U18's Australian Junior Championships Preview

U18's Australian Junior Championships Preview

This week we’ll see a wealth of junior basketball talent descend onto the nation’s capital to compete at the Under 18 Australian Junior Championships.

By Australian Basketball Prospects

With the FIBA U17 World Championships just months away, this tournament is the last chance for these athletes to impress national coaches in an attempt to secure a place in the Australian U17 national squads.

Last year’s event saw Victoria come away with the Men’s gold medal after defeating NSW in the final seconds of the championship game. Queensland North took out the Women’s title after the Froling sisters put on a dominant performance in a close win over Victoria Country. 

Players to watch:

Men

Isaac Humphries | NSW Metro

Humphries’ stock is at an all time high as he enters this year’s tournament. The 7-footer out of Sydney exhibited some brilliant tournament play throughout last year – dominating in both the U16 Championships and the Australian Schools Championships – as well as participating in an Australian Boomers training camp. Humphries has been at the National Centre of Excellence for a few months, a move that has undoubtedly sped up his development as his game continues to improve. It has been reported that UCLA, LSU and SMU have already shown interest in the big-man as he works toward a selection in the Australian U17 National team that will compete at the FIBA U17 World Championships in August. Look for Humphries – along with fellow CoE scholarship recipient Deng Gak – to provide a frontcourt that will likely be unrivaled in this tournament.

Abi Akintola | VIC Metro

Victoria Metro is a team that boasts a number of Australian representative players – none more important that Abi Akintola. The 6’6 forward out of Diamond Valley plays a no nonsense brand of basketball: finishing strong in the paint, making hustle plays on both ends of the floor and competing hard on the glass. It’s Akintola’s effort and humility that will keep this Victoria squad grounded as they look to defend their Championship. In last year’s U18’s tournament, Akintola’s efficiency really stood out, shooting just under 63% for the tournament. He’s had a great run with the Australian U17 team late last year and will look to continue his stellar play in this tournament.

Kyle Clark | Tasmania

This is an extremely important tournament for Kyle Clark as he looks to put his name back in the mix for national team honors. As a bottom-age player in last year’s U18’s tournament, Clark was extremely impressive – averaging 17 ppg on 55% FG. With the loss of star guards Tanner Krebs and Kai Woodfall, look for the 6’5 forward to take on more of the scoring load.

Matthew Freeman | New Zealand

Matthew Freeman is coming off a solid performance at the FIBA Oceania U17 Men’s Championships – averaging 13.3 ppg and 6 rpg in the 3-game series vs Australia. He was also strong in last year’s U18’s Championships where New Zealand put on an impressive showing, coming 4th in their pool. It’ll be interesting to see how Freeman handles being the primary scoring option for this year’s New Zealand squad; he’s definitely one to watch this tournament.

Tom Wilson | VIC Metro

While Abi Akintola will be the key big-man for Victoria Metro in the tournament, Tom Wilson will be the key backcourt player for the squad. At 6’4, the guard out of Melbourne possesses a versatility that will be extremely important for VIC Metro moving forward in the tournament. Wilson has had impressive showings at the Australian Schools Championships and at the recent East Coast Challenge held in Sydney in January. He’s exhibited improved athleticism and improved scoring, so look for him to take advantage of playing alongside fellow Australian Representative guards Matthew Owies and Dejan Vasiljevic.

Women

Tahlia Tupaea | NSW Metro

Tupaea is one of the youngest players on this years NSW Metro squad, and she’s also one of the most talented. She has just come off her second WNBL season with the Sydney Uni Flames and was also a major contributor for the Australian U17 team in the FIBA Oceania series against New Zealand last year. Tupaea’s ability to dominate on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor is one of the reasons why she is one of the youngest WNBL players ever – and she’s no stranger to playing against an older opposition, which is why she should thrive in this tournament.

Megan McKay | WA Metro

McKay had a very impressive showing in last year’s U18’s Junior Championships – averaging 14.4 ppg and 10.3 rpg. McKay was a force inside for the Australian U17 team last year as she dominated the boards and finished inside the paint with ease. Other than a big NSW Metro side, there aren’t many teams that will be able to handle McKay’s length. Look for WA Metro to look for her inside early and often – as well as taking advantage of a solid two-man game between her and fellow Australian Representative Madeleine Dennis.

Alexandra Sharp | VIC Metro

Alexandra Sharp has been at the National Centre of Excellence for a few months now so she’ll be key in VIC Metro’s success in this tournament. Sharp has a diverse skillset – both her inside game, and perimeter game, are extremely sound. At 6’0, Sharp can play both the guard and forward positions. She was very impressive for the Australian U17 squad in the FIBA Oceania series against New Zealand late last year – putting up 10.3 ppg, 8 rpg on 50% FG. VIC Metro have an incredibly deep team this year so look for Sharp to be the glue that holds all of that talent together.

Anneli Maley | VIC Metro

Anneli Maley was one of the most consistent performers in last year’s U16’s tournament, putting up a number of huge performances. She had three 20-rebound games and ended up averaging just under 14 rpg for the tournament. As another VIC Metro player who’s been at the National Centre of Excellence this year, Maley will be looking to be a leader for this squad – both on and off the court. Maley was the captain for last year’s U16 Championship winning VIC Metro side and was a key member for the Australian U17 squad in the FIBA Oceania series late last year.

Early Predictions:

Men:

Victoria Metro took out last year’s championship and it looks like they’re in a position to do it again this year. They retained some key players from last year’s squad, making them an extremely deep squad entering the tournament. The squad possesses both size and stellar guard play that seems unmatched entering the tournament.

Both NSW squads would be able to compete quite well this tournament, NSW Metro performing well at the East Coast Challenge earlier in the year and NSW Country doing a solid job at the Australian Junior Country Cup. Queensland North and Victoria Country also have some individual talent that can make some noise but it seems as though Victoria Metro has the talent and depth to win it all – it’s their championship to lose.

Women:

NSW Metro would be the favourites to come away with the Women’s Championship this year. They have the ability to dominate from the perimeter and inside the paint – while boasting 3 Australian representatives. They struggled at the East Coast Challenge earlier this year but they definitely have the talent to win it all in Canberra.

Both Victoria teams look quite strong as well, with a number of players from both squads with National Centre of Excellence scholarships. Both squads have the ability to go all the way in this tournament – however NSW Metro gets the nod over them because of their depth, which seems to be unmatched in this tournament.