NBL Blitz takes Traralgon by storm

GIPPSLAND has been Blitz-ed.

The NBL, in conjunction with the Latrobe City Council, Victorian State Government and Basketball Victoria Country, brought their pre-season extravaganza – the NBL Blitz – down the Princes Highway to great acclaim.

It’s for the best though as the eight NBL clubs descended on Traralgon, Sale and other Gippsland area cities for the pre-season tournament – staged from 7-10 September.

It showcases the keenness and desire for elite basketball throughout our state; an effort every country Victorian should be proud to see.

Melbourne United was based in Sale and used the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex as its home-base for the week.

With a swathe of eager country kids coming along for a special clinic on Thursday morning, Melbourne United brought their a-game to the town. There’s nothing better than getting to see your role models up close, as the kids mobbed the likes of Chris Goulding and coach Dean Vickerman for autographs.

Sam Short knows the excitement and energy of a country basketball clinic better than most. He’s seen it from both sides as a Ballarat junior and now part of the Melbourne United NBL roster.

He said to the Sale clinic’s eager juniors that there is no substitute for passion and hard work and the results will speak for themselves following that.

“I guess through the hard work I did when I was younger, like you guys, and continued working hard it got me through to the position that I was today,” Short said.

“I started playing domestic basketball there (Ballarat) when I was five years old and a bit younger than you guys here.

“I started representing Ballarat at the rep level when I was under-12s and played all the way through under-18s and my first experience of playing for Vic Country was under-14s and we got to go to Albury for the Australian Junior Cup and got to play against NSW, Tasmania, South Australia, New Zealand was there too.

“I was really proud just to put on the Victorian jersey, there were a few guys around me that had done it before from Ballarat.

“From there I was lucky enough to go into the national performance program with Justin (Schueller) – we got to work and train hard with the best guys in the state two-to-three times a week… and went on to sign a development deal with Melbourne United.”

The clinics went on across the region as players and coaches gave their insights and best practice tips to the keen Gippsland juniors.

The Sydney Kings – including Victorian basketball icon Andrew Gaze – on hand to run the clinic in Churchill, including a wheelchair basketball tutorial for a group of eager enthusiasts.

It wasn’t just about clinics for players though.

NITP coaches

Our Victoria Country NITP athletes were put through their paces at the NBL Blitz Elite Coaching Clinic on Wednesday night. Picture: BASKETBALL VICTORIA

It started a night early as Wednesday night had four NBL head coaches – Trevor Gleeson, Rob Beveridge, Andrej Lemanis and Dean Vickerman – put our Country NITP athletes through their paces as 108 eager coaches jotted down notepads full of handy advice and training tips.

Australian Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis said it was important to constantly learn as a coach and events like the NBL Blitz Elite Coaching Clinic give a great insight into the concepts worth trialling back at your home associations.

“I think it’s one of those things as a coach hopefully you have a thirst for basketball knowledge and you come and have a listen to ideas… and I know all of the coaches who presented tonight (Wednesday) have been through the junior levels ourselves and come through that development pathway,” Lemanis said. “It’s about exposing yourself to as many ideas as you possibly can and then taking what is relevant and building your own philosophy – at the end of the day everyone builds their own philosophy of what they think works in the game through experience and trial and error.

“Hopefully given them one or two ideas tonight that they can experiment with their own groups and evolve as coaches.”

From there the spectacle unfolded.

It was a full-on display of the best of basketball – the elite players, the eager juniors and everyone in between watching on as the show reached crescendo on Thursday night.

Melbourne United brought the Blitz to Illawarra, smashing in a 99-83 win on the back of som exceptional play from Kyle Adnam (24 points) and Tai Wesley (19 points).

The action returns to Melbourne on Sunday afternoon as the NBL Blitz heads to Kilsyth, Mill Park, Werribee and the State Basketball Centre.

Melbourne United v Perth Wildcats, State Basketball Centre

Sydney Kings v Illawarra Hawks, Kilsyth Basketball Stadium

Cairns Taipans v Brisbane Bullets, Werribee Basketball Stadium (Eagle Stadium)

New Zealand Breakers v Adelaide 36ers, Mill Park Basketball Stadium

Tickets are still available via www.nbl.com.au/blitz.

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