By Cam Lucadou-Wells
The all-conquering Red Roo Sports basketball club is set to leap from Dandenong to a world tournament in Florida USA.
The only catch is funding – about $100,000 is needed to send a squad of 12 players and three coaches to pit themselves at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) event at Orlando’s ESPN Stadium in July 2020.
In October, Red Roo’s 18-and-unders qualified by taking out the AAU’s inaugural tournament in Australia, held at Dandenong Basketball Stadium.
Thirty teams from across Australia played off for the title, 13 of them were Sudanese-Australian sides.
It’s a rare, golden pathway for Red Roo’s talented young players to show their wares to US College scouts, says Red Roo director James Kerr.
“There’s a chance for college scholarships for five or six of us then and there.”
They have the chance to follow the footsteps of other homegrown Red Roo basketballers, such as Yout Gai (South Plains College), Oyiti Amum and Daniel Akuei (North East Community College), Bul Niop (Dyersburg State Community College) and Puoch Puoch (Georgetown College).
One of the hopefuls is Daniel Piech, who’s played for Waverley Falcons since he was 7. Last year, he joined Red Roo, which is like “family” to him.
While local leagues operate in their own “little box”, suddenly the AAU was offering a pathway to the US.
Since 2015, Red Roo has won a clutch of titles in the AAU, the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association and the Melbourne Metropolitan Basketball League.
Through that time, Mr Kerr, a Keysborough-based businessman, has devoted hours of time and his own money to mentor and support his charges.
He preaches discipline and the need for the players to either “earn or learn” – get a job or go to school.
“Our primary objective is developing young men to become leaders in their community, and to assist each and every player in maximising their potential.”
Based at HOOPS 24/7 in Dandenong South, Red Roo is a success story despite not winning a scrap of State Government or Greater Dandenong Council funding.
Red Roo is set to launch a Go Fund Me page for their AAU campaign.