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The performance of Narupay student Alion Guiga in the Queensland Team at the recent National 12&U Basketball Championships in Townsville drew high praise from the state coach and was instrumental in her team winning the bronze medal play-off. This is certainly an outstanding achievement when you consider that she was playing with and competing against the best girls in the country.
Alion trained for two days in Brisbane with the state team during the last school holidays before heading to Townsville with her mother, Nancy Dau, and local coach and mentor, Wally Shibasaki in August for the Nationals. She had three more days of training before the championships began.
It has been extremely difficult for Torres Strait students to make the state team for basketball. In fact, it is believed that Alion is the first. Although they often have the natural talent, our basketballers are disadvantaged because they are not familiar with the highly-structured play that other players develop through regular coaching and high-level competition.
However, State Coach, Kylie Chadwick, recognised other talents that Alion could bring to the state team, stating,
‘She was so keen to learn and an amazing athlete. She grasped the concepts quickly and her court awareness was amazing. She was the top rebounder for our team, which was no mean feat given that she was definitely not the tallest.’
This is an amazing stat for this level of competition.
Alion’s confidence grew as the championships progressed. At first she was used as an impact player when required and ended up in the starting five for many key games, including the playoff for the bronze medal.
Wally said, ‘She pulled both defensive and offensive rebounds and scored when it really mattered, often to get the team back into the game. It was amazing how she was able to make a difference in such structured play.’
Wally’s comments echoed Kylie’s, who said, ‘She definitely added the X Factor to our team and had the ability to turn the game around with her intensity and enthusiasm to get after the ball.’
Alion’s improvement was even acknowledged by her team mates who voted her ‘The Most Improved Player’ in the Queensland team, an award she can really be proud of.
Alion’s main roles were rebounding and defence, but she was still able to score regularly and had a game high of 12 points. Again, this is an incredible achievement against this level of competition.
Thanks to Kylie for taking a chance on a raw talent and giving her the opportunity that many Torres Strait players before her have not had, and to the team manager, Anne Cage. Wally and Nancy have provided valuable support at both local, regional, state and now national level. Also the input of the local coaches and staff on Narupay, the support of Tagai Executive and the assistance of Torres Strait Youth and Rec are acknowledged.
A few last words from Kylie, ‘Alion was an absolute pleasure to have in our team.  I really appreciate the efforts that her community put into her and Wally was amazing support for her on tour and obviously leading up to the tournament. I wish Alion all the best and hope to see her in the future playing some fantastic basketball.’
Let’s hope that Alion’s performance will not only inspire others but also pave the way for more of our students to be given similar opportunities. Her success and attitude on and off the court will hopefully lead to coaches and selectors taking a risk on some more of our players.
We all hope to see Alion ‘playing some fantastic basketball’ in the future.