Brown picked for Australian Under-23 Spinners

NATIONAL CALL-UP: Bendigo's Jontee Brown will play for the Australian Under-23 Spinners wheelchair basketball team. Picture: DARREN HOWE
NATIONAL CALL-UP: Bendigo's Jontee Brown will play for the Australian Under-23 Spinners wheelchair basketball team. Picture: DARREN HOWE

ALMOST two years to the day that he suffered the leg injury that introduced him to wheelchair basketball, Bendigo’s Jontee Brown will pull on the green and gold for Australia.

Brown has been selected in the Australian Under-23 Spinners wheelchair basketball team that will play in a qualifying tournament for the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships later this year.

The qualifying tournament starts this Monday – the 23rd of January.

Two years ago on January 19, 2015, while he was on a volunteer trip with Catholic College in the Philippines constructing new villages, Brown fell down a sink hole, suffering cuts, but thought nothing of it at the time.

However, after returning to Australia and seeing a doctor, he was later diagnosed with reactive arthritis in his left knee, which resulted in a five-week stint in hospital and seven operations – a mix of major and minor – since.

Brown is not confined to a wheelchair, but combines it with crutches.

On the advice from his nan in the wake of his injury in the Philippines, Brown took up wheelchair basketball eight months ago with what was the Bendigo Gold – now Bendigo Wheelchair Braves – in what’s a path that has led to his Australian selection.

“It’s obviously not ideal what happened a couple of years ago, but my nan gave me the idea of playing wheelchair basketball after she saw it on TV and I’ve just gone with it since,” Brown said on Wednesday.

“It’s (reactive arthritis) one of those things that happened that was a bit of bad luck, but I wouldn’t have got this opportunity otherwise.”

The world championships qualifying tournament will be played in Bangkok, with Australia to be pitted against China, India, Iran, Japan and Thailand in round robin matches.

It’s pretty surreal to be picked to represent your country

Jontee Brown

Brown, 19, is one of 11 members in the Australian team, which will be coached by Luke Brennan.

“It’s pretty surreal to be picked to represent your country and something most people dream of as a kid in whatever sport,” Brown said.

“I started playing about eight months ago with Bendigo and really enjoyed it from the start… I’d train at least a couple of hours each day and started to get noticed at games by different coaches and from there, I got asked to try out for the Victorian side, which I made, and now I’ve got this opportunity with the Australian under-23 team.”

The Wheelchair Basketball World Championships will be held in Canada in June.