Aussie Men in the NCAA: State of Origin

One of those also trying to make their mark as a coach in the NCAA is Western Australian Michael Clarke.

Clarke has kindly provided his own insights into the Australian representation in US college hoops exclusively for The Pick and Roll after spending the 2013/14 season with Virginia Commonwealth men's basketball program.

Australia does not mind a little State rivalry, especially when it comes to sport. So here are some interesting numbers for you; there were more than 200 young Australian men playing college basketball in the United States of America in season 2013/14 - the most of any foreign country. Which state do they come from? Which state is having the most success in exporting players to college basketball in “The States”?

I did some rough sums in comparing all Australian States and Territories (note my figures are all approximations), factoring in population size and representation of Australian male players in the top two Divisions of the NCAA. Here are the results: STATE % AUST. POP’N. % AUST. NCAA1 % AUST. NCAA2 NSW 32 36 17 VIC 25 30 46 QLD 20 16 14 WA 11 4 14 SA 7 10 3 TAS 2.5 2 3 ACT 1.5 2 3 NT 1 0 0 Three figures stand out as particularly irregular from a raw statistical perspective. In Division I, Western Australia underperformed; ideally they should have about three times the number of players it actually boasted in the top-level of competition. In Division II competition, Victoria achieved a strong presence; over-performing by producing nearly half of all Australian players (or almost twice as many as might be expected). Finally, New South Wales counter-balanced Victoria’s dominance in the second tier and under-performed to the tune of having about half the number of players it should have in a statistically predictable World.

While I accept that there is no concrete reason for the respective Australian states to produce college players in proportion to their populations, but it is one way to put the figures in context. Undoubtedly there are many explanations for the spread of numbers. At a superficial level however, one could potentially conclude that some states are doing better than others in developing their young basketball players and being able to direct them to opportunities in the NCAA. With this hypothesis in mind, I thought it would be worthwhile exploring some additional data.

In reviewing the performances of the Australian states in the last decade of Under 18 Australian Junior Championships for men, Victoria Metro won five times, New South Wales Metro was next best with three titles, while the remainder were shared between New South Wales Country, and Queensland North in both winning one each. Similarly for the Under 16 age group, Victoria Metro came away with six titles, Victoria Country earned two, with both New South Wales Metro and Country each coming away with one. From those results, it is fair to say that Victoria is the most dominant state, closely followed by New South Wales. The remaining states and territories barely rate a mention when it comes to winning national junior championships.

Furthermore, when analysing the Australian high school national player rankings, of the top 19 players in the class of 2014; New South Wales claims six of them, Victoria boasts five, South Australia has four, Queensland three, and the Australian Capital Territory with one. Similarly for the top 19 players of the class of 2015; eight are from Victoria, four are from Tasmania, two are from New South Wales, two are from Queensland, and there are one each from Western Australia, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. Of the top 19 Australian players in the class of 2016; both Victoria and New South Wales claimed eight each, and Queensland claims three. More confirmation, perhaps that Victoria can match it with the bigger New South Wales, and Western Australia is often absent.

Indeed, my strongest suspicions arising from my number crunching are that Victoria typically over-performs, while Western Australia is the biggest under-achiever, only pulling its weight with player representation in NCAA Division II. As a proud Sand-groper, both of those inferences irritate me and have me wondering if there is any remedial substance to the latter.

One must consider to what extent are the Australian Institute of Sport and American high/prep schools developing some of our players rather than their Australian states of origin. However local institutes of sport, talent programmes, representative clubs and school programmes must surely be playing a significant part in player development. So what is Victoria and to a lesser extent New South Wales doing well? What, if anything, can Western Australia do better? They are questions worth answering, for the benefit of Australian basketball in the long-term.

What is your take on Clarke's observations? Share your thoughts by posting a comment.

If you would like to get in touch with Michael Clarke, please contact The Pick and Roll team directly.