Australia on brink of another golden age
Lauren Jackson speaks to the Australian girls basketball team. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
Basketball Australia development officer Mike McHugh believes the sport is on the verge of a similar ''golden generation'' to that which uncovered Canberra Capitals star Lauren Jackson.
In the late 1990s, Australian women's basketball announced itself as a world power thanks to the emergence of future stars like Jackson, Penny Taylor, Suzy Batkovic and Belinda Snell.
National Intensive Training Program manager McHugh said the country's best 15 and 16-year-olds have the same potential as the current Opals who have won medals at the past five Olympics.
Alex Sharp and Jade Johnson fight for the ball. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
McHugh oversaw a camp at the AIS Arena this week where the nation's leading male and female prospects were put through their paces.
On the camp's final day on Thursday, the girls were addressed by Jackson on the commitment and dedication required to play at the top level.
''I think we're in the middle of a bit of a golden generation,'' McHugh said. ''In the late '90s we had L.J. [Jackson], Taylor, Belinda Snell, Kristen Veal and the like come through. The girls here at the moment in terms of depth are around about the same standard at the same age.
Megan Mackay defends whilst Brydie Kennedy-Hoparte aims to shoot. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
''It's a bit hard to talent predict when you're talking about 15 or 16-year-olds, but I think this group has the potential to unearth some players of that quality. We haven't had a really good boys group in terms of depth since the early '90s. The boys' group I think is superior to that group in terms of depth.''
Australia's representation in the NBA extended to three on Thursday when Aron Baynes officially joined Canberra's Patrick Mills at San Antonio Spurs.
McHugh said the duo and Golden State Warriors centre Andrew Bogut were vital role models as Basketball Australia continues its battle with other sports to attract top-line talent, in particular AFL.
''We've had a couple of good players come through in recent times like Mills and [Matthew] Dellavedova, but there's 20 boys and 20 girls here [at the camp] and there's not one who shouldn't be,'' he said.
''The quality and depth of the players coming through I'm really excited about.
''Even with that early '90s girls group, the ones that didn't go to fame and fortune, or became Olympians, made great WNBL players.
''We've got some real promising kids that could go on and emulate the feats of those great players before them.''
Coaches are particularly excited by the potential of Victorian Alexandra Sharp, whom McHugh believes can be ''a Penny Taylor type''.
Centre/forward Isaac Humphries is one of the best prospects in the boys' ranks while Darryl and William White, sons of former Brisbane Lions AFL star Darryl, are also highly rated.
''The three things we look for with talent ID is athletic attributes which included physical stature, basketball skills and what I call fire in the belly, that motivation to achieve the highest potential,'' McHugh said.
''They have to have at least two of those three things, but one of them has to be the last one.''