THE impressive skill of three Wingham basketball players has seen them gain selection in the prestigious Hunter academy.
Jordan Woodward, Jayland Small and Connor Thorp shone on the court, catching the eye of a representative for the Hunter academy who was looking for players from the North Coast region.
The boys have come a long way in the short time they have been playing basketball. With less than two years experience they have grown and developed under the mentorship of Chris Small, their coach and Jordan and Jayland’s dad.
The boys are part of the sport’s resurrection in the Manning as it picks up a bigger following.
Basketball gained plenty of attention in the area in the 90s but had diminished as the sport’s popularity waned throughout Australia.
The Wingham Association folded in 1998.
“There hasn’t been the interest generated until now,” Chris said.
Chris, a player himself, said he was the last person from Wingham to gain selection in Hunter in the early 1990s.
Now local games are played at Saxby’s stadium in Taree and the sport is drawing bigger crowds and players from other codes looking for something different.
The boys represent in the Northern Junior League and travel as far as Lismore, Tamworth and Armidale to take on other teams. Because the games are spread over large distances, a round is played each month in a different location and includes five or six games.
The boys started training for the academy on the weekend and will continue preparation until September.
In April they will attend training sessions at the Australian Institute of Sport before representing their region against teams from other academies throughout the east coast of NSW and Victoria.
The next step for the three talented basketball players is selection in the NSW country squad which approaches in March.
“They are good enough to make state level,” Chris said.
The place in the academy puts them in a good position for the junior world cup selection process in the next few years.
Connor from St Clare’s High is built for the game. At six foot three and still growing, he dominates the court.
Jordan is a good ball handler and ace shooter with Jayden making his mark as a defender.
Chris is their coach and Connor’s mum is the team manager.
Chris is excited with the boys’ ‘lection and pleased to see the sport picking up momentum in the area. He said with the current fashion trend of basketball hats and singlets, the sport is back on the hot list in high schools around Australia.
“I’m very happy. I knew they were good. They’re better than what I was when I was their age,” he said.
“In the last six months they have grown in leaps and bounds.”
The boys said the attraction of the game is its quick pace and the fact the sports nature means they are always in the middle of the action.
“I like that I get the ball a lot and its team atmosphere and I get noticed if I try harder,” Jordan said.
Connor said he enjoys the feeling of inclusion the game gives to the players.
“Win or lose, you still feel good,” he said.
The basketball competition is growing in the Manning. Games for primary school children are played on Saturday mornings. Tuesday afternoons is the high school competition which includes four divisions.
Friday nights sees the men’s competition in full swing. There is also a strong women’s competition.
Anyone who would like to take the court or wants more information about local competition should call 6551 7456.