championship winning team are almost unbackable favourites, returning the majority of their side from 2016. With 4 former players with state team experience led by 2016 FIBA U17 World Champion Miela Goodchild, they are clearly the team to beat.
While Goodchild is the standout, they boast talent and depth. Jade Kirisome has made a significant improvement from last year, demonstrated when she collected MVP awards for both the QLD Champion Schools tournament and the 2016 SBL competition. Ula Mutoga and Brianna Gregory round out what is truly a formidable team.
Southern Districts Spartans
Southern Districts will be one of the contenders if they can field their full squad. Everyone in Spartan Nation would be sweating on the fitness of Jess McDowell-White and Paige Bayliss. If these two players are fit and healthy, the Spartans will be able to compete with every team in the tournament.
Lauren Holcroft and Esta Rarere have been carrying the load for most of the season, however this team will need exceptional guard play to match the likes of Logan and Townsville. With a full team effort, there is every chance the Spartans will be still standing come the semifinals.
Winners of the QNJBC in 2016, the Heat were rarely tested in the North Queensland competition. Competing regularly without the services of their best players, this team has developed depth as they look to challenge their southern rivals.
Haylee Andrews, Alex Fowler and Majella Carey will be out to prove they are the best team in the State, boasting 7 former state team representatives, this team has the motivation, the experience and the desire to win. They could well be facing off with Logan for the gold medal come the last day of the Championships.
The injury bug hit this team hard in the first half of the BQJBC season and they will be looking for a fresh start in 2017 commencing with the Championships. The Force will need a healthy Kate Head and Grace George if they are to have any chance of contending for a medal.
The steady play of Ainslee Heuston, Brooklyn Betham and Loie Webb helped secure a second place for Ipswich in the BQJBC in 2016. Iris Cubit has been Ipswich's best player this season so far, and if she can keep posting similar numbers at this tournament, it will provide coach Brad George some real options offensively as they look to make a run to the semifinals.
The Dolphins come into the State Championship as virtual unknowns to their southern counterparts. They will be hoping their lack of knowledge will allow this team to slip under the radar and finish in the top four.
Boasting one of the tournament’s most exciting players in Rashada Kaigey, Head Coach Andrea Worthington will be hoping that she received good support from Sarah Heard, Chelsea Oxlade, Malia Sagigi and Sarrah Myrteza. However, Leichan Williams has proven to be a positive influence for the Dolphins both on and off the court and could well be able to help provide the glue that helps facilitate their success.
Sunshine Coast Phoenix
The Phoenix are likely to only go as far as Courtney Murphy can take them.
Murphy, one of the leading scorers in the competition, has her team well positioned for a run towards the top 4. She will need some support from Dustie Obah and Carre Fitisemanu if they are to achieve aspirations for a medal. Having received a favourable draw for the State Championships, a top 4 finish is definitely within reach for this talented side.
Brisbane Capitals Gold
The Capitals are one year removed from playing in a U18 State Championship Gold Medal game, however this team has a far different look and feel to it than last year’s side.
Inconsistent scoring and lack of a defensive punch has plagued the Brisbane team all year. Coach Alekna is still figuring out her team’s identity. Boasting a side featuring one of the competition's best shooters in Grace Champion and scorers in Eseta Latu, the Capitals will need consistent play from the rest of the team. Lauryn Mapusua, Tyla Stolberg, Georgia Kehoe and Emily-Kate Parker if they are going to emerge from arguably the toughest pool for the crossovers.
South West Metro Pirates
The Pirates have experienced an up and down season so far. They have played some outstanding basketball in patches where they have used their full court pressure to disrupt their opponents to help spark their offense. Conversely they have also played without composure and somewhat out of control.
Coach Brian Kerle will need to figure out how to get this team to play consistently at their best and under control. They have speed and quickness in their back court, and size versatility in the post with Ashlee Hannan leading the team in scoring. If they can find a way to apply their suffocating defense while taking care of the ball and making good decision offensively, they will give themselves a chance of upsetting some teams and sneaking out of pool play in second place.