South Australian basketball teams visit Port City during three-week U.S. tour

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WILMINGTON— For the second straight year, the Ashley Screaming Eagles welcomed a group of high school-aged basketball players from South Australia on Monday night for an exhibition game as the Aussies make what has become an annual trip to the United States.

Unlike American high schools, basketball in Australia does not coincide with the everyday culture around education. Competition on court is often relegated to a system similar to what the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) has done for youth sports in the United States. The group or club outside school is used to help promote and showcase the skills of young athletes.

The South Australia girls team has gone 5-0 during their US trip.
The South Australia girls team has gone 5-0 during their US trip.

Over the years, basketball in Australia has developed to the point where native born players have landed in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Some of our top college players from the U.S. have also gone down under for competition.

Just this summer, Wilmington native Kadeem Allen represented the University of Arizona and PAC-12 Conference during a week long visit to play against Australia’s national team leading up to the Summer Olympics in Brazil.

Formed in 2006, Basketball, SA, was created as a not-for-profit organization representing the major basketball associations and clubs throughout South Australia. The groups High Performance Program gives athletes a chance to work with experienced coaches to develop and foster skills for young players aspiring to compete at national and international levels of basketball.

Each year, in addition to national tournaments and trips across Australia, Basketball SA also sends development squads to compete in the United States.  The U.S. Tour team is selected by invitation from elite under-16 basketball players.

The tour allows these players and teams to test their skills against similar competition in the US, and gain a greater understanding of the US college basketball program. Funding for the trip is paid for by the families of each individual, with the players raising money to help offset costs for food.

While the pace of play, officiating and new opponents are all things the teams have had to adjust to over the last week, coaches for South Australia have been impressed with their team’s poise during this memorable journey.

The three-week voyage to the states included a 24-hour travel day to get things started.  According to the groups Facebook page, they left Adelaide Airport in South Australia for the first leg of the trip to Sydney. From there, a 14.5 hour flight sent them to Dallas, Texas. After getting a taste of American food-some for the first time-they departed for their final destination, Raleigh, North Carolina.

After some much needed sleep and trip to retail outlets in Durham, Basketball SA got their first taste of game action against Mount Zion. Visits to Wake Forest University and Cameron Indoor Stadium for a Duke Men’s Basketball game followed. During their visit to Duke, the group had a chance to meet Australian native Jack White, a freshman forward on the Blue Devils.

Rounding out week one in the United States, the group competed in a Thanksgiving tournament before setting their sights on Wilmington for a date with the boys and girls teams from Ashley High School.

Following their stop in Monkey Junction, Basketball SA heads to San Antonio, Texas for more competition, a San Antonio Spurs game and chance to meet NBA seven-year veteran, Australian-born, Patty Mills.