By Jye Watson | Sudanese Basketball, Doin' it for Love


Sudanese National Basketball Tournament. Picture Credit helpinghoops.com.au

Forward by Janx

I have asked Jye Watson to submit a report from the South Sudanese Australian National Classic. Jye is involved with Mogul Sports, who represent professional athletes in the NBL, AFL and local leagues around Australia. Jye’s role is not a sports agent but he scouts talent and assists any athletes that may seek him out with advice, as well as supports the agencies' clients in terms of career planning and well-being. He has been a great friend and confidante on all things hoops with me well before he was involved with Mogul. He has a great basketball mind and sees the game from some unique perspectives. In his playing days he dominated the Central ABL for a few years, after he returned from the United States from playing college basketball. We first met when he joined our Central Districts Lions State League squad and as he was new to town I was assigned to “take him under my wing” for a few weeks which I did so with enthusiasm. We got to play together for a brief time, and he always bought a fun intensity to trainings, with lots of banter and hard work. We have been great mates ever since.

The great thing about Jye in his role with Mogul is I know that he and his colleagues are in it for the right reasons. Whilst they may not be able to work with every single athlete, they want to genuinely help athletes they take on board succeed and in doing so they succeed. Mogul are the kind of people that will go above and beyond and have done just that recently with the Adelaide Warriors, our SA Club that competes in the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association (SSANBA) National Tournament.

I’ve personally been lucky to work very closely with some of our most talented guys in the Sudanese basketball community in South Australia. I value them greatly as ballers but more as great young men. They love the game and all it offers. I’m intrigued with Jye’s thoughts on the National Classic and his recent involvement in the Sudanese basketball community.

Pictured: Some great Adelaide Warriors Ballers I have been honoured to get to know and some whom I have enjoyed coaching. This pic includes Machar Machar, Jimma Dau, Chol Luk, Biar Garang, Ngor Daniel, Madit Daniel. Picture Credit helpinghoops.com.au

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Over to Jye.....

Coming up as a young teen playing basketball in a country town and travelling to Melbourne to play with the Tigers, I often noticed gifted young Sudanese players hitting the courts at MSAC. I remember saying to myself at the time, “They are very raw, but if someone worked with these kids they could be great” that was 1999.

I recently attended my first, South Sudanese national basketball tournament in Werribee (Eagle Stadium), ran by the self-governing SSANBA (http://ssanba.com.au/) in July, which was a huge success. The quality of the tournament, along with the excitement from the large crowds in attendance had the stadium absolutely booming. There were quality players on every court demonstrating not only their athletic abilities, but also the skills required to take the game to the next level. This was the most exciting national tournament that I have attended, both in terms of atmosphere, but also the level of excitement. I can only look forward to the next tournament to be held December 16th-18th, again at Werribee’s Eagle Stadium.

Results from the tournament:

SENIOR MEN:

1. Red Devils (Qld) CHAMPIONS (gold medalists). 2. Wild Beasts (Mel). Runners-up (Silver Medalists) 3. Longhorns 1 (Mel). 15pts 163.31% 4. Savannah Pride (NSW) 15pts 157.47% 5. Newcastle Nadus (NSW) 13pts 142.14% 6. Longhorns 2 (Mel). 13pts 118.93% 7. Runners (Mel) 9pts 105.56% 8. Thunder 2 (Mel) 9pts 86.44% 9. Southern Kings (ADL) 9pts 82.01% 10. Warriors (ADL) 8pts 100.50% 11. Eagles (ACT) 8pts 89.36% 12. Hoop Dreamz (Qld) 7pts 73.11% 13. City Kings 2 (Mel). 6pts 98.08% 14. City Kings 3 (Mel) 4pts 62.35% 15. City Kings 1 (Mel) 3pts 60.00% 16. Thunder 1 (Mel) 3pts 39.89%

U/20 MEN:

1. Warriors 2 (ADL) CHAMPIONS (gold medalists) 2. Longhorns 1 (Mel) Runners-up (Silver Medalists) 3. Red Roo (Mel) 13pts 149.77% 4. Thunder (Mel) 9pts 79.99% 5. Longhorns 2 (Mel) 7pts 45.95% 6. Warriors 1 (ADL) 5pts 56.03%

U/18 BOYS:

1. Red Roo (Mel). CHAMPIONS (gold medalists) 2. Wild Beasts (Mel). Runners-up (Silver Medalists) 3. Savannah Pride 1 (NSW) 13pts 164.71% 4. Longhorns 1 (Mel) 13pts 155.72% 5. Hoop Dreamz (Qld). 13pts 140.85% 6. Warriors (ADL). 13pts 112.61% 7. Longhorns 2 (Mel) 11pts 103.67% 8. New Stars (Mel). 9pts 120.00% 9. Perth Rhinos (WA) 9pts 88.39% 10. Longhorns 4 (Mel) 7pts 64.94% 11. Longhorns 3. (Mel) 7pts 61.19% 12. Savannah Pride 2 (NSW) 5pts 51.45% 13. Thunder (Mel) 5pts 45.07%

Open age Women:

1. Redskins (Mel) CHAMPIONS (gold medalists) 2. Warriors (ADL) Runners-up (Silver Medallists) 3. Eagles (ACT). 11pts 122.22% 4. City Queens (Mel) 11pts 96.45% 5. Thunder 2. (Mel) 9pts 80.79% 6. Thunder 1 (Mel). 7pts 43.09% 7. Wild Beasts (Mel) 5pts 42.23%

U/16 Boys:

1. City Kings 1 (Mel) CHAMPIONS (gold medallists) 2. Savannah Pride (NSW). Runners-up (Silver Medallists) 3. Warriors (ADL) 13pts 204.29% 4. Longhorns 2 (Mel). 13pts 167.02% 5. Wild Beasts 1 (Mel) 13pts 157.75% 6. City Kings 2 (Mel). 11pts 94.00% 7. Longhorns 1 (Mel) 10pts 118.07% 8. Savannah Pride 2 (NSW). 7pts 56.94% 9. Longhorns 3.(Mel) 5pts 50.78% 10. Longhorns 4 (Mel) 5pts 44.58% 11. Wild Beasts 2 (Mel) 5pts 33.33%

From the tournament it seems, skill development has been a focus of many young athletes coming through, and it was clear that teams such as the Longhorns (Melbourne) have had a lot of time and effort put into them to build successful programs with deep connections to great coaches. Australian basketball is in good hands and with the next generation of players coming through, Olympic medals will be a regular occurrence.

Coming back from the tournament I was inspired to write some analysis on basketball in the Sudanese community, how they play for the “Love of the game” and put the case forward it is vital that those assisting Sudanese players MUST “Do it for the Love”, and not personal gain.

Skip forward a generation from the kids I first saw when I was in Melbourne, and there is a tidal wave of elite level Sudanese basketball players etching out a name for themselves not only in Australia, but on the world stage. The question is, how did the players get so good, so fast? Well it is not a simple answer, as many players were overlooked locally, couldn’t always meet the demands of the hefty costs associated with playing, and at times the travel to and from training and games meant long train and bus rides.

In South Australia, players from that first generation, such as Aciek Mayen (Adelaide Warriors) saw an opportunity to help the younger players coming up and sought out assistance from coaches who were good at teaching the game. He was often turned down, as were many around the country, but he found assistance from professional player, Rashad Tucker who took many young guys under his wing in the early days, still currently working with the teams at competing at the recent championships. Some of these players, such as Majok Deng (Minnesota Timberwolves, Adelaide 36ers), were sent across to America to further enhance their skills and see what they could do with the right system around them.

Aciek has been a great example of investing into a community, without direct personal benefit as his own younger brother, Lat Mayen, has emerged to be one of the brightest 2017 prospects in Australia. By his brother investing into the community and building up basketball his own brother was able to take advantage of what had been setup. Lat is now based fulltime at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport.

Fast forward four years of college, and boom, an influx of American and Canadian college, high school and Prep school coaches are literally knocking down the doors of the hundreds of potential superstars coming through and for good reason. With the likes of Thon Maker (NBA), Majok Deng (Louisiana Monroe), Deng Deng (Baylor) , Emmanuel Malou, Majok Majok (UConn), Ater Majok (Uconn), Deng Adel (Louisville) and Mangok Mathiang (Louisville) just to name a few (many more) about to, or recently finished their time in America, the professionals are not only earning free degrees, but now getting paid to do what they love.

With the successes of basketball in Australia of late, the NBL currently in a solid financial state, the Boomers dominating the Olympics at the time of writing this article, the recent COE Prospects Combine attracting more than 20 College Coaches, it seems that this is a great way to engage the youth of the South Sudanese Australian’s. Instead of the negativity at times that surrounds refugees from across the globe. If only the funding was available from governing bodies to assist with the soaring costs associated with playing the game, from court hire fees, to representative fees, to making state basketball teams and alike, it is a huge burden on many families of all Australians. Through basketball, many players will now have the opportunity to become role models for those in their communities and make a real social difference by demonstrating the focus and determination to be great at whatever it is that they are doing.

Skill development and coaching is another area in which there has been great progress, with companies offering individual and group training sessions to take players to the next level. Elevate Basketball Training (Melbourne) and Hoop Planet (Adelaide) are new start-up companies that are ran by young Sudanese coaches wanting help players and are starting to have great results. This is a positive step forward and with good coaching, it will only further the sport within the community. With all the attention on the upside of these players, there is also a danger of people taking advantage of situations for personal gain, and it is important that the coaches and ‘mentors’ are helping and improve the games of the athletes for the love of the game rather than a quick pay-check.

Massive, lound, passionate crowds are typical at SSANBA Tournaments which add to the excitement of these events. Picture Credit helpinghoops.com.au

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