IT’S not just the NBA where Warriors are making basketball history, it’s happening in the National Junior Classic too.
At this weekend’s National Junior Classic (#NJC18), the Pakenham Warriors are fielding the club’s first ever entry in the prestigious invitation only tournament.
The Warriors under-14s boys side has qualified as one of the 16 teams from around the nation chosen to battle for the title of best in their age group.
“To make the Classic is a huge achievement,” Warriors head coach Brett Small said. “We are really, really rapt to be involved in the tournament.
“Obviously the results will take care of themselves, but for us it will be just to compete and learn and enjoy the experience.”
Pakenham has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent MUVJBL seasons.
In 2017, the under-14s team, coached by Small as well, earned the Warriors entry into the state’s elite MUVJBL VC competition. The boys made club history, becoming the first Pakenham team to achieve this feat in the process after an incredible win in the final round of VC qualifying to make the grade.
Far from being a cellar-dweller, the Warriors have embraced the challenge of the MUVJBL’s elite grade and have flourished this season. Earning their place in the Classic, the Warriors shone through the first half of VC grading to sit third in the Watson conference. They have plenty of confidence heading into the Queen’s Birthday long weekend tournament, and are set to showcase why they belong in the state’s top-tier of junior basketball.
Small credits the Warriors’ teamwork and their competitive spirit as the catalyst in rising up the ranks and standing tall as one of the better junior sides in their age group.
“There’s always a mix of personalities when you bring a group of boys together, we’ve got some extroverted boys and some more quiet ones but as a group they all get along really well,” Small said.
“I enjoy coaching them as a group because they all switch on and they all listen, and they learn.
“They all compete… which is what I enjoy about coaching them.”
Small finds the quality of opposition has gone a long way in improving his players on and off the court.
“Just being able to be competing with high level and high-quality programs, it is really exciting to a part of,” Small said.
“Being involved with the competition and being around it is just really exciting for our team.”
Competing in the VC has been one of the Warriors’ targets since Small started gathering his squad a few years ago.
“When we put the group together, I felt there were two goals we wanted to achieve,” Small said. ”The first was to make the top 10 and the Championship… the second was to qualify for the Classic.
“Those were the two goals that I set for our group, and we have now done that.”
Pakenham’s sensational rise has been rewarded with selection to the Classic and the side is keen to make the most of its opportunity on the biggest stage yet.
“We are going into the Classic tournament with no expectations, other than to be as competitive as we can be,” Small said. “Because it’s all new to us, it’s exciting … but it is one of those things we need to embrace [the experience] and learn from.
“The experience these young players are going to have will really benefit their game, their understanding of the game, and their development.
“This is a stepping stone in the basketball development of our program – it’s a really exciting time for not just this group of boys and the team, but for the whole Pakenham organisation.”
The Pakenham Warriors continue to be a team on the rise making history every week.