AUSTRALIAN UNDER-16 CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW- POOL B BOYS

AUSTRALIAN UNDER-16 CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW- POOL B BOYS

Take a look at Pool B for the boys competition and how it all might play out at the 2019 Australian Under-16 Championships, being held in Darwin, Northern Territory between July 6-13.

Six teams feature in Pool B for the Under-16 boys with four spots up for grabs in the Quarter-Finals. Vic Country, the 2018 silver medalists will be one of the favourites to finish on top alongside a strong looking NSW Metro team.

NSW Metro

Team List: Bailey Chambers, Isaac Ayoubi, Anthony Mundine, Tyrese Proctor, Ositadimma Ahamefule, Luis Peralta, Harrison Evans, Earl Abadam, Chandler Skelton, John Koudakpo

Anthony Mundine and Isaac Ayoubi will enter the fold for NSW Metro after the duo were the top two scorers for the Sydney Comets at the Under-14 Club Championships in 2018. They helped the Comets win a bronze medal with a thrilling three-point victory over Illawarra Hawks and Mundine had 13 points while Ayoubi led Sydney with 15.

NSW Metro also won bronze at last year's Under-16's, their first podium finish since 2013 and they will be keen to create a new streak starting this year.

Key Game: NSW Metro’s match-up against Vic Country will be a key one as the two teams could well play off for the top seed in Pool B. Given the implications in reaching the Gold Medal game from first or second spot, this game on the last day of the pool stage will be one to watch out for.

Vic Country

Team List: Alexander Molan, Coby Burgiel, Darcy Jones, Harrison Stones, Jack Hrehoresen, Jamie Bottrell, Jamie Ryan, Jet Kneebone, Macey Eaton, Tom Gorman

Vic Country will bring a fresh group of players representing eight different associations to this year’s championships. After enjoying success in 2018 which ultimately saw them fall to their intra-state rivals Vic Metro in the gold medal game, their new roster will have their work cut out for them as they aim to replicate last year's efforts or go one step further.

They still look like the team to beat in Pool B though and have a couple of talented players who have already proven themselves with Harrison Stones impressing at past Under-14 Club Championships while Jet Kneebone had a strong National Junior Classic tournament earlier this year, recording 14.3 points per game.

Key Game: As the hunted, Vic Country cannot take any of their games in the pool stage lightly but as with NSW Metro, their clash on the last day before the Quarter-Finals looks to be a battle of the heavyweights. In their 2018 meeting, Vic Country only prevailed by five points and it would not be a surprise to see another close affair this year.

Qld North

Team List: Joseph MacPherson, Jaylon Beecroft, Tyrese Jones, Rory Hawke, Reagan Crees, Kane Runnalls, Benjamin Knight, Aidan Collins, Kaleb Mitchelhill, Luca Yates

Tyrese Jones, Kane Runnalls and Aidan Collins return from the 2018 Under-16's team for Qld North which gives them a core group of experienced players to lead the 2019 squad. Runnalls averaged 10.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and shot 42% from beyond the arc last year and now as a top-ager, he has a chance to be one of the tournament's dominant players. At the other end of the floor, Jones' defence impressed with 1.6 steals per contest to go with 3.8 points.

Key Game: Qld North's final pool stage game comes against WA Metro and if Vic Country and NSW Metro are fighting it out for a top-two position, these two sides may be vying for seeding in the last two Quarter-Final spots. From a 2-1 start last year, Qld North dropped their last three pool stage games to miss out on Quarter-Finals and those returning players will know how vital each win is in 2019.

WA Metro

Team List: Ben Henshall, Kallum Penn, Ethan Elliott, Joshua Lamb, Ty Channells, Kauri Tipene-Grace, Noah Valentine, Joshua Draper, Dallin Elisarow, Thomas Gerovich

Bringing in an entirely new team for 2019, WA Metro will face the challenge of taking a youthful group to Darwin but that may provide an energy and exuberance to propel them into the Quarter-Finals and potentially only their second podium finish since 2005. Ryan Godfrey is a player to watch who can create his own shots and distribute for others while there are a host of players pulling on the yellow and black from the 2017 Under-14 Club Championships where two WA teams, Willetton Tigers and Perry Lakes Hawks, claimed the gold and silver Shield Division medals respectively.

Thomas Gerovich impressed for the Tigers in that tournament, Kauri Tipene-Grace of the Hawks finished fifth overall for scoring with 17.4 points per game and Joshua Lamb was another solid contributor.

Key Game: In last year's Quarter-Final, WA Metro fell to NSW Metro by 15 points and a match-up this year on Day 2 will give them an idea of where they are at this year with both teams expected to qualify again in 2019.

SA Country

Team List: Joshua Clifton, Alexander Curtis, Austin McDonald, Trasen Pickett-Carbine, Mitchell Searle, Jack Sullivan, Jake Walker, Isaac Warhurst, Thomas Welk, Charlie Wyatt

SA Country come into this year's tournament following a fourth-place finish in 2018 when they lost the bronze medal game to NSW Metro. Austin McDonald and Mitchell Searle will return for redemption and McDonald's ability to hit the scoreboard and get to the free-throw line will again be an advantage for the team this year.

Isaac Warhurst will be another one to bolster their offensive stocks after impressing in the Eastern Hills Basketball Association while the 198cm Alexander Curtis will be charged with controlling the paint and providing rim protection.

Key Game: SA Country will need to be on song from the opening day of competition as they take on Vic Country in the evening of Day 1. Even if they cannot get on the winners list against the expected top team out of Pool B, SA Country can build some momentum and confidence heading into the rest of the pool stage with a strong performance.

Northern Territory

Team List: Mixon Laurel, Thomas Malseed, Addison Dohnt, Joel De Barros, Jerick Duggan, Anthony Rowse, Brauer Hayden, Wiremu Taurima, Zacary Ilic, Justin Crossley

NT were unable to get a win in 2018 and turnovers were a concern but they will be buoyed by the return of three players, Anthony Rowse, Jerick Duggan and Joel De Barros, who can add experience and calmer heads this year. De Barros was a star for NT as he top-scored with 12.6 points and 6.1 rebounds while Rowse led the side for assists and in front of a home crowd, coach Rod Tremlett's team will be desperate for a good showing in 2019.

Key Game: On the night of the last day of the pool stage, NT will meet SA Country in a game that both teams will be marking as a winnable clash. With a big crowd behind them, NT will receive an added boost and a win would be the perfect way to sign off from the first half of the competition.