Local ballers selected in Academy team

Jai Crampton, Ethan Watts and Hobie Baker were all selected to train with the Southern Sports Academy under 14s team ahead of the 2021 Academy Games in Newcastle.

Tumut basketballers Jai Crampton, Ethan Watts and Hobie Baker have been showcasing their worth on the basketball court in recent times.

The trio of ballers, who have all progressed through the local Tumut Basketball Association competition before then playing Tumut Timberwolves representative basketball, have now found themselves in the Southern Sports Academy (SSA) under 14s program. 

Selected in a squad of 16 of the best players in the Riverina, the Tumut players have been training since January, working on key skills ahead of the Academy Games later next month. 

SSA coach, Adam O’Callaghan, explained just what the three products had been working on in recent months.

“The program is run in conjunction with Basketball NSW and their teachings, plus we do our own thing as well,” O’Callaghan said.

“It’s regular training. If Covid wasn’t around, they would have been training since November, but we started late January in the lead up to the Academy Games.

“The program is set up for players who are on the brink of making NSW programs, or those who have made it, and it is further revision on the concepts they are learning with Basketball NSW.

According to O’Callaghan, Hobie Baker has excelled in the SSA, working his way into the Basketball NSW Country Talented Athlete Program (TAP) and also securing his place in the final 10 SSA players that will travel to Newcastle for the Academy Games. 

“With TAP, Hobie goes to Sydney for three days, and it is a high intensity training camp and he plays with metro kids, which is an identifier for under 14s programs,” O’Callaghan said.

“He deserves it too, Hobie is a fantastic shooter, great decision maker and he understands the game at a young age. 

“Pretty much, when he gets instructions, he does it and he has a great future in front of him.”

While Jai Crampton may have missed out on selection in the final SSA team, the youngster made the Riverina PSSA team to compete at the NSW PSSA Championships, and O’Callaghan said the he was really starting to flourish in the SSA system. 

“Jai has come good the more he has trained. I found at the last training session we had, he has a nice well-rounded game and started to come home strong,” O’Callaghan said. 

“He was unlucky not to make the team, but he would be one of our reserves if someone didn’t make it.

“He is bottom age too, and he will have a good crack next year. He has a nice jump shot on him, and the more he does of this training, the better he will get.”

O’Callaghan also had a lot of time for Ethan Watts, who he believes is a natural athlete.

“His ability to back himself and put himself in positions is his strong suit,” O’Callaghan said. 

“He needs to work on basketball concepts, but he is very raw and he has some real potential. His ability to get to the basket is better than most, and after a year of basketball concepts, he will pick the game up very quickly and will be a very good player.”

O’Callaghan, who has seen a handful of other Tumut players progress through the SSA system, said it was important for rural kids to have the opportunity to train and play at an elite level. 

“The academy only got back up and running this year, it hasn’t had a basketball program for two years, it folded and my coaching staff applied to see if there was interest in the program, which there was,” O’Callaghan said.

“We have a lot of kids who are on the brink of breaking into NSW teams, and this gives them a chance to be familiar with the training methods.

“What we implement, is what Basketball NSW are implementing, and it gives these kids a chance to be comfortable with the system and be ready when the time comes.”

With the SSA Academy season winding down for basketball, Crampton, Watts and Baker will all train again on April 10, before the Academy Games in Newcastle on April 16-18.