Friday, September 17, 2010

Australian Basketball: exclusive Q&A with coach Bradley Burdon

Bradley Burdon is the Coordinator of Bulldogs Basketball at Cairns State High School in Australia. He is also the assistant coach of the "Skytrans" Taipans in the NBL (National Basketball League). In this interview the 34-year old coach Burdon has given readers a tremendous insight into the australian basketball at any level.

Brad, we know a bit of the Boomers (the National team squad) and their best talents but for those who want to know more about Australian basketball what can you tell us?

Well I think most Australian basketball people would agree that we were disappointed with the Boomers exit at the recent World Champs but are exited about the young core of talent coming through. Soon we will look forward to watching the Opals; our Women's team defend their 2006 World Championship.
In Australia, basketball is not one of the major sporting code, falling well below winter sports such as our football codes and summer sports such as cricket. As such we do lose many of our athletes to other higher profiled sports, specifically Australian Rules Football. Despite this we do have an excellent junior development pathway that produces many talented athletes who not only excel at a junior international level but also attain scholarships to high level US colleges. Australia is currently ranked 3rd in the combined FIBA world rankings.

Might you explain our readers about the Australian system adopted in the youth programs? Did you find your own way or it's more Americanized with schools or kind of European where clubs run their own ones? What's exactly your job right now over there?

Essentially we have both in Australia, although school basketball is not as highly regarded as our club structure. Junior National teams that compete at FIBA events are selected from the club pathway. I imagine it is very similar to many countries where a young athlete represents their city or region and is then selected to represent their state; I live in and have coached our state of Queensland. It is these state teams that compete at our Junior National Championship held every year. While there is talent identification throughout the levels, it is at the National Champs that our next crop of potential Boomers or Opals are identified. These Championships are also visited by numerous US colleges every year. Currently I run the school of basketball excellence at Cairns High, the largest high school in our city. This program has had a number of state and national reps come from it. I also coach the Cairns Marlins Under 18 men's team as part of our development structure and will be starting my 2nd year as an Assistant Coach with the Cairns "Skytrans" Taipans in NBL.

Tell us about the NBL (National Basketball League). Is the League getting stronger? Do you have import players also? Are people crazy for basketball and arenas packed?

As mentioned and despite our current world ranking Basketball is not one of the major professional sporting codes in Australia. The strenght of basketball is very much dependant upon the strenght of talent and participation in our junior ranks. Basketball commonly sits as one of the top 2 junior participation in the country, though like football (soccer), the sport has struggled to transfer this junior participation into success/popularity as a senior professional league. The last decade saw the league gradually decline until a major restructure in 2009, as a result of these changes the NBL seems to be gradually rebuilding itself to a more stable/viable position. Financially, while now stable we cannot compete with the larger markets around the world and lose many of our best Australian players to Europe. The following of the league is starting to increase although I feel more money needs to be placed into the marketing of the league as a whole. It would be rare for a basketball area in Australia to "sell out" although some cities are very well supported and certain rivalries always attract big crowds. We are lucky in the Cairns is a very supportive city and we attract large crowds of 4000+ (large in terms of NBL) who are very loud and parochial. The team is actually community owned with members of the Cairns community owning small shares within the team, a similar model to that of the Green Bay Packers in the NFL.

You have travelled to the United States and you know top European leagues. That means you are open to new professional experiences?

As a coach I always be learning and trying to find new experiences, as a young coach I feel this process is paramount for my development. Travelling to Las Vegas for the Summer Camps was a great experience that I learnt a great deal. With most of my background being focussed with junior development it was a real eye opened to deal with professional American players and see the business side of the sport. While I have never been to Europe I enjoy watching European basketball and as more Australian's have been signed by clubs have certainly increased my awareness of those leagues. We actually have two Cairns players now playing good quality European basketball with Aron Baynes who played in Lithuania last year and now in Germany and Nathan Jawai signing with Partizan Belgrade. While I enjoy all styles of basketball I do enjoy European basketball for a number of reasons primarily the versatility of skill sets amongst most players regardless of position and I believe that the offensive execution of good European teams is the best in the world.

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