The Maitland Mustangs under-14 women will have the home ground advantage when they take on the country’s best teams next week.
The team is the only Maitland side to feature in the 2016 Australian under-14 national basketball championship, which runs from September 26 to October 1.
Teams qualified for the tournament at regional and state championships played throughout the year but, as hosts Maitland scored an automatic spot.
Coach Mark Wawszkowicz said for this reason, the team’s expectations were realistic.
“We’re not focused on results, we’re focused on learning and experience,” he said.
However, the girls have trained hard and Waswszkowicz said he wanted them to remain competitive.
Waswszkowicz also expects the team to build over the course of the competition.
“We want to represent Maitland to the best of our ability in front of family and friends,” he said
“I’d suggest that by the end of the week they’ll be better players than at the start.”
To create the best opportunity for themselves, the team will act as a professional unit on and off the court.
They will stay together, eat together and their games will be videoed and reviewed at the end of each day.
“We want to maximise what we can achieve,” Wawszkowicz said.
The team is relatively young as well, with seven out of the 12 players only turning 12 this year.
Wawszkowicz said it will be a great chance for those players to see where they need to be to qualify in 2017.
If the team does qualify, they will be the first Maitland team to ever do so.
“We’ve got a real opportunity next year,” Wawszkowicz said.
“We’ve got a strong group of girls coming through.”
The last time the Mustangs competed in the tournament was in 2002 when Maitland was again the host.
Coincidentally, that team was coached by Wawszkowicz’s wife Krista.
Wawszkowicz said the competition was an important step in some of those girls basketball journeys.
“The girls who played still talk about it,” he said.
International players among the likes of Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Lauren Jackson and Newcastle’s Suzy Batkovic, Jenni Screen have all taken part in the tournament.
Basketball stars of the future will be on court for the tournament.
One player who will compete is a 13-year-old who is 197cm tall.
“There will be some really high quality basketball,” Wawszkowicz said.
“It’s a really good tournament for Maitland to host.”