Written by Celine Shashati
30 November, 2023

Basketball New South Wales has unveiled a thrilling lineup of ‘Challenges’ aimed at nurturing young talent in the Under 13 age group, scheduled for the upcoming year. 

With a mission to develop skills and foster an understanding of the game, BNSW has introduced four unique opportunities for budding basketball players born in 2012 to take their game to the next level.

The Under 13 Challenges feature distinct names inspired by former NSW players. These players began their basketball journey at different ages in their local NSW association and progressed through the basketball NSW development programs at their own pace. Eventually, they achieved international success by winning gold medals at the World Championships and or representing Australia at the Olympic Games. BNSW has chosen these names to pay tribute to these remarkable players.

  • Suzy Batkovic Challenge (Country Girls): named after an iconic junior NSW Country basketballer, and Australian Opal, who started her basketball journey as a 12 year old in the country NSW city of Newcastle. Despite facing adversity and team non-selections, Suzy created a mindset of proving people wrong – and went on to represent NSW Country, the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS), as well as her country in junior international competitions. Her achievements did not not stop at a junior level, as she went on to play and win championships in the WNBL, WNBA, EuroLeague, and became a key member of the Australian Opals as a three time Olympian. Suzy continues to passionately give back to the basketball community as she is a Basketball Australia Board Member and a key advocate for breaking down the barriers for socio-disadvantaged children who want to enter the sport.

  • Damian Martin Challenge (Country Boys): dedicated to a legendary junior NSW Country basketballer and Australian Boomer; six time NBL Champion and six time NBL Defensive Player of the Year, whose stellar career began in the small NSW country town of Gloucester. Damian overcame severe injury throughout his career, and attributes his success to the sacrifice made by his family; having a weekly eight-hour journey to Newcastle just to play the game he loved. The qualities of self-motivation, drive, determination and sacrifice proved rewarding, as shown by his decorated career – even having his jersey retired in the rafters at the Perth Wildcats Stadium. Damian continues to give back to the game as a sideline Commentator in the NBL and working with numerous non for profit organisation delivering basketball programs throughout remote indigenous communities in Western Australia.

  • Annie La Fleur Challenge: (Metro Girls): born thanks to the epic achievements of NSW Metro basketballer and Australia Opal. Annie achieved throughout her decorated career – as well as remaining a dominant ambassador of basketball. The woman known as ‘Flash’ for most of her career was born in Papua New Guinea, and started her basketball journey through Metro NSW at St George, and quickly rose through the ranks with distinction – establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with, with a World Championships bronze and Olympics silver medal under her belt, and successful WNBL and WNBA campaigns. Despite her athletic achievements, Annie credits basketball in assisting her build a support network, giving her a space to make connections, create friendships and create a community – which is one of the reasons that she continues to passionately give back to the basketball community across Australia and the oceania regions for FIBA.

  • Matthew Nielsen Challenge (Metro Boys): pays tribute to NSW Metro and former Australia Boomers Captain. Matt became involved in basketball later on in his adolescence, compared to his NSW counterparts, placing him at a disadvantage. Penrith Basketball association in the early ninetie’s, Only making his first Penrith Representative team in 1993 as a fourteen year old; which opened a door of opportunity to go on and star and captaining teams at NSW, Sydney Kings, Several European Powerhouse Clubs and Australia,His Legacy at the Sydney Kings will always be remembered as his singlet is retired in the rafters. memorable gold medal winning junior Australian team at the 1997 FIBA Under 21 World Championships on home soil. Matt continues to contribute to the game on the sideline. Matt is currently coaching and giving back to the sport he loves as the assistant coach of the Australia Boomers and San Antonio Spurs in the NBA. 

The unveiling of the four Under 13 Challenges have been strategically designed to help young talent players make a seamless transition from Under 12’s basketball to Under 14’s basketball. Participants will gain invaluable experience in game settings and enhance their understanding of the sport, both from a skill and team concept perspective.

As an additional incentive, BNSW introduced the “I AM A GIRL ‘Heroes'” Program, celebrating players who have achieved success at the highest international level, such as the Olympic Games or World Championships as an Opal. This will see ties ins with both the Annie La Fleur & Suzy Batkovic Challenge.

During the 2023 FIBA Women’s ASIA Cup, the Annie La Fleur Challenge was piloted ahead of the Australian Opals playing with more than 30+ girls attending from across the state. After the success of the session, further plans were made to bring more Challenges to the 2024 calendar.  

These Challenges will provide a fantastic opportunity for young players to not only develop their skills but also be inspired by the legacy of these outstanding players.

These Challenges promise to be an exciting and crucial part of BNSW’s development program, fostering young basketball talent and inspiring the next generation of players. Stay tuned for more details on these challenges and the opportunities they hold for aspiring players in the upcoming year.

U13 Suzy Batkovic Challenge – 11 January 2024 at Maitland Basketball Stadium. 

U13 Damian Martin Challenge – 12 January 2024 at Maitland Basketball Stadium.

U13 Matthew Nielsen Challenge – 24 January 2024 at Penrith Regional Basketball Stadium. 

U13 Annie La Fleur Challenge –  25 January 2024 with location TBC.

Players will be identified and invited to attend these challenges through their performance in various programs in 2023 such as IAAG, IBA/BNSW events,  Under 12 Metro Hotshots and the John Davidson Northern and Southern Country Jamboree.

Invitation Process:

  • 80 girls and 80 boys identified at both John Davidson Jamboree will be invited to attend the Suzy Batkovic and Damian Martin Challenges. 
  • 40 girls and 40 boys identified at the U12 Metro Hotshots will be invited to attend the Annie La Fleur and Matthew Nielsen Challenges. 
  • A coaches EOI will be also sent to coaches who attended Jamboree and Hotshot days programs to be involved in the Challenges.
  • Identified Participants will be emailed.
  • The identified participants are promising players who possess great potential for growth.

Basketball NSW will make an announcement of the players chosen to participate in their “challenge” once all positions have been filled and confirmed.

Click HERE to be redirected to the Challenges webpage, where updates will be added.

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