Indigenous brothers giving back to the Victorian community

Basketball is not only a great game but also a tool for good and positive change throughout our communities. This Sunday, the journey begins with the first ever Basketball Victoria Indigenous basketball program being held in Dandenong. This program will aim to create pathways for children aged under 14 years, both boys and girls.

The Pick and Roll spoke with program head coach Ricky Baldwin last month when he stated that there were "great things ahead for Indigenous basketball in this country." He is one of the most passionate individuals you will ever meet, especially about basketball and his indigenous heritage. An opportunity to mix the two and give back to the community has him even more excited than ever.

“Our youth and children need our mob to lead, to teach with rigour, and mentor with passion and compassion,” Baldwin outlined at the time.

For him, the Basketball Victoria Indigenous program marks a great milestone for his community’s involvement within basketball.

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for many years," Baldwin added. "To be able to work with many young talented indigenous athletes, and to see more great indigenous basketballers come through the ranks, is something I am very passionate about.

"We have had athletes representing the Australian Boomers and Opals who are really setting a great example for these kids, such as Patty Mills, Nathan Jawai, Rohanee Cox, Leilani Mitchell and legends like Uncle Danny Morseu. We have assembled a very talented coaching staff that I am very proud of."

A look through the coaching roster certainly impresses oat first glance. The girls head coach is Rob Baldwin, a very gifted former SEABL player who also has previously enjoyed success as a coach with the Knox Raiders, winning back-to-back Big V Youth League grandfinals. Talented former Victoria Country state junior representative Rebecca McIntyre is his assistant.

“She [McIntyre] is really showing what she has as an up and coming coach," said Baldwin. "With this level of experience within their coaching staff these young girls are going to learn a great deal with them leading the way."

Ricky Baldwin himself is head coach and mentor for the boys. His basketball experience extends from being a former Knox Raider SEABL player who has also tasted success as coach in the Victorian Junior Basketball League and more recently as coach of the national indigenous team on a recent Trans-Tasman tour. Renai Fejo joins him as his assistant, a talented young indigenous basketballer who made the 2017 Australian Indigenous women’s team that competed in the World Indigenous Championships in Canada.

“She [Fejo] is very eager to learn and her contagious enthusiasm will definitely rub off onto these young athletes,” added Baldwin.

Exuding enthusiasm, Baldwin would go on to explain why the new program so important for all involved.

“This will be great and give these kids an experience that is fresh and new. We are going to teach each of them to compete at every practice and not to be afraid to really lay a challenge against their teammates – as this will only make them better.

“People with passion make the impossible happen. The burning desire within me to give back to the indigenous community will always be there. Hope that I can be involved in programs like this which inspire and drive us into real action that changes lives.

"A special thanks to Matt Dunstan and Karen Pearce from Basketball Victoria for their contribution and support for this beneficial program. Mention must also go to Lidia Thorpe for the great work she does with such passion for and in the indigenous community throughout Victoria."

If Baldwin's passion for indigenous basketball translate to the junior basketballers in the program, he may well unearth the next Patty Mills and Rohanee Cox.