In July of this year, the heads of delegation, Graham Burns, CEO of Basketball Queensland and Leonard King Director of the High Performance Program, took 10 teams of boys and girls to the US. These emerging teams; three U15 and two U17 girls teams, three U15 and two U17 boys teams, were made up of players from North, Central and South who are already playing for Queensland State teams but at the ‘lower age’ level. These lower age athletes were taken over to the US for an opportunity for game development, putting them in the best position for gaining a place in the State Teams in the coming year.
The teams arrived in Sunny California and certainly hit the ground running, with only 24 hours to acclimatise before the first Open Premiere Gym tournament began, followed by the Californian Storm Tournament for the Girls and the West Coast Elite tournament for the boys. Over the nine-day tour all the Queensland teams played at least 10 games in a gruelling schedule of playing and training.
The American teams that Queensland faced were made of up athletes of the same age from Club Teams who were sponsored by a mixture of local businesses, popular shoe brands and by individual professional players from the NBA and WNBA. The American players, although playing in the same age groups and level of competition, were physically more developed compared to the Queensland players and more physical, utilising their athleticism both offensively and defensively. This being said during the tournament the Queensland teams were extremely competitive, with every team getting wins during the tour.
The players weren’t the only people taken out of their comfort zone, the coaching staff too had to adjust quickly during what was for some of them, their first international tour. Firstly; preparing their teams for the new style of play with limited insight into the American players that they were going up against and secondly; to a very different style of refereeing with the officials allowing a lot more contact on the court.
Other than the American’s greater assertiveness with the ball, the main difference between the American and Australian style of play was the sharing of the ball. The High Performance coaches made this analysis:
The American teams – 40% of the time the player who caught the rebound or who receives the inbound pass is the player who shoots the ball and is the only player to touch the ball in this possession. 30% of the time 2 players touched the ball during a possession, the second person being the shooter. 20%, 3 players and 10% 4 players. Very rarely did all the players touch the ball in a single possession. This formula, whist creating some heart stopping displays of style and athleticism, made the plays very predictable.
The Australian style of play shows more sharing of the ball, getting it into more sets of hands, focusing on team play and with less onus on the individual player.
Despite the challenges of the tournaments the teams and coaching staff rose to the occasion, making the overall tour a great success. All the emerging team players gained in experience, developed and broadened their skill set and grew in confidence. They also forged new friendships and made contacts for possible college placements, representing Basketball in Queensland and Australia with the exemplary behaviour and level of maturity we have come to expect from our young athletes.
For more information about the emerging teams and the other High Performance Programs contact Leonard King [email protected]