Oscar Hide and Jordan Michel are ready to take on the nation’s best basketball talent.
The Shepparton Gators duo will represent Victoria Country at the fast-approaching under-16 Australian Championships in Perth, the first national tournament for the rising stars.
Hide was looking forward to the challenge of the big stage, despite a few nerves.
‘‘I’m pretty nervous, but pretty keen to get there and have a crack and go up against the best in Australia,’’ he said.
Playing predominately as a centre, Hide has battled injury for most of this season for the Gators, but was relishing his time back on the court in recent matches.
‘‘I’m feeling really good now that I’m back, I’m just keen to get back (to full fitness) and have a crack,’’ he said.
Michel, who runs the Gators’ offence as point guard, but will most likely come off the bench next week, was also feeling the expected nerves before a national tournament.
‘‘I’m nervous, but excited and ready,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve had lots of training and preparation which will be good, hopefully we’re one of the top teams.
‘‘Hopefully as the back up point guard I can do what I can to help the team and play my role.’’
The pair will certainly enjoy their experience in the Country squad, with many familiar faces among their new teammates.
‘‘It’s good to have a few good mates in the team, we’ve been in the program since we started with these boys a couple of years ago,’’ Hide said.
‘‘Every year we get stronger relationships, so we’re best mates with each other, which is good.’’
The boys will be supported off the court as well, with coach Josh Waight named as Country’s team manager.
‘‘It will be a good experience, it will be good to see them play at the top level,’’ Waight said.
‘‘I’m sure they’ll be fine and they’ll compete and they’ll have a go, and we’ll see whatever happens from there.’’
The championships begin on Saturday in Stirling, with the Gators flying out tomorrow to prepare to help Country go one better than the silver medal it collected next year.
●However, the Gators could not manage to head into the tournament with winning form, going down to Blackburn 37-50 on Friday night.
The final Victorian Junior Basketball League round before a two-week break had the Gators struggle in attack after taking an early lead.
‘‘We had plenty of opportunities, if you put up 50 shots and you make 13, you’re going to find it hard to win games,’’ Waight said.
‘‘So we need to go back to the drawing board and hopefully get plenty of shots up at training and hopefully we can make a few coming back.’’
Michel led the way with 15 points, two rebounds, three steals and an assist, while Shepparton’s tall timber in Hide (four points, eight rebounds, one steal) and Mitchell Markby (five points, 10 rebounds, one steal, one assist) dominated when on the court.
Will Dwyer also pulled down five rebounds in the final quarter (seven in total) as the Gators tried to claw their way back into the contest.
Waight hoped the bye had come at the right time for his charges, who sit seventh on the Victorian Championship Reserve ladder.
‘‘It will be good to have a couple of weeks off to refresh and regroup ourselves for a big last half of the year,’’ he said.
‘‘We know we have got the potential to do that, but we need to make sure that we continue to get better at training and that will reflect in our games.’’
Meanwhile, the under-16 girls again struggled in attack during their 16-33 defeat against Sunbury.
The Gators are ninth on the Metro Two table, but remain only four points out of finals contention with five games to go.