Ballarat Miners will boast two National Basketball League champions as the team travels to Canberra for its first on-the-road double header.
Basketball star Peter Hooley, who played in the five-game grand final series for Melbourne United, will rejoin his championship teammate Sam Short at the Ballarat GMHBA Miners as he makes his South East Australian Basketball League return.
Melbourne United defeated Adelaide 36ers, 100-82, to win the title in front of a sold out crowd at Hisense Arena on Easter Saturday.
But Hooley remained on the sidelines for the Miners’ first game of the season less than a week later, a 12-point victory over Dandenong, after what he estimates has been about 20 months straight of playing basketball.
“It is a bit of a grind but that’s part of being professional,” Hooley said. “You have to manage your body, you have to manage your mental health and make sure you can give your best every time.”
While the prolonged NBL season due to the finals series has not really allowed Hooley a break from basketball, he did manage to celebrate and take in the special career moment.
“As far as I’m concerned you’re a champion until someone beats you,” he said. “Everyone is going to celebrate this for as long as we can.”
As Hooley and Short attempt to win their second championship in a year, Hooley said the experience from their time with United would only benefit the Miners.
“I was guiding Chris Goulding and Casper Ware every day and that is really tough, so if I can bring that energy and tough defence here it will be good,” he said.
Miners head coach Nathan Cooper-Brown said after a well-deserved break, Hooley pulling on his Miners gear for both games this week was not only sensational for the team, but also the town and community.
“He is a fantastic young man, he is ultra talented and coming off an NBL championship is really rare,” Cooper-Brown said.
“For him to be able to share that experience and the skill base that he has built is going to be cool.”
In just the first game of the season, Short has already demonstrated the benefits of having an NBL season under his belt with even more confidence on the court.
“I learnt a lot in Melbourne training with those high-level athletes,” he said.
“(It was about) transforming my game in Melbourne, just getting better in every skill that I do and just having the confidence to come back to SEABL and display that.
“I try to be the leader on the court, playing the point guard position you sort of need to be that calming influence and control the pace.”
The Miners come up against Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence on Friday at 8pm at the AIS Training Hall, and play Canberra on Saturday at 5.30pm at Belconnen Basketball Stadium.
Cooper-Brown said it would be another good opportunity for the Miners facing two very different opposition teams.
He described COE, a squad of Australia’s best junior players, as incredibly talented and athletic.
“These guys train every day, they’ve got world experience, they are really well coached, so it’s really about trying to be the best men’s team we can be,” Cooper-Brown said.
“I liked (former Miners coach) Eric (Hayes)’s attitude towards COE – you respect them, they’re talented, but they’re kids and we’re men so we do need to go in there and dominate the way that we should.”