Two athletes from the Centre of Excellence (CoE) will compete at this year’s Australian School Championships, with Dejan Vasiljevic and Jack White representing Lake Ginninderra College (Lake G).

Having won five Championships since the inception of the tournament in 1983, Lake Ginninderra will have the added bonus of home crowd support with Canberra hosting the competition for a second consecutive year.

“My parents are coming up for a couple of games as well as teachers and friends from school who always come and support the team so I’m looking forward to the atmosphere of the tournament,” said White.

Both he and Vasiljevic’s desire to compete in the tournament stem from a want to give back to the school that has helped their education while continuing to develop on the basketball court at the CoE.

“The teachers at Lake G made my transition from my former school in Melbourne to starting a new chapter at the CoE and Lake G much easier,” said Vasiljevic.

“The school was very instructive and direct in letting us know they were there to get us ready for the next step in our lives and not simply to deliver the content. I was really humbled when they invited me to represent the school in this Championship.”

Having competed at several previous Australian Junior Championships, both players are looking forward to one final chance to play on a national school stage.

“I have participated in 4 different national junior championships and that was a great experience,” said Vasiljevic.

“It will be great fun to compete against the best that school basketball has to offer in this country. Also one of my predecessors, Dante Exum, was involved in this competition a couple years ago which made me realize the importance of participating.”

“It’s fun to play with a different group of guys and your friends from school and it is obviously another opportunity to get some real-game experience,” concurred White.

“Every national championship, you have a slightly different role and come up against different players so you learn to adjust to different systems and different coaches and develop your game in that way.

“You don’t get the opportunity to play against the best in the country very often so it’s always a good challenge and a good chance to improve yourself.”

With Lake G’s last Championship coming in 2013, White believes this year’s team has the ability to get back to the top.

“We’ve been training two or three times a week and scrimmaged against the other CoE guys three times in the past month which has been great preparation for us.”

Despite high expectations, Vasiljevic agrees with White and is using the fact that this will be the last time a lot of the CoE players compete together as further motivation.

“With the likes of Exum and Jack McVeigh who played and won this tournament two years ago, the bar is set very high and thus the selection process was fairly thorough.

“For most of us, this will be the last opportunity to play together so as a team we decided we will have fun and compete because Lake G is always known for its commitment for the game – we are in it to win it.”

In the long term, both players are using this Championship as a stepping stone towards playing professionally.

“It definitely requires a great commitment, determination and hard work [to play professionally] but it all started with my move to the CoE,” said Vasiljevic.

“For me, I want to continue to represent Australia, at the World University Games and then the Olympics,” said White. “I wouldn’t want to do anything with my life other than basketball.”