AUSTRALIAN UNDER-16 CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW- POOL A BOYS

AUSTRALIAN UNDER-16 CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW- POOL A BOYS

Preview the fortunes of Pool A for the boys competition at the 2019 Australian Under-16 Championships, being held in Darwin, Northern Territory between July 6-13.

Seven teams make up Pool A for the Under-16 boys this year, four of which will qualify for the Quarter-Finals. Vic Metro, winners of two of the past three Robert Young trophies will begin their title defence but they face some stiff competition in Pool A with NSW Country back-to-back gold medalists in 2013 and 2014.

ACT
Team List:
Caden Spinks, Alexander Toohey, Bowyn Beatty, Che Peters, Lachlan Smith, Lachlan Fitzpatrick, William Rice, Mason Bruce, Cameron Pender, Jordan Jonathan 

Struggling for success last year, ACT only claimed one win at the 2018 Under-16’s but it did come in their last game to help them finish on a high. In 2019, they will be looking to Jordan Jonathan and Mason Bruce to provide a spark after they impressed at last year’s Under-14 Club Championships as team mates with Canberra.

Key Game: That victory in 2018 came against WA Country and ACT will meet them on the morning of Day 3 this year. In their last clash, Alexander Toohey was the standout as he recorded 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks in a comprehensive performance at both ends of the floor. Toohey returns to lead ACT in 2019 as a top-ager and is expected to be the team’s leading scorer again.

NSW Country
Team List: Tex Keeble, Harley Kent, Joshua Dent, Massimo Hobbs, Benjamin Lu, Harrison Iliffe, Ethan Hager, Brendan Palmer, Kayne Gilmore, Haiden Ings

Following their back-to-back Championships in 2013 and 2014, NSW Country have not been able to return to the podium and last year, they had a 1-4 record through the pool stage before finishing eighth. The desire to return to the top of the table will be burning and their young side will aim to achieve that goal with a completely new roster from last year.

Joshua Dent will represent his state next month after starring at the Jr. NBA Global Championship Asia Pacific selection camp where he was chosen to play for the region at the second edition of the Global Championships in August. He was also a part of the Illawarra Hawks’ fourth-place finish at the 2018 Under-14’s, averaging 24.4 points per game (third best overall) while NSW Country teammate Benjamin Lu added 6.9 points per contest.

Key Game: NSW Country will be looking to pit themselves against the best and a Day 4 match-up against Vic Metro looms as an important game for them. It will be their penultimate clash before the Quarter-Finals so may play a major role in the standings while also giving the rest of the competition an idea of how dangerous NSW Country could be.

Vic Metro
Team List:
Copper Ferdinando, Kristian Ferronato, Daniel Poelsma, Blake Shankland, Beau Tranter, Jarryd Remy, Tristan Devers, Jerome Pierre, Apollous Magbegor, David Amum

As the defending Champions and the most successful team in the history of the Under-16’s (having won 35 out of 64 titles), Vic Metro are the team to beat not only in Pool A but the overall competition.

Kristian Ferronato will be aiming to bring his success from the Under-14’s which saw him lead the Eltham Wildcats to consecutive gold medals. Last year, his side got the better of the Nunawading Spectres who were led by Tristan Devers’ six three-pointers and 34 points. The two will now combine forces for Vic Metro while Appolus Magbegor, the brother of Opals and WNBL star Ezi, has the chance to show the country how deep the talent runs in his family.

Key Game: Vic Metro have a couple of danger games through the pool stage with the likes of NSW Country, SA Metro and Tasmania all a threat to their top seeding but the biggest challenge could come at the end of the week if they meet NSW Metro. Looking like the best team out of Pool B, NSW Metro have a number of players making the jump from a fruitful Under-14’s campaign and they will be desperate to claim their first gold medal since 2010.

SA Metro
Team List:
Daniel Buglak, Noah English, Yaak Yaak, Benjamin Carlson, Jackson Tucker, Harrison Smith, Sean Stock, David Rinaldi, Cooper Osborne, Samuel Tosh

Perhaps Vic Metro’s most dangerous competition in Pool A, SA Metro impressed in the early stages of last year’s tournament when they owned a 4-1 record near the end of the pool stage. They had won those four games by an average margin of 40 points but fell to Vic Country in their next outing and finished the Championships on a four-game losing streak.

SA Metro will be desperate to atone for that and will be looking to the likes of Cooper Osborne and Noah English, who will be competing at their first Junior Championships, to help them succeed. Osborne is having an impressive season with the North Adelaide Rockets while English has been a consistent performer for the Norwood Flames. Sudanese born Yaak Yaak, who stands at 208cm, is an exciting prospect as well.

Key Game: As with NSW Country, Vic Metro will be a key opponent for SA Metro as they aim to prove themselves as one of the top teams at this year’s Under-16’s. It will be the final game of the pool stage for both sides and could decide top spot before the Quarter-Finals begin as SA Metro aim to unseat the reigning Champions.

QLD South
Team List:
William Mahoney, Mason Davis, Javarne Hunt, Kobe McDowell-White, Jayden Harris-Wihongi, Haizyn Mellars, Shareef Mwechiwa, Joshua Hughes, Geordan Papacostas, Wesley Briggs

Odd-numbered years have been good to QLD South in recent history, medaling in 2015 (bronze) and 2017 (silver) while finishing eighth and sixth in 2016 and 2018 respectively. They will be hoping that trend continues this year and have returning players Geordan Papacostas and Kobe McDowell-White, who averaged eight points and three steals in 2018, to help them in their cause.

Key Game: QLD South may be battling for one of the last two spots out of Pool A into the Quarter-Finals and that makes a clash with NSW Country a crucial one. Tasmania may also give them some concerns in the race to the finals but QLD South’s last pool stage game comes against NSW Country and it could all be on the line when they face off.

That was the case in 2018 when they met in similar circumstances and QLD South prevailed 77-66 as McDowell-White caught fire from deep, nailing six three-pointers on his way to 20 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals.

Tasmania
Team List:
Liam Jones, Harry Griffiths, Lachlan Maynard, Marli Bourn, Lachlan Brewer, Lewis Crennan, Phoenix Robey, Luke Brown, Elijah Agaiava, Ryley Haywood

A team with the potential to surprise, Tasmania will need to be on song from the opening day of competition to earn a Quarter-Final berth against some quality opposition. However, they look to have the roster to achieve it. While they have not medaled at the Under-16’s in the past 20 years (their best finishes have been fourth places in 2011 and 2012), Tasmania will be aiming to utilise their experience with four returning players from last year’s Under-16’s.

Included in that list are Luke Brown who averaged 8.9 points and 1.7 steals in 2018 and Elijah Agaiava who shot 49% from the field for 5.7 points per contest as well as Lachlan Maynard and Ryley Haywood.

Key Game: Day 2 of the pool stage concludes with a match-up between Tasmania and NSW Country and while it is still early in the piece, the winner will set themselves for not only a Quarter-Final opportunity but a shot at the top two. There will be a couple of teams that find themselves unlucky to miss the top four and Tasmania will not want to waste this opportunity.

WA Country
Team List:
Thomas Smith, Kade Szyszka, Maxx Della Franca, Rory Charles, William Dimasi, Pharell Keats, Thomas Mackay, Jackson Broadbent, Kyle Wennekes, Joseph Macdonald

An entirely new roster will aim to turn around the fortunes of WA Country at this year’s Under-16 Championships with a number of players getting their first opportunity to compete at a national tournament. Pharell Keats will bring experience from the 2018 Under-14 Club Champs where he won a bronze medal with the South West Slammers. He averaged 5.8 points per game and that could place him in a leadership position within the side while Kade Szyszka is having a breakout year in the WABL, recording 15 points per game this season.

Key Game: Beginning their tournament against SA Metro on Day 1 and then Vic Metro on Day 2, the third day of competition looms as an important one for WA Country when they take on ACT. Both sides will see it as their opportunity to make their mark on the winners list and a victory could give them confidence heading into the second half of the Championships.