Hey everyone! Matt here. Thanks for deciding to come back and read more about my experiences.
So, today I thought I might give you a little background on my sporting history. I mainly played basketball, did swimming, and athletics, but also tried rugby, soccer and netball for a year each. Half way through writing this I realized it’s gonna be too long to talk about it all in one go so I’m gonna split these up into 3, with my basketball life first. It’s not short (I actually cut a lot of info!), but bear with me.
On the Gold Coast, we have a very good network of sporting leagues and different kinds of teams for everyone, from beginners to professionals, with an abundance of sports facilities. It’s very easy to join a team whether you just wanna have fun or maybe play something more serious. Describing the way the basketball leagues work on the Goldy is not easy so I won’t go into too much detail, but in short, each stadium has its own league and there may be different leagues on different days of the week. So, there’s a chance for anyone and everyone to play.
I joined my first team when I was in Grade 1 at Guardian Angels Primary School. We played our games at the old Southport Stadium, which has since been demolished unfortunately. I don’t remember a whole lot about that first year playing, but I do remember getting a fast break own goal. I wondered why no one was chasing me and everyone was just screaming out. I realized once the ball had gone through the other team’s net HAHA.
As I got older, I continued to play basketball and started getting serious about it at around the age of 10. At that time, my school didn’t have a team so I had to join a team elsewhere. I tried out for what’s called a “rep” team (representative team) at Carrara Stadium. The team was the Gold Coast rep team and about 100 kids came together and did different drills and practice games, etc. Eventually, at the end of the day the coaches picked out around 10 kids who made the cut. Luckily, I was usually the tallest, or one of, for my age in basketball on the Goldy. This (as well as my Jordanesque skills NOT!) helped me make the cut and I played as a centre for my first rep team.
My first real success in basketball came in 1998 when I was 13. Our Under 14 Gold Coast rep team won the Queensland State Championship. We played countless games and went undefeated that season. We, as well as the runner-up Rockhampton basketball team, went on to the Australian National Basketball Tournament in Ulverstone, Tasmania. We felt invincible going there, having beaten every team we’d faced. However, maybe we came in a little overconfident and only managed to win a couple games. The Rockhampton team actually won more games than we did. It was still great fun with lots of sweat and tears.
In 1999, mum decided to take on a job teaching English in Kobe, Japan for a year so I had to say goodbye to my friends at St. Michaels College and move to a country where I couldn’t speak a lick of the language (more on that experience at a later stage). Anyway, I went to the local junior high school, Minatojima Junior High School, and the basketball coach wouldn’t let me join the team because he said it would be unfair to the other players as I was an easy 30cm taller than everyone (I was 189cm then). Eventually, because I hated that school, I changed to the school where my mum was teaching and the basketball coach let me join in on practice with the team, but not play in any games. I wasn’t super excited, but at least I could play some ball. I was introduced to the Kobe University team by someone and they let me play with them and even in the games. So, I was a 14-year-old playing on the university team. It was good fun but like I said before my Japanese was horrendous so I kinda just went with the flow in the games.
After returning to Australia in 2000, I changed schools to Palm Beach-Currumbin High School, or PBC, which is a sports excellence school, although not everyone played sports there. We actually had basketball as a “subject” and we would study the game inside out. My coach was Brett Sue See who I believe was the Australian National Team coach at some stage in his life. He was certainly the best coach I’ve ever had and pushed me to be the best player I could be. Our PBC basketball team was almost unbeatable. We won tournament after tournament, going to the school state championships. That year I got my first in-game dunk too!
In the same year came probably my proudest basketball moment, being selected in the Under 16 QLD rep team. Now, the main difference between the Under 14 time and the Under 16 time was that in the U/14 tournament, the whole team that won the grand-final went onto the National Tournament, whereas in the U/16 tournament, the best 10 or so players from the State are selected and then they form the State Team. My teammate, Joe Hodges, and I were the only ones from the Gold Coast team to be selected. The training was HARD! I don’t think I’ve ever been that fit since. I can’t count how many suicides we ran, but in the end they paid off. This National Tournament was in Shepparton, Victoria. The teams from Victoria, especially Vic Metro, were always the powerhouses. Our team didn’t do so great and I didn’t see much court time (my coach hated me…). Either way, it was a great experience and a couple of my teammates, Tim Coenraad in particular, went on to the pros and played for the Illawara Hawks.
Then, at the end of 2001 after having done a few months study abroad in Kobe, Japan, I moved to Greenville, North Carolina where my mum had taken on another teaching job overseas. I stayed there for 2 years and in the first year went to D.H. Conley High School. I got to play in the team there as a junior. The competition was fierce and I saw a lot of bench time haha. There were only 3 other white guys on the team and we basically kept the bench warm. I hated the coach for not giving me much court time, though. Anyway, we had a pretty good season but didn’t quite make it that far when it came to the crunch. We got ousted by a team from Raleigh who had a guy, Shavlik Randolph, who played for Duke and then got drafted to the NBA. He was 6 ft 10 and actually did a fast break rock the cradle dunk in our game which was demoralizing! Nonetheless, I managed to get my picture in the newspaper that year!
The second year in N.C. I changed schools to J.H. Rose High School and joined their team as a senior. This year was so much more enjoyable than the first. Practice was hard but we ended up making it deeper into the N.C. State 4A High School rounds. We eventually lost to Jack Britt High School which ended our season, but I couldn’t have been happier with my teammates and our performance.
Some other uniforms I still have:
Thanks for reading this far! Until next time! Peace out!