Recently a small crop of the South East’s top ballers took on the best in the country at the 2022 Australian Junior Championships.
Will Wimhurst and Jedd Tranter from Millicent and Kalangadoo respectively travelled all the way to Perth, but the journey across the Nullarbor Plain was worth it representing South Australia Country in the biggest competition of their fledgling careers.
The campaign was a grueling one with the players put through their paces competing in nine games in just seven days.
The SA Country team enjoyed a reasonable amount of success beating Northern Territory, ACT and NSW Country in consecutive outings.
But a tough quarter final defeat to interstate rival South Australia Metro relegated the country outfit to consolation games and lost the playoff for seventh to Tasmania.
However, the results did not stop the Limestone Coast kids from giving it a red hot crack and making some impressions at the carnival.
Tranter was busy during the national competition, dribbling the ball down the court and setting up the plays.
His top performance was a 10-point effort in the win over ACT, while he also impacted at both ends of the court throughout.
Tranter has been playing the sport since he was nine and said it was the best experience he has had.
“It was very special and the highlight (of my career) so far,” he said.
“Playing against the best helps me to measure my game and I have also made many friends through being a part of SA Country basketball.
“We basically did everything together from warm ups, recoveries in the pool and just hanging out.
“I feel I did a good job at getting my team mates scoring options but I would have liked to have put a few more points on the board.
“It was very tough and by the end of the comp I did feel tired but it was a great experience.”
Tranter said the atmosphere surrounding the stadiums was the biggest surprise which forced the team to get creative on the court.
“I really enjoyed playing in front of a big crowd, but it was surprising how loud it was,” he said.
“We had to yell louder and use lots of hand signals so we could hear each other on the court.”
Looking ahead Tranter would love to take his game as far as possible as he models his game on favourite player Jo Morant from the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I have been playing since I was 9 and like it because it is a fun and fast paced team sport,” he said.
“My hero is Ja Morant – I like the way he gets his team mates involved and he is a flashy player that can dunk really well.
“I will keep practicing and tryout for the Under 18 state team because I would like to take my basketball as far as I possibly can.”
Wimhurst also went on the trip and looked set for a big week having played the first three games.
His most productive performance helped SA Country score a huge 112-60 win over Northern Territory.
However, Wimhurst’s fun was cut short after injury struck at a heartbreaking time.
“It was a bit of a shame that I broke my toe in the NT game,” he said.
“Someone jumped on it in the game and it broke straight away, so I had treatment from the physio and had some x-rays at the hospital.
“The team was very supportive which was great.”
Despite the devastating setback restricting Wimhurst to the sidelines early on, he still took a lot out of the trip.
He said it was an honour representing the state and was surprised by how physical the on-court action was.
“I was very grateful to play against the best in Australia because I was surprised when I made the team,” Wimhurst said.
“How physical and quick the games were and how good other players could be (surprised me).
“There was a lot to take away on and off the court.”
Sadly, Wimhurst’s toe injury will keep him off the court for around four to five months as he rehabilitates from the setback.
But the injury will not stop the youngster from trying to return to the SA Country setup next year.
“I have played basketball since I was five and just try to do what my coach wants me to do and base my game off Dwyane Wade in the NBA,” Wimhurst said.
“I will keep working on my game before I can come back.
“I was a bottom age player this year, so I will have another crack next year.”