U20's Nationals Preview

U20's Nationals Preview

Dandenong will host a number of Australia’s best young players for this year’s U20 Australian Junior Championships. With the FIBA U19 World Championship just around the corner, this tournament may prove to be the last chance for these athletes to impress.

By Olgun Uluc

Victoria has historically been the most dominant state at this event, and this year may prove to be the same – with both the Men’s and Women’s squads loaded with national squad talent.

Players to Watch 

Men 

Jack McVeigh | Queensland

After losing out in last year’s U20’s Championship game, Jack McVeigh and his Queensland squad will be entering this tournament looking to avenge that loss. McVeigh was extremely dominant in last year’s U20’s Australian Junior Championship, averaging 27.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg while shooting 55% from the field. The Nebraska commit was a member of the Boomers squad for last year’s Sino-Australia Challenge so look for him to bring some veteran leadership to his Queensland squad.

Dejan Vasiljevic | Victoria

Vasiljevic is entering this tournament just a week after attending the NBA Basketball Without Borders Camp in New York City during NBA All-Star Weekend. A knock-down shooter who’s also a very capable rebounder for his size, Vasiljevic will be one of the primary scoring threats for Victoria – despite being a bottom-aged player. You may remember Vasiljevic from the FIBA Oceania U19 Championship game where he broke New Zealand’s heart, hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Australia through to the FIBA U19 World Championship.

Rhys Vague | Western Australia

As the only Australian representative on his Western Australia squad, Rhys Vague will be expected to shoulder the load. With a sound post-game and range out to 18-feet, Vague is more than capable of dominating this tournament on the offensive end of the floor. The 6’8 forward isn’t the most athletic big-man but he makes up for it with his toughness in the paint.

Tom Wilson | Victoria

Tom Wilson, like his Victorian counterpart Dejan Vasiljevic, has also only recently returned from New York City after the participating in the NBA Basketball Without Borders Camp during NBA All-Star Weekend. At the camp, Wilson showed a lot of improvement running the point and finished well around the rim. Expect Wilson to play off the ball more throughout this tournament as the point guard duties will likely be handed to Matthew Owies and Kai Woodfall – both Australian representative players.

Jordan Hunter | NSW 

This is Jordan Hunter’s first experience as a member of a NSW state team but look for him to be an important factor for the squad. The 6’9 centre was an injury replacement in the most recent Australian U19 Emus squad and he didn’t disappoint, averaging 13.5 ppg and 7.2 apg over the FIBA Oceania U19 Championships. With capable point guards in Jayden Hodgson and Jaden Weldon, Hunter is expected to get some quality looks under the rim. 

Women

Megan McKay | Western Australia

McKay has been unfortunate to miss out on national selection over the past few years despite showing that she’s capable of competing at the highest level. The recent St Mary’s signee was the most productive player in last year’s U18 Australian Junior Championships, finishing the tournament 2nd in scoring (20.8 ppg), 1st in FG % (65%) and 1st in rebounding (15 rpg). McKay will be surrounded by capable backcourt players in Mikayla Pirini and Madeleine Dennis so look for Western Australia to compete in this tournament.

Courtney Woods | Queensland

Courtney Woods is someone who hasn’t necessarily had a lot of hype over the past few years but has quietly performed well at these types of events. Woods, who signed with Northern Illinois late last year, had an incredible campaign for Queensland South at last year’s U18 Australian Junior Championships, averaging 19.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 1.9 apg while shooting 43% from the field. She has great size for a guard at 6’1 and has a very complete game. Combining Woods’ ability to shoot from the perimeter with the inside presence of Bride Kennedy-Hopoate, Queensland could be a force throughout the tournament.

Alex Sharp | Victoria

Sharp has been working hard to get back from an unfortunate shoulder injury that kept her out of contention to make the Australian U19 Gems squad. This tournament is the perfect way for Sharp to re-establish herself as one of the best wing players in the country. As an extremely versatile wing that reads the game well, Sharp will be one of the more exciting players to watch at the tournament.

Alanna Smith | Victoria

Alanna Smith is the most seasoned player at the tournament, having represented her country of multiple occasions. The 6’3 Stanford signee was selected to the All-Tournament team at last year’s FIBA Oceania U19 Championship for Women after averaging a team high 21 ppg and 7.2 rpg. With great touch around the ring and a nose for the ball, Smith will prove to be a matchup nightmare. She’ll be joined in the frontcourt by fellow Australian representatives Georgia Pineau and Ella Hellessey – creating an unmatched front-line for this year’s Victorian squad.

Elizabeth Tonks/Jasmine Forcadilla | NSW

Those who were at the U18 Australian Junior Championships in Canberra last year would remember the dynamic backcourt tandem of NSW guards Elizabeth Tonks and Jasmine Forcadilla. Tonks uses her quickness and strength to get in the lane and is a great decision-maker, while Forcadilla is a knockdown shooter and can seemingly score the ball at will. The post presence of Danijela Milisic should also prove to be important if this squad expects to progress into the latter stages of the tournament.

Predictions

Men

As cliché as it’s becoming to select Victoria as the favourties for the tournament, it’s difficult not to choose them. This year’s Victoria squad has six Centre of Excellence scholarship holders while the remaining four players have progressed deep into national team selection.

Queensland has a chance to compete with Jack McVeigh and Joseph Owens returning, but they lack depth, which will prove to be tough against an extremely deep Victoria squad. Don’t be surprised to see these two squads back in the Championship game.

Women

The Women’s division of the tournament may be closer than expected but Victoria is still considered the favorites to win it all once again.

As always it’ll likely come down to depth – Western Australia, NSW and Queensland all have the ability to compete but the question is whether they can be consistent through the entire tournament. Victoria has depth in the frontcourt and good experience in their backcourt, something that could see them go through this year’s tournament undefeated.