Pacific Youth Leaders Camp: Day 4 recap

Supplied by FIBA

GOLD COAST - Day four of the Pacific Youth Leaders (PYL) Basketball Camp saw the assembled athletes guided by former Australian national team coaches Phil Smyth and Carrie Graf, taking part in further on-court skills and a chance to put them into action in a game situation.

Although they were tired from the first few days of camp, the energy was high among the group. The anticipation of their first game scheduled for the evening had everyone buzzing as the men and women took to the courts in the morning. Clearly engrossed in what the coaches had to say, they took every opportunity during breaks to shoot around or stretches with the Papua New Guinea (PNG) High performance Staff.

Emphasis was placed on shooting technique and transition offense across both groups. The athletes were in great hands in working on the ball handling and shooting off the dribble under Smyth, who also happened to play point guard for the Australian Boomers. Graf also focused on teaching defense, how to deal with on court pressure, and game preparation.

Fiji’s imposing 6”5 female center Vilisi Tavui was hard to miss as she towered over her peers. An exciting talent with unlimited potential, she was challenged over and over again by Carrie Graf to “dunk it, big girl!” She smiled shyly as she spoke with the media.

“I was so excited by this camp," said Tavui. "I cannot believe the coaches who have come in and given their time, nor the opportunity that has been presented to me.”

A focus at the camp is to also develop the leadership skills of all the athletes, with everyone provided an opportunity to shine. Northern Mariana’s Karleen spoke confidently in front of the group in delivering an icebreaker that got the group together and lifted energy levels.

Mthoko Madonda from Reach Sports Management led the group through giving and receiving feedback. The athletes learned how to do just that in a positive and encouraging way, as well as how to accept feedback graciously. Mthoko challenged the athletes to demonstrate the characteristics of successful leaders, both on and off the court.

After a couple of days in on court and leadership sessions, it was time to put what they had learned into practice, taking to the court for exhibition games against the North Gold Coast Seahawks.

It took the PYL girls some time to gel together offensively, but defensively it was another story. The combination of Vilisi’s size and the guard quickness caused havoc for the Seahawks, restricting them to just 2 points in the first quarter. Yet the Seahawks would fire back, delivering a 14–10 second quarter to make it a 1 point game at the main break.

The third period was closely contested, with neither team giving up any easy points as defense dominated, ensuring the scores remained close heading into the final term. Just as it was shaping up for a thrilling finish, the PYL team started to click offensively.

A commanding 19-6 final period saw PYL overrun the Seahawks to earn a convincing 16 point victory (44-28). Vilisi piled on 7 points in the last quarter to finish with 12 points in a dominating performance. She received great support offensively from PNG's Rosa Kairi, while Jess displayed outstanding leadership in running the team and playing lock-down defense.

Playing an up-tempo brand of basketball, the men's game was filled with excitement and highlights. As with the PYL women, the men took some time to find cohesion offensively. Once they did, the PYL team managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over nicely in a balanced scoring attack.

The crowd was treated to some outstanding plays, but none more exciting than PNG's Aron Farmer who finished a breakaway with a thunderous two-handed dunk. Samoan Ryan Paia's work at the defensive end was breathtaking, sending multiple shots back to where they came.

The athletic Farmer would go on to lead his team in scoring while also demonstrating great leadership in a strong 64-42 win. Paia was a beast defensively, with his high-energy and outstanding shot-blocking ability.

This event is made possible through Australian Government funding.

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