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Pacific Youth Leaders 'Step N Rep'

GOLD COAST - Anyone who has ever stepped on a basketball court has fantasised about playing for their national team. It is an amazing honour and a huge responsibility, in order to perform under these conditions one must be extremely well prepared.

The FIBA U18 Oceania Championships 2016 played last December showed just how much proper preparation can pay off. The talent on display in Suva, Fiji was sensational. In particular the young men and women representing their Pacific nations put on a show for the crowd and showcased their talent to the rest of the region.

Many of the Pacific nations represented in this year's event boasted talent that began their preparations at the FIBA's Pacific Youth Leaders (PYL) basketball camp. These athletes were invited to attend the camp held on the Gold Coast earlier this year, during the camp they were exposed to some of Australia’s most prestigious coaches. Former Opals Head Coach and the winningest coach in WNBL history Carrie Graff and four-time Olympian, former Australian Boomers Coach and three-time championship-winning head coach of the NBL's Adelaide 36ers, Phil Smyth.

The three-day elite basketball camp combined a rigorous training schedule with a world class youth development program.

Many of the athletes expressed how important this camp was in their national team preparations.

"'Step N Rep' I remember that quote everywhere I go, especially in Fiji for the tournament," said Samoan U18 national player, Linda Kelsall borrowing a quote from former Australian Boomer and PYL coach Peter Crawford. "Representing my country was a pleasure, the pride within me took both me and my team to a higher level, winning a bronze medal."

#6 Linda Kelsall attacks the basket against Australia

"The PYL helped me learn to be a leader, to step up and be an example. It also helped me to encourage not only myself but also my teammates to never give up because we are carrying Samoan Pride!"

As an added result of her involvement in the PYL camp, Linda was appointed as the National Basketball Development Officer for Samoa.

#6 Collin Lal drives the lane against Samoa

Collin Lal from host nation Fiji added: "The PYL camp helped me have the confidence to perform my best on and off the court.

"It gave me the tools and knowledge to be a good leader and set the example for my teammates." 

#7 Normalisa Dobunaba moving the ball against Guam

"The PYL camp helped me on the leadership side, I always thought only certain kinds of people could be leaders until Mthoko told us 'leadership is not special kind of person, rather it's a special kind of action,'" said Papua New Guinea's Normalisa Dobunaba, quoting Mthokozisi Madonda, founder of Reach Sports Management.

"Therefore I knew anyone whom have special actions can be leaders. By Mthoko's teaching on leadership, I believe as an individual I've played a big role by motivating, inspiring, being outspoken and most of all the being a generous teammate on and out of the court. The PYL helped me realise I must never let myself or my teammates down; Get up and run! It’s our time to shine, if we can't run, we walk! If we can't walk, we crawl! If we can't crawl, we keep on pushing forward with our heads held up high!"

PYL participants showing their lighter side

These young athletes speak very passionately about their experience at the PYL camp, there are many who have developed lifelong friendships as a result. This passion shinned through on the court during the U18 Oceania Championships, making this year’s event one of the most memorable in recent years.