AS A PROMISING teenage basketballer working his way up in the game, Kuany Kuany vowed to find a way to ensure all children had a chance to strive to reach their goals.
Or at the least, to inspire what could be possible.
The Ballarat Miner has seen up close big challenges, financial and cultural, that can block children and youth from playing sport.
Kuany considers himself one of the lucky ones growing up in Melbourne's outer west. His parents supported his every move the best they could.
Sport helped Kuany quickly adapt to what he found a key feature of Australian culture after emigrating from South Sudan when he was nine years old.
Basketball offered Kuany the chance to take his game to college in the United States, to play against the nation's best and to start his accounting career in Ballarat.
This is why Kuany felt compelled to give back via free basketball skills camps, if only to encourage youngsters to persist with what they want to achieve in life.
"When I was growing up playing basketball, I'd say I was one of the lucky ones. My parents helped me a lot," Kuany said.
"I've had a lot of friends who love basketball, they are talented and had the potential, but sometimes would go to try out for teams and first be asked who could pay for the uniform and registration before they could train.
"I always felt I better make sure all kids have a chance to reach their goals."
When I was growing up playing basketball, I'd say I was one of the lucky ones. My parents helped me a lot.Kuany Kuany
Kuany said this was a recurring theme until he joined Waverley Falcons youth league team and found a coach whose actions helped shaped his life.
Falcons head coach Eric Minerve would help work out payment plans to keep players in the game. Kuany said Minerve simply understood.
Culturally, Kuany hoped to be a role model for other South Sudanese children to get involved in sport as both an outside interest and way to better integrate.
Before Kuany's family moved to Australia, all he knew of the culture was from what he had seen on Home and Away episodes. Kuany's parents had sent him to an English-speaking school in Africa, which he said helped with the transition.
Playing sport - Australian Rules, soccer and basketball - made this even easier for Kuany in making friends and feeling connected.
"A lot of people from a South Sudanese background in Australia don't value sport as much," Kuany said. "More parents are starting to support sport for the children. It's still not at the levels we'd like, but getting there.
"A lot more girls are getting involved as well. It's good to see girls actually have the chance in developing their games and feeling part of Australian culture."
A lot more girls are getting involved as well. It's good to see girls actually have the chance in developing their games and feeling part of Australian culture.Kuany Kuany
Kuany said migrant families tended to have a strong focus on helping family back in their country of origin, either financially or to bring out to Australia. As a result, involvement in sport was often not seen as valuable and children were instead encouraged to channel all energies into school.
Basketball started to get serious for Kuany when he was 15 years old. He took up the chance to play college basketball with Chaminade University in Hawaii.
Balance in life has always been important for Kuany who continues to pour his efforts into building an accounting career. It was not until arriving in Ballarat this year to play NBL1 this started to add up for Kuany.
Kuany took extra classes in his junior year of college to free up time for interning in his senior year only to find he could not work on his Australian visa.
Graduating in 2017, Kuany shifted his focus to northern Australia where he launched his National Basketball League with Cairns Taipans. The past two seasons he tried but could not find a company to take him on and allow him work experience.
It was in a team sponsors' night for the Miners, after arriving at the Minerdome earlier this year, Kuany's persistence started to pay off. He noted teammate Jordan Lingard had backing from financial company Findex and was soon introduced to Lingard's dad Terry, an executive managing partner with Findex arm Crowe Horwath.
For three days a week, Kuany works in the Ballarat office while juggling Miners training every Tuesday and Thursday evening. This means so much to Kuany.
After signing with NBL club Sydney Kings, Kuany was hopeful of transferring to a Sydney office. He was determined to make the most of this career opportunity, also knowing the Kings demand a high level of professionalism in the game. Kuany will be on a roster with the likes of Australian NBA export Andrew Bogut.
But Kuany said keeping his mind sharp off the court was vital, too.
You can be training as much as you want but you need time to rest your body.Kuany Kuany
"You can be training as much as you want but you need time to rest your body," Kuany said. "My parents always encouraged me to study or work because basketball's not always going to be there as a career.
"I want to thank Findex Ballarat for having me and teaching me the x's and o's of accounting. I come to work eager and excited to learn everyday."
Kuany was also keen to set a good example for young people in persistence, particularly those growing up in South Sudanese communities.
"From time to time when I'm looking back, I just can't believe where I'm at now - and there is just so much more to work towards, on and off the court," Kuany said. "I'm happy."
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