BENDIGO basketballers Jontee Brown and Bree Mellberg are inching closer to their Tokyo Paralympic Games dream.
The talented pair has the chance to press their claims for selection in their respective Australian men's and women's wheelchair basketball teams by taking part in a week-long training camp in Canberra, starting on Thursday.
The camps, to be run by Australian Rollers (men's) and Gliders (women's) coach Craig Friday, will involve all current members of the national squads plus a number of invitees.
Brown, who previously represented Australia at the 2017 Under-23 World Championships and has played internationally in Europe, is excited by the opportunity.
"It will be great just getting back on court with everyone again after such a long time away - it will be interesting to see how it unfolds," he said.
"I'm feeling pretty confident within myself, so hopefully I can crack the final 12 for Tokyo when the team is announced later this year."
Brown, who plays for Kilsyth Cobras in the Men's National Wheelchair Basketball League, has not played in a competitive match since returning home from his stint with French club CS Meaux at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Australia.
He said the training camp would be a great opportunity to get the competitive juices flowing again.
"It's certainly been a long time, but for the guys who didn't go to Europe, it was about September 2019 when they played their last competitive game," he said.
"It probably doesn't mean much in the scheme things as we've all had that huge break and had to try and find a way to train through COVID.
"I was lucky, I still had a permit through Basketball Australia that allowed me to travel in and out of Melbourne, so I could still do some sessions down there. A lot of it was just on court by myself.
"And Bendigo was nice enough to allow me to continue training by myself - lots of individual stuff."
Brown has been quick to make up for lost training time during last year's lockdown, averaging 11 sessions a week for the past three months.
"The (training camp) call only came last week, so two or three weeks' notice is pretty tough," he said.
"But I've done everything I could beforehand to make sure I'm fit and ready to go."
Brown was quick to congratulate Mellberg, who made her national team debut at the Osaka Cup in Japan in 2017 and has since represented the Gliders in Europe and Asia, on her selection in the squad.
"She has been in the program a little longer than me and has a great deal more experience at the higher level than me," he said.
"She trains in Melbourne every morning and this is another great opportunity.
"There's not a lot of us Victorians in the squads, so two from Bendigo is a great achievement."
Brown said he was 'reasonably confident' the postponed 2020 Tokyo Games would go ahead in August.
"I'm confident Japan will find a way for it to work. From what we've heard it will certainly go ahead," he said.
"There obviously could be changes to it and you never know what's around the corner with COVID."
To be held at Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport, the camp will run until Thursday, February 4.
National coach Friday declared the camps as 'crucial' to the teams' Tokyo preparations.
"Due to COVID and the travel restrictions involved both domestically and abroad, we've not been able to train together as a squad since October 2019," he said.
"So during this week-long camp there will be plenty of court-time where we will work on technical and tactical aspects of our game in readiness for the challenge ahead.
"With some key members not in camp due to travel restrictions and other commitments, there is a great opportunity for squad members to put their name up in lights in front of the coaching staff."
"There is plenty of competition for spots in the final Rollers and Gliders team for the Paralympics and I'm expecting that competitive spirit to be on show in Canberra."
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