COE farewells 2020 graduates

Share this article

Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) is proud to celebrate six 2020 program graduates.

Joshua Bannan (VIC), Hunter Clarke (ACT), Aly Khalifa (EGYPT-NBA Global Academy), Kelsey Rees (SA), Lucas Schmidt (QLD), and Wil Tattersall (VIC) have all completed their programs at the CoE in Canberra and will now progress onto new career pathways in elite basketball.

The Graduates of 2020

At 19 years, Josh Bannan has been in the CoE program since July 2018, after playing with his junior Victorian club the Blackburn Vikings.

Upon graduating, Bannan expressed gratitude for the program, “I am incredibly grateful for all the opportunities this program has presented me with, and to all the people who have helped me grow as an individual in my time here. It has been a privilege to be a part of such a prestigious program, surrounded by great people,” he said.

Head Coach for the CoE Men’s Program, Adam Caporn, has high regard for Bannan’s skill, determination and leadership qualities.

“Josh Bannan has been an elite leader in our program, because he has been striving for excellence across so many areas. Not only in basketball but of course in academics, leadership and his work ethic, which will leave a mark here for a long period of time.

“We know his going to have a great career in Montana and then afterwards in the professional world of basketball and know he will influence a lot of teammates and programs with his combination of competitiveness and intelligence. We’ll miss him and look forward to watching his progress,” Expressed Caporn.

Hunter Clarke, 19 years old and born in Canberra, moved to the United States in sixth grade. Living in California for a large portion of his life, he relocated back to Canberra in July 2017 after accepting a scholarship with the NBA Global Academy (NBA GA) and eventually transitioning into the CoE Men’s Program.

CoE Men’s Assistant Coach, Michael Cassidy speaks highly of Hunter’s personality and playing traits which will help him achieve his basketball ambitions.

“Hunter was one of the very first Australian NBA Global Scholarship holders beginning in July 2017. He is a 6’6 playmaking wing with an elite ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter,” explains Cassidy.

“Hunter’s work ethic and leadership qualities are something that many desire, and he has helped elevate the standard of the CoE program both on and off the floor as well as in the classroom.

“In his time at the CoE, Hunter has represented his country at the 2017 FIBA Under 17 World Cup where he helped secure sixth place and he himself had a break-out performance against Croatia.”

Clarke is grateful to the two high performance programs that have kept him training in Canberra over the past three years and provided him with some special keepsake memories.

“The opportunities which the NBA Global Academy and Basketball Australia’s CoE have provided me with, will no doubt be some of the most memorable experiences of my life. The programs have helped me grow as both a player and person.

“I am certain that the relationships I have built over the years here will stick with me for many years to come, and that is something that is truly important to me,” says Clarke.

Representing Australia at two International events, Clarke helped bring home the gold medal from the 2018 FIBA U16 Asian Championship and also competed alongside fellow CoE graduate, Josh Bannan at the 2017 FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina.

Now both Clarke and Bannan will be relocating to the USA to play with the Montana Grizzlies, at the University of Montana.

Also departing the AIS set-up following their participation in the NBA Global Academy (NBA GA) is Aly Khalifa, who will join the University of North Carolina’s men’s team, Charlotte 49ers, who play in the NCAA Division 1.

Khalifa has been influential in his role with the NBA GA, guiding his team to back-to-back titles at the 2018 Academy Games in Canberra and last year in Atlanta, Georgia.

“My experience playing with the CoE was amazing. Since I arrived in 2018 and until now, it has been so good to play with the best junior Australian players from around the country. Playing with Australian players and Junior National team players is fun and it’s a great competition. It is way different than playing with anyone else.

“Australian athletes play super tough and hard and they have a winner’s mentality that we get taught in this program. As an international, playing with these guys in the Waratah League was very special and amazing.

“I’m so lucky that I got coached here at the NBA Global Academy and the CoE by the best coaches in Australia, including Marty (Clarke) and Capes (Adam Caporn). They coach us very hard and that’s what makes this the best youth program in the world,” says Khalifa as he looks back on his time in the program.

Comment on Khalifa’s involvement with the CoE, Caporn said, “The partnership between the CoE and NBA Global Academy has been powerful. With a large number of athletes from around the world, the competitiveness and diversity has really facilitated the growth of everyone in both programs.”

“Aly Khalifa has come into the program and been a fantastic contributor across both, and we are fortunate to have him in our daily training environment from an Australian basketball perspective.

“He has played the role of a leader, he has got great compassion and care for his teammates and the overall wellbeing of the program he represents.

“That said, Aly’s improvements as a basketball player have been exceptional. His dedication has led to him becoming a very exciting prospect as a play-making post and a unique and exciting prospect in basketball.”

Kelsey Rees, the sole female in this graduating group has also enjoyed a very successful spell with the CoE. Rees suited up to represent Australia at the 2019 FIBA U17 Oceania Championship, where she helped lead her side to a gold medal and was also named in the tournament’s All-Star 5.

“I have really enjoyed my time at the CoE, and it has been significant in my development. It has provided me with many amazing opportunities, and I have made lifelong memories and friendships,” says Rees as she reflected on her time with the program.

“I would like to thank the coaches and staff who not only gave me the opportunity but provided me with the support and resources I needed to take full advantage of my time here.”

Rees has accepted a position at the University of Utah where she will continue her playing career with the college’s women’s team.

Head Coach for the CoE Women’s Program, Kristen Veal, looks forward to watching how Rees will progress with her career post Canberra.

“Over her two and a half years on scholarship, Kelsey has shown enormous growth as an athlete, player and person.”

“The breadth and depth of her experiences, and responses to them, have been nothing short of inspiring as she leaves her mark on the CoE program and her current teammates. We proudly farewell Kelsey and look forward to watching her attack her next set of challenges in the college environment,” said Veal.

18-year-old, Lucas Schmidt is also stepping into the next chapter of his elite playing career, starting with Colorado Christian University in January 2021 where he will play with their college team, CCU Cougars.

Schmidt is building an impressive playing resume which includes securing a gold medal at the 2019 FIBA U17 Oceania Championship, where he averaged 7.4 points per game (PPG) and 5.2 rebounds per game (RPG).

Proud of his development and achievements, Schmidt acknowledges the ways in which the CoE program has assisted in shaping his skills and overall game.

“The CoE has been such a great learning experience. Over the last few years, I have really developed both on and off the court. I will always remember my time spent in Canberra with the fellas.

“The coaches have definitely inspired and driven me throughout my time at the Australian Institute of Sport and have been able to show me my full potential as a basketball player and a young man, without them I would not be where I am today. 

“It is not only the coaches that have had such a massive influence on where I am today, but also all of the Basketball Australia and AIS staff that have put in countless hours of work for all of us to be able to do what we love every day at the AIS.

“The CoE will always be a special part in my career no matter what is to come in the uncertain future. And I will have made friends for life over the time I’ve been a part of the CoE family,” concludes Schmidt.

CoE Men’s Program Assistant Coach Michael Cassidy also gives credit to Schmidt on his growth as an athlete.

“Lucas arrived at the CoE in July 2018 as a young developing post player. Over his 2 years at the CoE he has developed his game both on and off the floor,” explains Cassidy.

“His perimeter shooting and ability to pass the ball as a post player makes him an enjoyable player to coach and a great team mate to play with.

“He has had the opportunity to represent his country at the 2019 Oceania Championships where Australia claimed the gold medal and he has recently earned a College scholarship to Colorado Christian University. We look forward to watching his progress in the future.”

The final of the six graduates, Wil Tattersall came into the AIS program in 2019 before beginning his final year of high school. Since being part of the program, he has also earnt the opportunity to play in the semi-professional NBL1 competition.

Tattersall is now moving to the University of California Riverside to play with their school’s team, the Highlanders. This team that has seen other Australians amongst their roster over the years, and current Assistant Coach, Mike Czepil is a former Basketball Victoria High Performance Coach.

“My time in Centre of Excellence has been incredible. A time filled with extreme growth and development off and on the basketball court.  I am forever grateful for everyone that’s played a role in the experience and can’t wait to use what I’ve learnt here in the next step of my basketball journey,” states Tattersall.

NBA Global Academy Director, Marty Clarke spoke highly of Tattersall’s growth during his time with the CoE program.

“Wil leaves the CoE as the epitome of the holistic development that the program has been renown for over four decades. Wil’s development as a player is easy to see. Not just the improvement of skills he came in with, but also the expansion into new ways to influence a game.”

“Wil was able to maintain a great balance with the basketball demands and those in the classroom and was rewarded with an ATAR score in high 90s.

“Above all, his achievement in his growth as a person and a leader will place him in a great position in future life. The opportunities Wil has been given, and he has grasped, to be a positive role model and leader of his peers sees him leaving the program equipped to take on whatever challenges come his way.”

Basketball Australia and the CoE wish all six graduates the best of luck in their futures and look forward to watching their respective careers develop and flourish.