Photo credit: Centre of Excellence @ Australian Institute of Sport
Thanks to having the chance to be involved with some great young men, and and their families allowing me to talk to colleges about them, I had the opportunity to get a heads up on this event a number of months ago. I was engaging with many, many college coaches at the time and one of the common questions was; "when will he play over here?". Tight schedules for our best Aussie players, with year 12, financial costs and many other basketball commitments make it very hard for all of them to get to the US to play in their Senior HS year.
This event was a golden opportunity to finally get the coaches to see these guys in person and see if they were willing to make the commitment to fly across the world to see them play. I had planned to go across to watch the event but as I was going across anyway I was invited to be involved as an Assistant Coach.
It was also great to see some of the Featured Athletes Alex Mudronja, Lat Mayen and Owen Hulland in their new home, in their element. The facilities there are off the charts and I was actually taken aback by how good those guys have it. Managed to see the recovery centre, mess hall, basketball training facility and a few other areas. I feel that the coaches there select players not only for their talent and potential but also for their ability to be good men. It creates a great environment to live in when you actually have good people to spend your time with.
The COE@AIS staff were so welcoming from the outset and they were very thankful to everyone involved for helping out. For me personally it was rather daunting to be at this event but I got to Assist the COE Assistant Coach Markus Klusemann in team gold and that was great to see Markus in action. The x's and o's he was able to put in, in a very short space of time was impressive and even more impressive was how quickly the players picked it all up. The positive coaching style but his ability to PUSH players hard displayed was something that the team appreciated in Markus' coaching style.
The 3xCOE@AIS kids involved in our team only reinforced one of the qualities that the coaches there look for that I mentioned in my blog - So you want to be an AIS athlete: Janx' view on what it takes - of likability. I knew one from SA already, but the others were also great men. They were all good guys and just great to chat to and get to know. All the other guys in our team were similar. It was just a positive environment and great to see them play hard, smart, team basketball eventhough they had never played as a team before, whilst ultimately playing to get hopefully get some college interest, they still put the team first.
The games were at a higher level than u18 Nationals and probably slightly higher than many games at U20 National Championships. The referees let alot of contact go which made for some great, very physical, flowing basketball.
It was also great to get to know the other Aussie Coaches involved. Meeting most of them all very briefly in the past years it was great to get to know a few of them better, hearing about what they are doing in their states, how their club programs are going and getting to know them on a personal level.
Over lunch, got to chat to David Spear and hear his vision and passion for the Free Throw Foundation amongst other things. The foundation, founded by David, helps break down barriers (often these are financial) to participaton in our great sport. He some great ideas in the pipeline, and I think organisations like the NBL need to be listening to some of his ideas as it will be a win/win for all involved. A Nike rep who was watching the event intently, also happened to be sitting at the table during the conversation listening very intently to David's vision and asking some questions too.
Apparently the US coaches there gave feedback to the organisers that they loved the quality of games. Their feedback