– Article appeared originally on the official FIBA U17 World Championship event website kaunas2012.fiba.com –
KAUNAS (heinnews) – Looking at Australia’s roster at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, it’s hard not to notice three letters appearing much less often – AIS, as in the Australian Institute of Sports.
The Aussie sports talent-producing warehouse has been overhauled to give more attention to somewhat older elite talent and give them more training.
As opposed to the past when Australian youth teams were composed of almost exclusively AIS players, this Australian side only has four players – Mirko Djeric, Ben Simmons, Josh Derksen and Dante Exum – with the AIS listed as their club affiliation.
And that is a direct result of Basketball Australia and the AIS deciding to revamp the institution, shifting the age group from 16-18 to 18-20 while switching from a training and playing program to more of a training program and emphasizing it as a stepping stone to the Australian senior men’s side – the Boomers.
“It’s about developing future senior players rather than good junior teams, which in the past it had been a little bit about when it was U21s and U23s. But with the FIBA change to U17 and U19 Worlds, we feel that we need to use the program to identify potential senior national team players such as Dante Exum, Ben Simmons and Mirko Djeric and those guys and use them in the program,” said Mike McHugh, the National Manager with Basketball Australia responsible for player and coach development.
No more league play – international tours instead
Bastketball Australia decided to take the AIS out of the Australian second division ABA where the team faced adult teams and could not be promoted or relegated.
McHugh said the decision to stop the AIS from playing in the league was made up for by a series of tours particularly in Europe and Asia – a total of 42 games last year.
“We need to get our kids to learn how to play tournament play rather than league play. Because when they come to the World Championships, they play tournament play,” said McHugh.
The 16- and 17-year-old players previously given AIS scholarships will now be serviced in a decentralized manner by the states around Australia in terms of strength and conditioning, science and sports medicine and coaching – with Basketball Australia providing oversight.
“We just want more flexibility around the program,” said McHugh.
Place for past grads and Boomers to work out
Another new aspect of the AIS – which will be run by coach Ian Stacker, who guided the Australia team that won FIBA U22 Worlds gold in 1997 – is to have past institute graduates and other Boomers players come to the base in Bruce, Canberra and work on various elements of their game during their off-seasons.
One issue leading to the move was that Basketball Australia felt it needed to get a better return on the investment that the Australian government is making in the AIS.
“Our funding comes from the government and their outlook is medals – particularly Olympic medals. So we have to re-shape our development strategies and our resources to winning medals,” said McHugh.
But the Australia basketball veteran is not thinking about the London Games in a couple weeks – but rather four years down the road at Rio 2014.
“It’s London for some people, but for me it’s about Rio. It’s the start of Rio. The Exums and Simmonses and those kids could be in Rio.”
McHugh and the rest of Basketball Australia hope their revamp of the AIS leads to medals in Rio and well beyond.