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Indigenous All Stars Playout Deadly Nights Of Basketball

In front of a healthy crowd on a Tuesday night at the State Basketball Centre in the heart of South East Melbourne, basketball showed it too can be an instigator of amazing culture and celebration of a country’s Indigenous groups.

Ako Kaiaoka Keola Kalei Kaluna in action for Kingdom of Hawai’i Mens team Thursday night

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Australian Indigenous Basketball (AIB) have been involved in several international matches. Its started as an organisation as group of ballers started in 2014 playing a Trans-Tasman series against the New Zealand Maori National Team. Since then opportunities begun to grow for the organisation which has become an association and this week has one of its biggest opportunities to showcase the quality and culture it exudes.

The first ever international Indigenous matches against the Kingdom of Hawai’i in Victoria proved a spectacle and a thrill for supporters at the venue. There was plenty of displays of Indigenous dance, music and ceremonies to mark the historic night. Under 21 Womens player of the Premier League from South Australia Jasmin Fejo became the first player to score in an international fixture of this type before the Kingdom of Hawai’i got off to a fast start. Clearly the advantage for the Western American Islands was their inside presence as they scored plenty of their opening half points from the paint and put the AIB continuously in peril. The girls fought back hard through Sydney Uni Flames Alex Wilson and Fejo to close the gap to single figures in the final stanza. Plenty of the KOH girls were on four fouls but survived numerous calls with the AIB girls having opportunities to win or send the game into overtime. In the end the KOH prevailed in an epic encounter by 3 points, 72-69.

The mens opened with a spectacular stretch with former Cairns Taipan Deba George putting on a show with ball in hand but a breakway steal led to the highlight of the night as Rashaun Broadus bounced the ball into the court and caught it in mid air for a one handed flush that brought the whole crowd to its feet. He too put on a hot shooting display including hitting yet another first half three after losing one of his shoes. As the game wore on former NBL Townsville Crocodile Chris Cedar began to dominate scoring along with athletic Tidjane Diop to extend the margin as they opened up their double figure gap. Some big plays from KOH big man Ako Kaiaoka Keola Kalei Kaluna including some impressive outside range shooting closed the margin but the AIB Men ended up winning the high scoring contest 119-100. Cedar finished with 19 points while Broadus ended up with an impressive night of 32 points.

Forestville Eagle 2019 Premiership player Ambah Kowcun in action for the Women Thursday night

The match was followed by an AIB Legends Ceremony which awarded players, officials and administration that haver contributed to the growth of the Indigenous game via an Olympics or a World Championship. The first honoured including at Marvel Stadium on Thursday were Paralympian legendary wheelchair basketballer Kevin Coombs OAM, former South Adelaide Panthers player Michael Ahmatt, 3-time NBL Champion with St Kilda Saints and Brisbane Bullets Danny Morseu, current Cairns Taipans NBL star Nathan Jawai, Former WNBL star Rohanee Cox, current Phoenix Mercury WNBA player Leilani Mitchell, current Australian Boomers Team Manager Junior Albert, former official Scott Butler and NBA/Boomers superstar Patrick Mills. Mills gave a stirring speech about the importance of basketball not being the identity of who he is and the importance of recognising where he came from, “It is your identity that will get you there in the end, I don’t want to be defined as a basketballer cause that’s not who I am, it’s just what I ended up doing. I come from the Ynunga people of Kokotha South Australia and from the Muralag tribes of the Murray Land Torres Strait, that’s who I am and that’s how I got to where I am today.”
The Tuesday night matches were then followed by the showcase as the curtain-raiser to the Australian Boomers versus USA Team Game 1 Thursday night at Marvel Stadium. In two halves of showcase basketball the girls taking the court first had a tight opening first half before the men finished the match in the second half all tied 34 apiece. Probably the biggest finish to a deadly week for this amazing group of basketballers was the performance of Patrick Mills in game two of the Boomers vs USA series. That 30 points including an incredible 9 of them in the last minutes of the game to spur his side to a history making victory firmly put himself and these Indigenous games on the basketball history map.

As basketball fans the more types of these events we have seen this week, the better for not only our basketball viewing but more importantly our cultural understanding it is going to be.