Braves young guns to tackle top tournaments

THE cream of Bendigo’s young basketball talent is preparing to strut its stuff on a national stage.

Twenty-one Braves players have won spots in Victoria Country teams for either the Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup (ACJBC) tournament in Albury, or Southern Cross Challenge (SCC) in Melbourne.

They will be joined by Tom Thorn, Darren Burn and Megan Probert, who have earned coaching roles.

The ACJBC, to be staged in Albury on January 14-20, will bring together more than 700 players, coaches and officials in a showcase of Australia’s elite under-age basketball talent.

The Braves will have 13 players involved, including four representatives – Piper Dunlop, Meg McCarthy, Maddison Nash and Taya Watkins – in the girls under-16 team.

A further eight will trade baskets in the round-robin SCCC at the State Basketball Centre on January 18-22.

All but three of the 21 players were put through their paces by newly appointed Bendigo Basketball director of coaches and athlete development Joe Hurst at a special training session at Bendigo Stadium on Tuesday morning.

Gazing around at the basketball talent assembled, Hurst - a former NBL MVP - said it was clear basketball in Bendigo was in a very healthy shape.

His thoughts were echoed by Darren Burn, who will coach the Bushrangers under-14 girls at the SCC.

“We’ve been very lucky in Bendigo to have not only such elite kids, but coachable kids,” he said.

“It’s great to be part of something like this and will be a huge experience for the players themselves.”

Burn, who is in his second year as a coach of the under-14 team, was hoping for an improvement on last year’s fifth-place finish.

“I’m looking forward to going again, particularly to learn,” he said.

“Hopefully there’s a medal for us this year.”

More than 90 basketball players who have participated in the ACJBC have gone on to represent Australia or New Zealand at international events over the years.

Dylan McCauley, 14, said he was looking forward to testing himself against some of Australia’s best young basketballers as part of the under-16 boys team in Albury.

“I’m keen to do my best and hopefully get selected to try out for the state team next April,” he said.

“It’s good to see so many young Bendigo basketballers developing and getting a chance at this level.”

Players chosen for the ACJBC are Tess Barnes, Olivia Noter (under-18 girls); Kai Daniels, Caleb Connick (under-18 boys); Piper Dunlop, Meg McCarthy, Maddison Nash, Taya Watkins (under-16 girls); Dyson Daniels, Jackson Fletcher, Dylan McCauley (under-126 boys); Martin Steen and Zachari Tarr (under-14 boys).

SCC selections are April Eeles, Jorja Hufer, Caitlin Richardson (under-15 girls); Macey Eaton, Jacob Nihill (under-15 boys); Kaleah Bonanno, Phoebe Radford (under-14 girls); and Lachlan Somerville (under-14 boys).