In the lead-up to the Under-18 Championships and Kevin Coombs Cup which will run in Geelong, Victoria, from April 21-28, we preview the teams from all eight state and territories that are represented.
Under-18 Men’s SA Country Team List: Sebastian Bald, Matthew Black, Rhys Cannizzano, Marshall Howe, Mitchell Hunter, Malok Makoi, Stuart Scott, Riley Stasinowsky, Hudson Walsh, Jackson Walsh.
Both Under-18 men’s teams will be looking to bounce back from disappointing tournaments last year and the SA Country side has four returning athletes who will be better for the 2017 run.
Sebastian Bald will pace their offence after finishing third for scoring with 19 points per game and is a strong three-point shooter while the back court will be boosted by Hudson Walsh and Marshall Howe.
Jackson Walsh is a 210cm centre who had an effective campaign last year as well with 9.4 points per game on 50% shooting and 6.1 rebounds including over two offensive boards per game.
He will be assisted in the front court by Riley Stasinowsky whose length will provide help at both ends of the floor while the team will be led by Jamie Petty who takes over as head coach after serving as team manager last year.
“We expect to have a strong tournament with these guys and are hoping to have one of the best showing for an Under-18’s SA Country team in recent years,” said David Ingham, Basketball SA High Performance Manager.
Under-18 Men’s SA Metro Team List: Ethan Bryan, Tyson Dyer, Sebastian Griffin, Benjamin Griscti, Robert Luli, Magok Manyang, Hayden Meakes, Riley Meldrum, Mark Mudronja, Kalani Sapwell.
With six bottom-agers making up the SA Metro team, they are a young side but as they are brimming with talent, South Australia will be looking forward to the future of these athletes.
Andrew Jantke is back as the head coach and they will be hoping players such as Riley Meldrum (9.6 points, 2.6 assists per game last year) and Hayden Meakes (four points, 4.3 rebounds) can lead them after experiencing the tournament as bottom-agers last years.
Mark Mudronja is also back and he showed signs in 2017 with a tournament-high 13 points and six rebounds in their last game against the ACT. The younger brother of Alex Mudronja who attended the Centre of Excellence, Mark is also developing into an impressive talent.
“We have some prominent family names in SA and Mark is a part of that,” said Ingham.
“Hopefully it does not add too much pressure to Mark as Alex set some very high standards but he is building very nicely and continues to get better every time we see him.”
The younger brother of Koen, Kalani Sapwell has another well-known name around the state and he will help power SA Metro’s offence after averaging 17 points per game at last year’s Under-16’s while draining a total of 36 three-pointers over nine games.
Under-18 Women’s SA Country Team List: Montana Briggs, Emily Close, Jorja Eldridge, Tahlia Griffiths, Erin Hoare, Taylah Levy, Keryl Ousey, Portia Size, Isabella Stratford, Emily Winter.
In a similar fashion to the SA Metro men, the SA Country women possess six bottom-agers and have only three returning players from 2017 when they finished sixth.
Isabella Stratford led them for scoring, reaching double-figures on five occasions to average 12.3 points while Emily Winter and Taylah Levy (despite playing only four games) showed they can be offensive threats as well.
Portia Size will boost their back court alongside Levy while her tenacity in the paint will be a concern for oppositions as she will help to crash the glass.
That will take some of the pressure off Tahlia Griffiths and Keryl Ousey who will have the defensive job of shutting down the key forwards in the competition but that looms as the biggest challenge for the team and coach James Rattus.
Under-18 Women’s SA Metro Team List: Amy Cotton, Annabel Gordon, Hannah Hank, Ambah Kowcun, Ruby Porter, Kelsey Rees, Jasmine Rigoni, Ella Sawyer, Gabriella Vidmar, Elizabeth Williamson.
Last year’s silver medalists have another solid looking line-up with three players from that team coming back to push SA Metro one step higher on the podium.
“This has been a strong group that has risen through the pathway, especially at Under-16’s and last year at the Under-18’s,” said Ingham.
“The aim is to always win gold and we know there are three or four very good teams that will be vying for that top spot but we expect to be around the mark when they are handing out the medals this year.”
Gabriella Vidmar and Hannah Hank are two returning players who, between them, have been invited to the past two Athlete Development Camps at the Centre of Excellence and are certainly on the radar for future national teams.
Ambah Kowcun previously represented Northern Territory but is now firmly entrenched in the SA Metro side after starring for the Forestville Eagles and her scoring prowess, alongside the likes of Amy Cotton, Jasmine Rigoni who returns to the Championships for the first time since Under-14’s, will make for a dangerous back court.
There is no doubt that most of SA Metro’s game will be focused on Kelsey Rees though, who comes back to her home state after helping the Australian Sapphires qualify for the Under-17 World Cup later this year at the Under-16 Asian Championships.
A Centre of Excellence athlete as well, Kelsey follows in the footsteps of her sister Darcy who claimed the silver medal last year while she is coming off an Under-16’s tournament when she averaged 11.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
“Kelsey has been doing very well at the Centre of Excellence so it will be interesting to see the strides she has made,” said Ingham.
“She’s been in all the state teams on the pathway and she is someone that we expect to see representing the national team for years to come.”
Kevin Coombs Cup Team List: Mitchell Bond, William Crooks, Caleb Crowden, Brodie Healy, Tobias Karsten, Luke McDowall, Fernando Montiel, Nathan Simpson, Jamie Villalon.
South Australia will make their debut in the Kevin Coombs Cup this year in the seventh iteration of the tournament.
They could make a splash as well with some serious pedigree in the line-up including Will Crooks, Nathan Simpson and Luke McDowall who represent the Adelaide Thunder in the National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL) and Jamie Villalon who plays for the Kilsyth Cobras in the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League (WNWBL).
Crooks will likely be their main offensive weapon and he is also one of the elder members of the team behind the 22-year old McDowall but the competition will provide a great opportunity to get a look at the likes of 15-year Mitchell Bond and 16-year old Brodie Healy who also plays tennis, soccer, cricket and footy.
“The Kevin Coombs Cup and Under-18’s are tournaments that you want to make your mark in,” said Ingham.
“Colleges as well as the WNBL and NBL pay a lot of attention to the competition but as we explain to our athletes, it’s not just about racking up the stats. It’s about understanding systems and styles of play and being able to play within a team.”