For Sudanese refugee Bul Kuol, basketball offers huge opportunities

He's the Sudanese refugee who caught the eye of Australian Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis.

But Bul Kuol's goal is to become the first person in his family to attend university, and he wants to use basketball to achieve his dream.

The 17-year-old will be among 60 of the best and brightest junior prospects in the country after being invited to the Australian development camp at the AIS from January 20-24.

Kuol came to the attention of Lemanis at last week's East Coast Challenge, where his natural athleticism and raw talent stood out from the pack.

He took up basketball only four years ago after a growth spurt forced him to give soccer away.

The two-metre small forward arrived in Canberra in 2006 when his uncle, mother, three brothers and two sisters fled from war-torn South Sudan seeking to make a better life in Australia.


He grew up in a small village next to a military base that backed on to the jungle.

''It was very hostile - what the people look for most is food and safety,'' Kuol says.

''Back in Africa, you hope to survive the next day, and it's not always that way for everyone. I feel blessed to be in Australia - it's a great opportunity.''

Kuol's father stayed in Africa to look after the rest of their family.

He speaks regularly with his son on the phone, but has not seen him play basketball.

Lemanis didn't know who Kuol was until he watched him play in one of his games at the ECC and was impressed with his size and playing skills.

''He's got a basketballer's body and good skills for his size,'' Lemanis said.

''There's enough there to pique my interest and give him an opportunity … to go up against some of the best kids in his age group, and see how he looks in that environment.

''He showed enough talent in the game I saw to say he's got something to work with.''

Kuol will attend the reigning national schools basketball champions, Lake Ginninderra College. His goal is to play professionally, but more important for him is hopefully to secure a scholarship to a college in the US.

''I want to become a professional and I want to go to college to make my mum proud,'' he said.

''The reason I came to Australia was for education purposes.

''With basketball, I can do both.''

Kuol has received support from not-for-profit international charity group Big Bang Ballers, who have a strong presence in the ACT.

Joining Kuol at the Australian Development Camp are fellow Canberrans Tad Dufelmeier Jr (U19) and Robert Colton (U17).

The camp will help decide the Australian under-17 and under-19 programs for the junior world championships this year and next.