I’ve been coaching junior basketball for 31 years in America and 6 in Queensland at the Gold Coast. I have just returned from the very first AAU Australia basketball tournament in Melbourne and this was my first opportunity to coach in another state, against competition from southern Australia, specifically Victoria and NSW. And here is my revelation. The players down south play a much more physical brand of basketball and it’s more aligned to the American style high school and college game.
AAU Australia has been set up to be a platform for junior players to compete against each other countrywide to measure their skill level against their peers, and to allow U.S. college coaches an opportunity to scout them, in other words, an exposure circuit.
The challenge for many years for quality Australian junior players who dream of playing at overseas colleges in America, is the lack of exposure to their games. For years, unless you spent thousands of dollars to travel overseas with an exposure team for perhaps 2-3 weeks, which thousands of players can not afford, they miss the opportunity to showcase their talents. And thus, stay at home and become a hometown legend.
So why is my revelation a big deal? Because in Queensland, we are not preparing and/or setting up our junior talent to win. Both individually and as teams. Although this first AAU tournament was a small sample size to make my claim, and did not include 300, 500, or 1000+ teams, it was still apparent our Queensland juniors were not accustomed to the “swallow the whistle” officiating that so often stifles players aggressiveness both offensively and defensively here in Queensland.
Having coached in America for so long and being mentored by many great college coaching legends of the game, I believe offence wins games and “physical” individual and team defences win championships. And compared to the titles won each year by Victoria and NSW club, rep and school championships, QLD is far behind in the win column. Don’t get me wrong, QLD has had the occasionally first and their share of top 5 finishes, however going on percentages, QLD is way behind in championships.
Each year at the U18 Men’s and Women’s Championships the best men and women in each state and territory compete for the Merv Emms Australian U18 Men’s Championship and the Maree Jackson Australian U18 Women’s Championship. In a 20 year span from 2016 back to 1997, QLD Men and Women’s teams have each won once. During those 20 years, NSW and Victoria men’s teams have won 17 times and the women 19 times.
In the U16 Men’s and Women’s Championships the best men and women in each state and territory have been competing since 1955 and 1971 respectively. In a 20 year span from 2017 back to 1998, QLD Men and Women’s teams have won just three times combined. During those 20 years, NSW and Victoria men’s teams have won 17 times and the women 17 times.
THAT is astounding! That is if you play or coach basketball or parent a son or daughter who plays basketball in Queensland. And as a coach of young 15-18 year olds in Queensland that dream of playing overseas at the U.S. college level, that lack of winning is unacceptable. So what’s the solution.
LET THE PLAYERS PLAY! For the last 6 years I’ve coached in Queensland, I’ve seen the officiating stifle the aggressive play necessary to compete at the national level AND prepare our juniors to play overseas. Light physical contact above the 3pt line are consistently being called fouls. And the unintentional bump and ticky-tac touches below the foul-line are also fouls in the eyes of referees. When this contact is consistently called fouls, Queensland players and coaches adjust by backing off and become complacent. Over the course of a season, junior players learn not be aggressive for fear of fouling out of games.
Of course I am not talking about holding, chucking or impeding players going to the basket. In this video, Div 1 college coach John Calipari of Kentucky, a top 5 basketball program, discusses a point guard drill. In the video you see him push Derek Rose and then Derek is hit with a blocking bag. Coach Calipari says, “you have to play through bumps. He plays through 2 bumps.” If they were fouls in college, he wouldn’t be demonstrating pushing/bumping the player driving to the basket. In Queensland, they both would be called fouls. No doubt.
I am not suggesting throw the baby out with the bath water. There are many quality referees officiating games throughout the state so this is NOT an indictment of referees. I’m just asking the powers to be to let the players play. Swallow the whistle on contact away from the basket. Let the players know they can get after it without worrying about hearing the whistle blow.
In Victoria, the officials are less inclined to call soft physical contact and let the players be aggressive while defending their man. As a result, they are preparing their juniors for the more physical American style of basket played at the NCAA level. As a result, Queensland players are at a disadvantage and lose more often than not vs NSW and Victoria teams based on results. In fact, look how many college players each year get recruited from NSW/Victoria compared to Queensland juniors.
According to The Pick and Roll, for the 2019/20 NCAA D1 season, they listed 68 Aussie men playing basketball in the U.S. Of the 68, 5 are from QLD and 45 from NSW/VIV. Of the 105 Aussie women playing NCAA D1 basketball this season, 21 are from QLD and 51 from NSW/VIC. Even if these numbers are off by 10% +/-, that’s still a huge disparity.
So bottom line, Basketball Queensland will either take notice of how far behind our junior players are and change the way Queensland basketball is officiated or they won’t. In the event change does occur, it’ll probably take a few years. In the interim, I plan on doing something about it now to prepare our boys. I will continue to train, coach and mentor juniors in SE QLD to compete in an American style game. Be aggressive offensively, defensively, to run and gun and to attack the basket. Press on defense and cause the opponent to make adjustments to our style.
If as a player this appeals to you because YOU have that dream of being recruited to play overseas, then trial for our 18U, 16U or 14U AAU teams. We practice 1-2 times a week and enter multiple AAU Australia sanctioned tournaments across the country. These games are live-streamed back to the states via BALLERtv for the benefit of college scouts and coaches.
If as a coach this appeals to you, we are always looking for competent experienced coaches. However, if you are relatively new to coaching and committed to supporting juniors in approving their skills and overall game, apply to be an assistant and gain invaluable experience from one of our veteran coaches. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If as a parent this appeals to you, then encourage your son or daughter to trial with Be Elite AAU. You can either call me at 0481 580 007 or email me at email@example.com to answer any and all questions you may have. For more information on Be Elite AAU, go to our website at www.Be-Elite-Basketball.com.
Our next trials for Boys 18U and 16U are Sunday 27th of Oct from 8-10am and boys 14U and girls 16U 10:30-12:30pm at the Carrara Indoor Sports Centre. Please head to our website for more details and to register to trial. See you then!
And finally if you disagree with my whole premise, I would love to hear your thoughts and explanation as to why Qld basketball is behind in the win/lose column. All comments are welcome. Cheers! #6
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