Written by Liam Ellison.
Boasting a long line of alumni, the Australian School Championships has seen many current day stars compete such as Ben Simmons, Lauren Jackson, Patty Mills and new Australian Boomer, Daniel Johnson.
A star for the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL as well, Johnson represented Willetton Senior High School in 2004 and 2005 at the School Championships.
“The Champs were played at Albury/Wodonga at that stage,” said Johnson.
“I enjoyed it because it was with your school mates, we’d all grown up playing state basketball together.
“Playing for your school… it’s a little bit different. You’re not always going to go away with the best ten players in the state but we were lucky enough to have some really good players on our team.”
During Johnson’s time at the school, Willetton dominated the state competition and entered the School Championships as the best team from Western Australia in 2004 and 2005.
“In our state, we were the number one basketball school. If you were into basketball, you went to Willetton.”
Willetton was unable to convert that success at state level into a podium finish at the School Championships though, finishing sixth in 2004 and fourth in 2005.
“In 2005, we had a good group but unfortunately we lost the bronze medal game. It was still good fun though, to go away with your mates is always cool.
“Being able to play basketball and then going back to hang out at the dorms. The whole thing was just a fun experience.”
Johnson also used the tournament to help him during his college stint with Pepperdine University in Los Angeles.
“Going on the road on these big trips is kind of similar to what we did at college in the States. You learn to live with other blokes and have a good time but also learn how to stay focused on the task at hand. Those tournaments were really good for that.”
Importantly for Johnson, the School Championships represented a chance to play against the best young talent in the nation as well.
Across those two years, he came up against the likes of fellow Boomer Patty Mills as well as quality NBL talent in AJ Oglivy and Adam Gibson and even future AFL footballers Robbie Gray and Jesse White.
“Our team were all a year younger because you graduate a year before others in Western Australia but it was great to come up against those guys.
“We were playing as bottom-agers basically so you are going against guys who are bigger and stronger. It was good to get those games in and learn how to play more physical.”
Since the School Championships, Johnson has gone on to enjoy successful stints at in Europe, the NBL and now with the Australian Boomers during the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
He credits the School Championships as a key stepping stone at the start of that career though.
“I think the skill-level of the teams and the tournament structure was really good, we always found it was really strong competition and we loved playing the best teams in the country.”
The Australian School Championships tip-off on Monday, December 3. Find all the information for the tournament here.