If dedication to training and playing basketball counts for anything, Naracoorte's Matt Black deserves to go all the way in the sport.
Matt will collect yet another accolade in his prodigious junior career when he represents SA at the Under 18 Australian Championships in Geelong next week.
It’s reward for the many hours (and many miles) that he and his parents Noel and Sharon Black have poured into his junior career, which at the moment requires extreme dedication seven days a week.
Living in Naracoorte but schooled in Mount Gambier, where he is part of Tenison Woods College’s high performance sports program, Matt literally plays or trains seven days a week.
On Mondays he plays under 18s in Mount Gambier, Tuesday is training with the Mount Gambier Pioneers, Wednesday is playing A men, Thursday is either training with the Pioneers or his local football side Kybybolite, Friday is playing juniors in Naracoorte, and the weekends are taken up with a round trip to Adelaide for state training.
While he’s used to the travel and the time commitment after years of involvement with elite junior squads, Matt said the lead-up to these championships had been more challenging than ever.
For instance, he’s finding as a Year 11 student that it’s getting harder to balance everything.
“There’s not much time for school,” he conceded. “I just try and do everything as fast as I can at school so I don’t get behind, but it does get pretty hard in Year 11 and 12.
“There’s not much time for anything else.”
But he hopes all the time and effort will be worth it and he and his SA team can perform up to expectations at the championships from April 21-28.
He is playing with largely the same squad he played with in the under 16 championships, and he believes they have grown enormously as a group and individuals since then.
“We've got a lot more confidence than we had then,” he said. “It’s a very good group."
Matt said he had been very fortunate in recent years to get good coaching from the likes of current SA coach Jamie Petty, Tenison mentor Rohan Stevenson and Pioneers coach Richard Hill.
Standing 6’1” in the old language and weighing about 70kg, Matt will be playing as a guard, where his speed and athleticism will be a factor.
Matt said his immediate goal was to play as well as he could at the championships and for SA to have some team success.
In the medium term future, he has attracted some interest from US colleges and he would love to win a scholarship to play ball in the States – as former Naracoorte lad Luke Van Rijn is currently doing.
In the long-term, he would like to live every aspiring basketballer’s dream and play in the NBA.
If dedication counts for anything, he might just get there.