A squad of 12, including a host of players that led the Gliders to the silver medal at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, will depart for Toronto on Monday for what shapes as an intensive 12-day tour of Canada and the USA.
First stop for the Gliders is Canada for the Toronto Challenge – a four-nation tournament that will act as the test event for June’s World Championship. Here the squad will face a challenging schedule of four games in four days.
They will face World Championship hosts, Canada as well as The Netherlands and Japan, with the first game on Tuesday 18 March.
It’s a short turnaround for the team before they’re in action again, travelling to Birmingham, Alabama for the 2014 Lakeshore Cup, tipping off on Tuesday 25 March.
Here the Gliders will face the USA and Japan, playing six games in three days as part of a five-day training camp and tournament in the southern American city.
In all the Gliders will play 10 games during the tour, giving Head Coach Tom Kyle the opportunity to cast his eye over the talent at his disposal and mould the team to his game style ahead of a return to Toronto in June.
Kyle said the tour would provide great preparation from all angles as the team enters into a busy period in their pre-tournament schedule
“The tour is an exciting opportunity for the Gliders to assess where we are at leading into the World Championships,” Kyle said.
“We get to play the Netherlands (3rd in World Rankings), USA (4th), Canada (6th) and Japan, who are emerging as a strong force on the world stage. This is our last real hit out before leaving for the World Championships in June.
“The team is particularly excited to get a chance to challenge Canada – the only team to defeat the Gliders in the preliminary round competition at the London Paralympics.”
There has been plenty happening around the Gliders program, with two new faces joining the team’s coaching staff in the lead-up to the World Championships.
One of the Australian Rollers men’s national wheelchair basketball team all-time greats Troy Sachs OAM will join the Gliders program as an Assistant Coach to Kyle.
Regarded as one of the best players of his generation, Sachs was the leading light for the Rollers at an amazing five Paralympic Games, winning gold medals in 1996 and 2008 and a silver medal in 2004.
Sachs was one of the stars of the historic 1996 Atlanta gold-medal winning Rollers team – the first Australian wheelchair basketball team to win a Paralympic tournament. He would become the face of wheelchair basketball in Australia, earning the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 1997 at just 21 years of age.
The 38-year-old enjoyed a decorated club career, winning honours in the NWBL as well as playing in Italy, Germany, Spain, Turkey, and is the USA for the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks in the NWBA.
Kyle said the addition of Sachs to the Gliders program was a coup for the all involved in the team.
“To bring someone of the calibre of Troy Sachs into the Australian Gliders program is only going to benefit the team, with his amazing major tournament as a player and coach providing the program with an amazing resource to tap in to,” Kyle said.
“There probably isn’t anyone in the world with his level of experience when it comes to major international tournaments and we see that experience as a great benefit to our program.”
Joining Sachs as a new face on the Gliders coaching staff is Markus Klusemann, who comes on board as the Technical Assistant Coach. Currently in Sochi for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, Klusemann has vast experience in high performance program both here and abroad.
Klusemann has previously served on coaching panels for a host of Australian teams, including the Jayco Australian Opals at the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women and 2012 London Olympic Games.
Sachs and Klusemann join Kyle and Assistant Coach David Gould to form the Australian Gliders coaching panel.
Australian Gliders squad for Canada/USA Tour
Stephanie van Leeuwen
Leanne Del Toso