Eagles named in combine squads

Sarah Luke

THREE Maffra junior basketballers have been selected for the Basketball Victoria Country under 16 state combine team.

Jack Hrehoresen and Coby Burgiel were chosen to play in the under 16s boys’ combine, whereas bottom-aged Jaime Gallatly has been selected for the under 16 girls’ combine.

This means after the selection process started in October, the three have made the cut down to the last 28 players in their respective categories, drawn from a pool of every junior country Victoria basketball player.

The under 16 state combine camp was held on Sunday at State Basketball Centre in Wantirna, where players heard whether they had been selected for the state team.

If the trio were selected, it means they will be in the best 15 under 16 players in the state (10 players and five emergencies).

Selection relies on players’ performance throughout the last 12 months and at recently held high-performance tournaments like the Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup and the Southern Cross Challenge.

Hrehoreson and Burgiel represented Victoria Country at the Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup in Albury in January, while Gallatly played in the Southern Cross Challange at the State Basketball Centre.

The juniors have also been training in Drouin at the state development program every week, in the lead up to the combine camp.

While this is all old hat for Hrehoreson, who made the combine list last year, the experience is new for Burgiel, who was overseas during last year’s combine selection.

Burgiel spent six months playing basketball for the Tri-City school in North Carolina.

He said it opened his eyes to what professional basketball could be like, and described it as a bit more hardcore.

“I like here better,” he laughed.

Maffra coach and Victoria Country under 16 boys development coach Kaleb Sclater was proud of the trio. “It is big, I don’t think they realise how big it is — they do work very hard, I will tell them that,” he said.

“Even if they don’t make it, they’ve still done very well, and a lot of kids have got to this stage and haven’t made it, but have still gone onto under 18 state teams, Australian Institute of Sport and National Basketball League.”

Basketball Victoria’s country high performance manager Justin Schueller said the lists represent the best and brightest of country basketball’s under 16 age group.

“Following our positive results to the start of the year, its great recognition for these athletes to be selected for the next part of our path to state representation,” Schueller said.

“This is an exciting crop of athletes, and we know they will represent Vic Country well.”

The combine forms another part of the selection process for the Victoria Country under 16 state teams, set to travel to Darwin in July for the week-long Australian carnvial, of which there will be a selection for the national side.

The final state teams will be released tomorrow.

Hrehoreson and Burgiel headed into the selection camp on Sunday bolstered by an impressive victory — snagging the big win at Bendigo in the Victoria Country championships, division one, for Maffra last month.

Along with Jonti Schuback, Brodie Johnson, Tom Stephenson, Finn Boag, Nathan Nikolajew, Lachlan Allman, Jett Killoran and Harry Gravener, the Eagles defied the odds and defeated teams from regional cities such as Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo to come away victorious.

The boys played six games over two days, winning all matches except the first one, and finished the tournament in stunning fashion, winning the grand final in overtime by one point in what was a heart-stopping game with the lead see-sawing throughout.

Burgiel was named the highest scorer for the tournament.

“It was a lot more fun doing it with our mates, rather than doing it with kids we don’t see everyday,” Hrehoreson said.

The Eagles will now head to Canberra over the Easter weekend, where they have been invited to the Australian Institute of Sport to inspect the facilities available to those who manage to attain a scholarship — a position some of the Eagles might find themselves in, in a few years.

The side will join two other Victorian teams — one of which being Melbourne Tigers — the ACT team, a team from Sydney and one from Penrith.

After Canberra, the Eagles will participate in the Classic at the State Basketball Centre during the long weekend in June, where they will be one of the only country teams, if not the only country team, to face off against the best teams from Melbourne and around the nation.

Not bad for a little town like Maffra.