Alex Toohey impressing, selected in Nike Hoops Summit World Select Team
The brightest young talent in Australian basketball Alex Toohey is following in the footsteps of the likes of bronzed Boomers Patty Mills, Josh Green and Dante Exum, with selection in the Nike Hoops Summit World Select Team.
Southside Flyers WNBL star Nyadiew Puoch and Canberra Capitals’ Shaneice Swain will make history as part of the inaugural women’s event.
The summit pits the brightest talents in the American high schools against an international team composed of the top players aged 19-and-younger and is one of the most-watched amateur games in the US — it has produced 35 NBA All-Stars, five of whom have won MVP’s — Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Nikola Jokic.
The 18-year-old has already represented Australia at senior level and is off to US college powerhouse Gonzaga, mid-year.
But level-headed Toohey, fully aware a big game at the summit would put his name on the map in the US, was more excited about the chance to soak in the elite coaching and compete in a contest featuring the best talent in his age group.
“It’ll be a good experience playing with and against some of the best guys in the world and under some high-level coaching and that whole experience will be once in a lifetime, which I’m really looking forward to,” Toohey said.
It’s that composure and focus that has been Toohey’s calling card, despite his early successes.
“Putting everything into perspective, it might seem like a lot but I still haven’t really started my basketball journey, professionally, yet,” he said.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do and the guys at the Centre of Excellence keep us focusing on one day at a time, which I really like — not thinking too far into the future and just thinking about the most important things, which is becoming a good person and getting better at basketball.
“Just stay in the present.”
It’s that maturity that has endowed Toohey with a selflessness and willingness to sacrifice that — on top of the level-head off the court — has helped him maximise his obvious physical gifts and high basketball IQ.
“He has always been very mature and organised in his own mind about his basketball,” Clarke said.
“He can — and is willing — to do whatever needs to be done for his team to be successful.
“He’s quite happy to say ‘if I’ve got to go get 40 (points), I can get you 40, if I’ve got to go get 20 rebounds, I can do that, if I’ve got to deflect and let someone else score, I can do that.
“He has the ability to make people around him better, he’s very smart and calculated in his assessment of what’s happening in the game at any particular time and quick to figure out what the actual best option is in that situation.
“He can influence the game without having the ball and he can do it at both ends of the floor — he’s an elite defender.
“It’s one of the talents that is transferable at higher levels.”
The Nike Hoops Summit will be held in Portland on April 9.
SON-OF-TWO-GUNS AND THE COLLEGE-BOUND AUSSIES SET TO SOAR
The NBL’s merry-go-round of player movement might be imminent but a new crop of Aussie kids are preparing to take their first steps into the US college system with dreams of making it in the NBL — or NBA.
Among them is son-of-two-guns Jensen Bradtke, a giant Victorian kid who is forging his own path in the sporting world — with the help of legendary basketball dad Mark Bradtke and two-time mixed doubles tennis grand slam-winning mum Nicole Bradtke.
The 18-year-old, bound for California’s St Mary’s College, is among the five best prospects headed into the NCAA system, according to scout Michael Houben, of recently-launched Airtime Australasian Scouting.
“The 6’11” big is a beautiful outside shooter, dazzling with an array of three balls, step-back jumpers, and turnarounds in the post at this year’s Under 20 National Championships,” Houben told News Corp.
SCROLL DOWN FOR HOUBEN’S PICKS FOR THE BEST YOUNG AUSSIES ABOUT TO HIT THE COLLEGE SYSTEM
“Coupled with fantastic passing vision and a deft touch around the hoop, Bradtke’s offensive arsenal is a rare commodity at his height.
“Still slight of frame, he’ll have to fill out to make his mark in the paint against opposition bigs in the long term, but if his father’s burly playing physique is anything to go by, he should have no problem packing on the muscle.
“It’s a rare skill-set at his size that is scarcely seen at the NBL level, though it does illicit shades of Daniel Johnson’s offensive shot-making prowess.”
The outside shooting Houben mentions is the calling card of the modern big — something Jensen’s dad never had to worry about as the brutal bruiser who starred for the Melbourne Tigers and Australian Boomers and spent time in the NBA.
“He (Dad) was obviously a back to the basket type of big,” Bradtke told News Corp at last month’s U20 National Championships.
“But obviously the game has changed because of Steph Curry and all of those guys, the game has just got further and further out. So I’ve had to develop that game.
“He’s respected that. I’m always trying to learn as much as I can and will keep learning that back to the basket stuff he did. He was bloody successful with it so I’ve taken a lot of notes from what he did.”
Houben’s service is giving the best young basketball prospects in Australia and New Zealand a new pathway to glory.
Tired of seeing talented kids slip through the cracks, Houben and Kiwi counterpart Stevie Cozens have turned their passion for talent identification into a scouting service aimed at connecting our best young players — and hidden gems — with NCAA colleges, NBL and NBA teams.
“The basketball talent coming out of Australia and NZ is as strong as it’s ever been but the reality is we’re still half way across the world,” Houben said.
“Colleges have reached out to us for years for information on young players, so we realised we could make a big impact if we focused our efforts on a larger scale and really dug deep into our talent pools.”
“We are looking for kids we could see making the grade at a Division I college.
“We accumulate all the information and tape we can on the players we scout into a database, and it’s all going to be accessible to clients in the NCAA, NBA and NBL.
“What’s unique is we don’t do anything at the expense of any of the kids or families, so we can offer objective analysis on these young men that our clients can trust.”
NO TIME FOR TREV AS PHOENIX EYE NEW COACH
South East Melbourne’s search for a new coach is almost over.
And News Corp can reveal the Phoenix have reopened talks with giant Chinese centre Zhou Qi about a return to Australia for NBL24.
Expressions of interest for the job vacated by beloved inaugural Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell closed on Monday and the club will now sift through more than 25 names that will be whittled down to a short list of invitees to take part in the interview process.
Another name who has emerged as a candidate is former NBL coach of the year Aaron Fearne, who joins the likes of fellow former Cairns coach Mike Kelly and ex-Phoenix assistant Judd Flavell in the race for the job.
It’s understood Phoenix boss Tommy Greer has laid out a robust selection process with a hard deadline for a new coach to be installed by the middle of next week, to give the successful candidate a full run at free agency, which officially begins on March 30.
That timeline would exclude any contracted US based coaches — including early favourite Trevor Gleeson, a five-time NBL champion with the Perth Wildcats, who is still bound to the Toronto Raptors in the NBA.
News Corp understands South East Melbourne wants its next coach to be proven at NBL level, a strong, defensive-minded leader who can hold the group to account and who can attract elite outside talent and develop the club’s youth.
Fearne, who is currently an assistant at NCAA Division I college Charlotte 49ers, ticks a number of those boxes. In his nine-season stint as head coach of Cairns, his Taipans finished top-three in defensive rating five times — and never worse than fifth. His recruits included the likes of NBA man Torrey Craig and former star Scotty Wilbekin. Many of his players would be one-and-done at Cairns as bigger clubs swooped in to poach them.
The Phoenix had all but given up hope of 216cm giant Qi returning to the club after his injury-plagued NBL23 stay was cut short when he returned to China to attend to family issues.
But the club has been buoyed by recent talks that could yield the return of a former NBA player who, while showing glimpses of being a force on the court, attracted the eyes of the lucrative Chinese market.
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