IN his nine seasons in the NBL, former Hawks guard Tyson Demos won plenty of fans with his on-court physicality, a throwback to his younger days as a promising rugby league player before pursuing basketball.
It proved the right decision, and Demos hopes the growing profile of the Apunipima Indigenous All-Stars – and their annual clash with the New Zealand Maori – can prompt more indigenous kids to make the same call.
The Trans-Tasman rivals will collide in Cairns this week in a three-game series, starting Tuesday, that will also see women’s teams fight it out for the first time.
For Demos, it’s a precious chance to represent his culture and to highlight the sport of basketball as option for the next generation.
“There’s a lot of talent in indigenous communities throughout Australia and seeing what the likes of Patty Mills and Nat Jawai have done has been huge,” Demos said.
“Nat was obviously the first indigenous player to be drafted into the NBA and he’ll be up there supporting the boys because he’s with Cairns at the moment.
“Everyone knows what Patty’s done for, not only indigenous kids, but all kids in Australia. He’s an amazing role model for the sport of basketball.
“There’s a natural skill level that all these indigenous kids have we just need to steer some away from footy. This [team] is a good start, the local kids can come along and see their indigenous team play and represent their culture.”
Demos is one of four ex-NBL players in the All-Stars line-up alongside Cedar brothers Chris and Mick and former Taipans guard Deba George.
The All-Stars claimed last year’s Trans-Tasman series 2-1 in New Zealand and, with two proud cultures going head-to-head, Demos is expecting some fiery encounters.
“I might be a little bit out of shape so I might need to throw a few extra fouls in there to try and get a bit of a rest,” Demos joked.
“They were [intense] games last year, it was very physical and that’s the type of basketball I love to play so it suits me. I’ve been really looking forward to it because I do miss playing at times.
“I’m lucky to have my sponsors AC automotive, Mylec Electrical and MCR who’ve been supporting me throughout my career.
“I wouldn’t be able to go up there and represent my culture if it wasn’t for those guys so I owe a big thanks to them.”