Canberra ready for U18 Championships & Kevin Coombs Cup

Canberra ready for U18 Championships & Kevin Coombs Cup

The 2014 Australian Under 18 National Championships and Kevin Coombs Cup tip off today in Canberra, as the next generation of stars look to emerge on the biggest stage in junior basketball.

For decades this tournament has been the showcase of the best young talent in Australian basketball, propelling them to stardom for the Australian Boomers and Jayco Australian Opals.

In the Under 18 Men’s division, the defending champion Victoria Metro team will be the ones to catch after ending New South Wales Metro’s push for four consecutive titles.

They welcome back a strong core of the team that led them to the title in Brisbane last year, with Dejan Vasiljevic, Jock Perry, Abi Akintola and Thomas Wilson hoping to repeat their efforts from 2013 and deliver the sixth championship in the past 10 years.

Victoria Metro and the 13 other teams in the men’s division will out to capture the Merv Emms Trophy named in honour of the legendary Australian junior coach.

Emms, a long-time coach, administrator and official, led New South Wales to the first-ever Australian Under 18 National Championship in 1954, going on to lead the state to seven titles between 1954 and 1963.

After losing heroes Alicia and Keely Froling from the team that guided Queensland North to their first-ever Under 18 National Championship in the Women’s division, the journey is going to be significantly more difficult this time around in Canberra.

Traditional powerhouses Victoria Metro (won 10 titles in the past 15 years) and Victoria Country (dominated in the 1990s but haven’t won a title since 2000) will be out to reassert their dominance against what is sure to be a competitive field of challengers.

For the 12 teams in the women’s division, the prize they all want is the Maree Jackson Trophy – named after the two-time Under 18 National Champion and Jayco Australian Opals legend.

Jackson would taste success at the Australian Under 18 National Championships at a young age, leading New South Wales to back-to-back titles in 1971 and 1972. A trailblazer, Jackson would become the first Australian player to take up a scholarship to play basketball in the USA at Louisiana State University.

Jackson – the mother of modern day Jayco Opals star Lauren – played 30 times for her country between 1975 and 1979, playing a major role in helping the Opals finish fourth at the 1979 FIBA World Championship for Women.

Australia’s top young wheelchair basketballers will be out to secure their own piece of history and add their name to the Kevin Coombs Cup in 2014. The bi-annual event brings together the most talented junior players in the sport, looking to become the next generation of Australian Rollers and Australian Gliders.

The division is named in honour of one of Australian wheelchair basketball’s pioneers, Kevin Coombs OAM. A five-time Paralympian with the Rollers (two as captain), Coombs was renowned the world over for his passing and shooting skills.

An outstanding advocate for wheelchair sport, Coombs was a torch bearer at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games and was one of just seven people to have a street named in his honour at Sydney Olympic Park. In 2007 Coombs was inducted into the Basketball Australia Hall of Fame.

For all the latest news, results and fixture information from the 2014 Australian Under 18 National Championships and Kevin Coombs Cup visit the official tournament website at http://www.basketball.net.au/championships/u18/.

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