The future of ACU Basketball

A message from the Chief Operating Officer Dr Stephen Weller:

With seven campuses spread out across Australia, ACU took a unique approach to forming a team for the semi-professional University Basketball League (UBL) this year. Instead of sourcing players from one place and limiting access for students in other regions, ACU wanted players from all campuses to be part of the team.

It was with great excitement that the ACU team competed against large university programs and provided sporting opportunities for our students in the third season of the UBL, which ran from March to May.

ACU’s approach to the national competition was vastly different to that of other competitors, which had big-budget programs, regular training and constant access to elite student athletes among their cohort.

Our 2023 UBL season was always about creating a basketball identity for ACU. It was about giving student athletes the opportunity to compete in their chosen sport at a national level while continuing their studies. It was about working within the university ecosystem, providing work integrated learning opportunities to students and leaving a legacy that could be built upon as students become more aware of the UBL competition and see the comradery amongst our founding squad.

On the court, teams focused on building a brand of basketball based on ball movement, active defence and running.

While ACU’s ability to shoot the ball let them down at times, the team became renowned for never giving up, a trait men’s captain Connor Mackenroth said was instilled in the group, knowing the eight-game regular season was largely a sprint.

“We were always going to struggle against established programs with such a small amount of time together,” Connor said.

“More than anything we wanted to be known for effort and not throwing in the towel.”

Our women’s team had a promising start, finding themselves 2–2 after a narrow defeat to RMIT (67–62) in the opening week and then losing to other newcomers University of Tasmania (81–53). They then went on to claim their first win in their first home game against Adelaide and won again a week later on a road trip to the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Their first win was made all the more special considering the team was down by three points at halftime and still trailing midway through the third quarter, when the combination of small forward Olivia Woods (11 points, 16 rebounds) and captain Claudia Rodda (11 points, 10 rebounds) did the bulk of the work against the smaller Adelaide line-up to help ACU win the game 57–44. Both Olivia and Claudia recorded double doubles (a single-game performance in which a player accumulates 10 or more in two statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots), while Emily Pickering led the scoring with 11 points.

It was a momentous victory for ACU. The win was credited to the team drying up Adelaide’s scoring ability, holding Adelaide University’s team, the Waatu, to just 12 points in the second half.

Fast forward a week and the team came together again, this time in Brisbane, after a trip up the M1. With six squad members studying on ACU’s Brisbane Campus, this road trip had the feel of a home game for half the playing squad.

With the usual coaching and team staff unable to travel, it was a completely different match for the women’s team, trading defensive pressure for attack. Four players registered double digit scoring (Pattison 18, Rodda 16, Jones 14 and Emmerton 11), with ACU putting up 30 in the third quarter to claim a 75–66 win, their second in as many weeks, catapulting them into the top eight.

Unfortunately, the constant travel and a tough draw caught up with the ACU team. They faced five top-eight sides to finish the season, including reigning champions La Trobe. ACU’s women’s team finished with a 2–7 record to sit tenth on the ladder.

Having tasted the sweetness of success at a new level of competition, there is a palpable eagerness amongst the group to build towards more in the future.

On the men’s side, availability and injury forced constant tinkering to weekly line-ups and made it difficult for the team to find cohesion, though their season wasn’t without its shining lights.

Leading the team was ACU Online student Lachlan Clarke (Masters of High-Performance Sport), who averaged 17.8 points a game, and the Brisbane duo of captain Connor Mackintosh (Bachelor of Secondary Education and Exercise Science) averaging 10 points and Dylan Fry (Bachelor of Physiotherapy) averaging nine points and nine rebounds a game.

The future of ACU men’s basketball was strongly developed, with first year students Blake Norris, Max Prezens and Joshua Robertson playing significant time throughout the season.

As the calendar flips to the end of Semester 1, the team will have a break from weekly travel and back-to-back games, hoping to come together once more for the National UniSport Championships on the Gold Coast this September.

To keep up to date with UBL news follow @acusport on Instagram or visit the High Performance Sport website.

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