The World Youth Basketball Tournament Holiday Invitational has attracted great teams and talented players to the Big Island in recent years, and if Wednesday’s results are any indication, the 2013 edition meets that high standard.
The visiting Australian teams — coached by former NBA player Sedale Threatt — won all three varsity games at Kekuaokalani Gymnasium by double digits against Kealakehe and Konawaena.
“We really enjoy coming here,” said Threatt. “We were here last year and were very successful.”
The Australian teams, which are part of the same program but split into separate squads to allow players to record more minutes, have been on the road for nearly a month, playing prep teams from Las Vegas, Texas and Los Angeles.
Konawaena put up the best fight against a much taller Australian team. The Wildcats drew within nine points as the final minute approached, but a three-pointer by the Aussies sealed their 75-65 victory.
Despite the loss, Konawaena coach Donny Awa was in good spirits after the game.
“It’s great. Here so many times you play the same guys again, again and again and this is something different for the kids,” Awa said. “Australia is big. I think it gives the kids a taste of what the game might be at the next level where everyone is 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4.”
In addition to showing local teams what the world has to offer, the tournament also serves as a showcase for the Australian players. Current Chaminade University guard Kuany Kuany played in the tournament last year. Threatt mentioned the tournament as one way the 6-foot-7 Kuany gained exposure outside of his home country. Through the program, 32 boys and three girls have received scholarships to play at the next level, Threatt said.
The action takes a break tomorrow, but picks up again Friday. Teams from New Zealand, Kentucky and Kansas are scheduled to play.