An Indigenous round within the national men’s and women’s national basketball leagues would help encourage the next crop of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stars such as Patty Mills and Rohanee Cox, according to former NBL player Timmy Duggan.
Duggan put his suggestion to more than 160 of Australia’s top basketball coaches at a gathering at the Australian Institute of Sport last week.
He told NIT just as the AFL had its ‘Dreamtime at the G’ round and the NRL had Indigenous all-star games, he would like to see Basketball Australia introduce a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
He said special uniforms bearing Indigenous designs could be developed with past or current top level players.
“What it will do is create interest in our communities,” Duggan said.
“We’re already participating at a high level and it would give them an interest into an elite pathway into the National Basketball League and also the WNBL.
“The NBL and the WANBL have to embrace it. They’ve got to immerse themselves in it.
“It’s got to be a genuine contribution to the cause and within that we might get our next Patty Mills or Rohanee Cox.”
Spotlight on old and new stars
Duggan said there also needed to be more recognition for those former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players who had blazed a path for today’s stars, such as Claude Williams, the first coach of the Sydney Kings, and Rohanee Cox, who represented Australia at the Olympics.
“If you have an Indigenous round it’s a chance to highlight these successes,” he said.
“Do we know the story of Chris Cedar who played in the NBL for Townsville, (or) the story of Paul Vandenbergh who is now the head of Aboriginal programs at the Port Adelaide Football Club who played in the NBL with the Canberra Cannons?
“There have only been approximately 20 players, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, who have played in the NBL over 48 years or however long the NBL has been around since the late ’70s.
“To me, there needs to be more, but I think we can kickstart that off by highlighting it within an Indigenous round.”
Duggan, the first player from the Northern Territory to play in the NBL in the ’90s, said there also needed to be more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander coaches.
“If we have more coaches coaching the game, especially in these remote communities, then we’re going to get more players,” he said.
Duggan said basketball was played in most Aboriginal communities but many of the talented athletes often ended up playing for other codes at national level, such as Aussie Rules football or rugby.
‘My story comes from the struggles my grandmother had’
He said he faced challenges in his own career that would have been helped if more cultural support and awareness had been in place.
“For me, I was internally driven,” he said.
“I had to leave home to make it and that’s a big barrier for some people. I had to go from Darwin, my home, to Sydney.
“There’s a barrier right there, but my story comes from the struggles that my grandmother had and I used her struggles as a form of motivation.
“She was a member of the Stolen Generation back in the 1940s. She was taken from the Phillip Creek mission north of Tennant Creek in Central Australia to the Retta Dixon home in Darwin.
“My motivation was if she could survive that — and after not seeing her mother for 20 years — my issues were nothing.”
Duggan said his father was a big support and helped his budding career as a child by putting up four hoops in their backyard.
“Each individual has a unique story,” he said. “You find many successful people have their own unique stories to achieve their potential. Mine was I had four basketball hoops in the backyard and one of them was a netball hoop.
“The circumference of a netball hoop is smaller than a basketball hoop; scientifically if I could shoot on a netball hoop then a basketball hoop was a lot bigger.”
Duggan said he told the Australian coaches last week about Phil Jackson, the legendary US Chicago Bulls coach of the ’90s.
“He implemented a lot of native Sioux culture into their pre-game talks, into their changerooms, and they embraced it as a team,” Duggan said.
“Michael Jordan and these guys, they were on a sacred quest.
“What I’m saying is we have to embrace our own culture here in Australia and have that as part of our basketball culture as well.
“If Phil Jackson can do it, there’s no reason we can’t.”
Basketball Australia was contacted for comment.