AS THE NBL was announcing its new American venture, Illawarra Hawks guard Kevin White was discovering a new generation Australian talent.
Far removed from the glitz of launching pre-season games with NBA players like Joe Ingles, White was feasting on kangaroo, crocodile and buffalo during a dinner in a remote indigenous community outside of Alice Springs.
And as with his trip to Arnhem Land when he was playing for the Hawks’ bitter rivals the Sydney Kings, White is stunned by the athletic ability he has witnessed.
So much so, he believes basketball can rival the AFL as Australia’s No.1 sport for young indigenous athletes.
All they need is an opportunity. Some of the courts here, it’s pretty much just a car park with hoop at the end,” White said from Alice Springs this week.
“There’s a three-court stadium in Alice Springs, but some of the clinics we’ve done have been on dirt and concrete,” he said.
“These kids might not have the facilities, but the talent they have is remarkable.
“Most of them idolise AFL players, but give them a basketball and they have some skills, that’s for sure.”
White’s off-season Northern Territory trip came about through the players’ union, for Charity Bounce, a not-for-profit organisation working with disadvantaged people and communities.
He returned to Wollongong on Friday, after announcing a new partnership between the organisation and the Australian Basketball Association at Uluru.
It could prove a vital step in developing the careers of indigenous talent, in similar ways Australian football and rugby league do.
It could also mean the next Patty Mills plays for the Hawks one day, perhaps as a stepping stone to the NBA or US College basketball. While Illawarra missed out on playing a pre-season game against an NBA team in October, White hopes the Hawks will be part of the first tour of Australia, if and when it eventuates.
The Kings meet Ingles and the Utah Jazz, Melbourne United play Oklahoma City Thunder and the Brisbane Bullets take on Phoenix in the days before the new NBL season starts.
A potential Sydney and Wollongong double-header
“It would be amazing opportunity if it happened,” White said.
“Obviously we would love to have the chance to play an NBA team, whether it’s here or over there.
“Some of the Boomers guys get their opportunity with world championships or Olympics, but for guys like me, it’s the stuff you dream about.”
The Hawks, still to announce import signings aside from the returning Rotnei Clarke, will meet the Taipans in Cairns in their first game of the new campaign on October 6.