• James Woite

By James Woite | Premier League, South Australia basketball is producing diamonds – now it’s time to


Preface by Janx.....

Many within our state may not realise it but the global brand of South Australian basketball as a proving ground for elite talent is at an all time high. For elite, young athletes coming through the ranks this represents opportunities to be recruited at levels never seen before.

This blog, by James Woite, highlights the strength of South Australia’s Premier League. This league is an open aged competition that includes US Citizens (called imports) that are college graduates as well players with NBL (our top professional, national league) experience. Junior South Australian’s coming through this tough league can be evaluated by College Coaches at all levels.

James Woite has been covering the Premier League for the past few years for our state’s peak sporting body. It has been great seeing James’ stories and hearing his well-researched insights on teams and games in the league. I first met James when he was a junior at Centrals, he just loved the sport and I knew he would try and stay involved beyond his playing days. It is great to have someone who loves the sport as much as James, and hopes to build a career in the media, online web media and website development involved in the local Basketball SA Premier League.

Whilst anyone interested in South Australia's Premier League will enjoy this blog we are targeting two main audiences:

  • SA Junior players and their families

  • US College Coaches

For SA Junior players and their families:

We hope that reading this blog will give you an appreciation for our Premier League as a very good pathway, compared to US High School, into higher level programs; be it college basketball, the NBL, SEABL or any other higher leagues. To compete against men as a 17 year old, including D1 and D2 NCAA graduates, as well as NBL players, week in week out is a much higher level of competition than playing US High School basketball.

A great example of this is 17 year old college prospect Ben Carter (6'10'' Power Forward, Class of 2018 College prospect). Ben plays at Sturt with Stanford (Pac 12 NCAA Div 1) commit Isaac White, Claybrin McMath who graduated Bryant University (D1 NCAA), Hamish Burns out of Newberry College (D2 NCAA) amongst others. In his first 2 games of premier league this year he has gone up against Boise State's (Mountain West Conference, Div 1 NCAA) 2nd leading all time leading scorer in Anthony Drmic in game 1, and in game 2 one of the top former Div 2 NCAA players in America in Aric Miller for example. The key point here is also that both Aric and Drmic are college graduates, men into their mid 20s now. Playing men week in week out at this level is much better preparation for Ben's college aspirations than playing against kids in the US High Schools, also where the talent is also much more spread out. In the past 2 years a record number of top Div 1 college coaches have visited Adelaide, be it from the Mountain West Conference, the Big 12, America East, West Coast, Big West and more. They come here for three reasons. To recruit, learn about our systems and build relationships with our coaches here locally.

For US College Coaches:

in reading this blog we encourage you to consider Adelaide as a key recruiting destination, recruit talent out of Adelaide, the talent here is burgeoning. Our college prospects, from 17-19 years of age are developing under elite coaches, playing with men who have played professional hoops, as well D1/D2 NCAA graduates in their mid-20s. This is high level, MEN'S basketball, much higher levels than US High School basketball or AAU basketball in the USA. College coaches can watch Premier League games online and see prospects from the ages of 17 going against Div 1 and Div 2 NCAA graduates every week.

James will break down some of the talent in our league a little further.

Thankyou James for your help in promoting our strong local league with this blog.

Over to James Woite......

Australian basketball gained widespread popularity and credibility in the 1990s, when Luc Longley was a prominent figure for the 1996-98 NBA Champion Chicago Bulls. However, the east coast draws most of the attention. While many colleges, including Yale, California Berkeley, the University of Washington, LSU, and UCLA have played in Australia in the past couple of years, the last time a Division 1 school played in Adelaide was the PAC-12’s University of Arizona in 2002. Coached by Luke Olson, the Wildcats saw off our Premier League’s Sturt Sabres by single digits.

South Australia’s comparably limited consideration and recognition comes in spite of how arguably the best Australian basketballer in the world right now is from Adelaide.

When I was in high school, a friend of mine told me I should watch the now-defunct NBL (National Basketball League) club South Dragons, because they had a gun by the name of Joe Ingles. A decade or so later, the former Southern Tigers junior is a key 3-and-D rotation player for the Utah Jazz, one of the surprise packets of the current NBA season.

Pictured: Joe Ingles rep’n South Australian Premier League Club, Southern Tigers. Ingles never played US High School or AAU basketball.

Pictured: Ingles blowing by James Harden whilst rep’n his “other” team, the Utah Jazz.

Ingles has outplayed fellow Australians Patrick Mills, Matthew Dellavedova and Andrew Bogut in 2016-17, on the back of a combination of talent and opportunity. Perhaps if so many of Ingles’ more recognised teammates (namely Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors and George Hill) had not spent so much of the season on the injury list, “Jingling Joe” would not be such a phenomenon in Salt Lake City. But as they say in the classics, if you don’t buy a ticket, you won’t win the lottery. And it just so happens that South Australia is full of young basketballers standing in line and ready to purchase their numbers, with record numbers of Australian junior representatives pushing through the ranks and now D1 College commits (Janx: all of whom are featured athletes on www.highperformancehoopsnetworks.com by the way).

The thing about Ingles is he epitomises the type of basketball player that South Australia strives to produce – versatile, multi-faceted, and a seamless fit for any coach’s system. How many times do you hear scouts say about a high school or college prospect: “He has all the physical tools to succeed, but he needs to learn how to play the game!”? Well, when it comes to South Australian basketballers, there is no need to start from scratch. If you are building a winning program and you require a ready-made player who can fill any number of roles, then you need look no further than South Australia.

European basketball is famous for producing big guys who can shoot, but South Australian basketball goes a step further – they can dribble. No matter a player’s current size, it is a priority to ensure each junior gets the opportunity to develop all the necessary perimeter and interior skills to be a successful basketball player. This includes shooting, dribbling, passing, cutting, screening, posting up, and defending. We also teach our players the value of moving without the ball, meaning they are destined to be advanced stats and analytics superstars.

Aside from Premier League, South Australia has also had three men at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport. This is a record number in this program in well over a decade. Lat Mayen, Owen Hulland and Alex Mudronja (Janx: all 3 of these guys are featured athletes on www.highperformancehoopsnetwork.com) are all expected to commit to D1 NCAA programs over the coming 12 months, with Lat already committed to TCU for 2017. TCU is set to dominate the NCAA under new coach Jamie Dixon, having won the prestigious National Invitational Tournament (NIT) this past season, and now bringing a class ranked 26 in the whole of America. TCU are reportedly expecting a big contribution from Lat straight away. (Janx: Lat NEVER has played US High School basketball, nor AAU for that matter).

Pictured: Lat Mayen, out of South Australia, and Sturt Sabre Junior, is expected to join TCU’s burgeoning program in 2017. A 4 star recruit indicates he is very high level; he joins a recruiting class for TCU ranked at 26 in America. Lat never played US High School or AAU basketball.

In the Premier League, each franchise continues to bring through young talent every season. In recent times, no club has achieved more out of their juniors than the Sturt Sabres. Following a heart-breaking Grand Final loss to Forestville in 2012, the Sabres lost many of their best players. Given how close they came to a premiership, the Sabres could have been forgiven for chasing big names to have another crack at a flag.

Instead, they put their faith in the likes of juniors Sam Daly and Jordan Heading, and after an understandably tough start, the Sabre cubs made a push for the finals. Although they fell just short of reaching the postseason, seeing the progress the Sabres made that year between the first and last rounds remains one of the highlights of my time covering Premier League basketball.

Pictured: Sturt Sabre Junior Sam Daly (background) spent time at Grand Canyon University, coached by former NBA great Dan Majerle (foreground). Sam never played US High School or AAU basketball.

As a result of their opportunities, Daly and Heading have both gone on to play US College Basketball, showing what can be achieved when given an opportunity. At present, Daly plays for the Chaminade Silverswords, after transferring from Grand Canyon University (coached by former NBA great Dan Majerlie), while Heading is with California Baptist University.

Daly, who is expected to re-join the Premier League part way through the 2017 season, and Heading are just two examples of the talent SA basketball has on offer. The Premier League is fortunate to have many players on club rosters who have played college basketball. Anthony Drmic of the Southern Tigers is one of the most highly recognised, given he is ranked second all-time in scoring at Boise State. Drmic is also coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign with the NBL’s Adelaide 36ers.

Former Central District Lions and current Woodville Warriors pair Chris Clausen and Dan Carlin also made an impact internationally. Clausen was captain of the University of North Dakota, while Carlin was an NAIA All American, featuring in the national championship game. Majok Deng & Stefan Wright (Forestville Eagles), John Wernham (North Adelaide Rockets), James Spurritt (Norwood Flames), Luke Schenscher, Robert Linton and Bradley Ficken (Southern Tigers), and Lucas Valk & Patrick Thomas (West Adelaide Bearcats) are other local talents with college basketball experience.

Pictured: Former Georgia Tech great Luke Schenscher, from the ACC, going up against Emeka Okafor (former NBA player). He has agreed to suit up for Southern Tigers this Premier League season. Schenscher was not a product of US High School or AAU basketball.

Pictured: Majok Deng will return to his junior club Forestville Eagles this season after a stellar 2 years with University of Louisiana Monroe in the Sun Belt NCAA Div 1 Conference. In his final year at ULM, he earned first-team All-Sun Belt Conference honours.

Pictured: Alex Starling, former D1 College Graduate from Bethune Cookman in the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), has transferred from Southern Tigers to North Adelaide Rockets for this 2017 Premier League Season.

There are also several players set to play American college basketball in the near future. Sturt star Isaac White has committed to Stanford in the NCAA D1, while his stellar teammate Jacob Rigoni is in the process of considering visits to Div 1 programs. Another Sabre, Ben Carter, is being recruited by D1 schools (including High Majors), and will be competing in this year’s Adidas Nations, while Centrals’ Koen Sapwell is committed to the NAIA’s Eastern Oregon for 2017.

Pictured: Featured athlete from Sturt Sabres, Isaac White is set to play in the high major Pac-12 for Stanford. Like Mayen, White never played High School or AAU basketball in the USA.

Pictured: Isaac is a part of the Stanford 2017 recruiting class, ranked in the top 10 in the nation by Scout.com. He never played High School or AAU basketball.

Following the end of the 2016 Premier League season, the number of import slots per team was doubled from one to two. As a result, the field of talent South Australia’s prodigies are competing against has only got stronger. In the men’s competition, there are a total of 15 imports across the 10 clubs. There are seven female imports. In 2015, basketball fans were blessed to see Aric Miller on display, and the former Peach Belt All Conference member has taken his talent back to North Adelaide for a second stint this year. The quality of the league has also been boosted with the addition of the Southern Tiger's Luke Schenscher who has previously played in the NCAA Championship game for Georgia Tech before moving into professional ranks. Recently, we were privileged to witness the wisdom of former Southern Illinois University Collegiate Rashad Tucker, a player with international and NBL experience. Not only did Tucker help Forestville win two championships, but he has been giving back to the community by assisting in the skill development of young players of various abilities.

An influx of athletes are expected to return from the likes of Northern Iowa Area Community College, the University of Mary, and Lake Region Community College in the near future. In addition, there are many players in the Premier League men’s competition who have NBL experience, including Drmic and Jordan Dodman (Southern Tigers), Darren Ng (Woodville Warriors), and Blake Truslove (West Adelaide Bearcats). A number of female basketballers with WNBL experience, including Jo Hill (North Adelaide Rockets), Olivia Thompson (Forestville Eagles), and Sarah Elsworthy (Sturt Sabres). South Australia’s would-be collegiates are not just competing against themselves, but are battling players who have been up against every type of basketballer around. They are getting a supreme education in what it takes to play high-level basketball.

With a system that promotes advanced skill development and the opportunity to participate with outstanding role models, SA Basketball has never been more ready to firmly cement its place on the basketball map. So, if you are a college coach looking for a player who will move the needle in the right direction, then come and check out Adelaide. We have diamonds – you just need to look inside the rough.

#AussiePathways #IsaacWhite

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