Basketball began as a game of skill rather than one that relied solely on strength. But in today's fast-paced game, both are needed in equal measure. The modern game has become one of aerobic endurance and power, and players need to have an integrated training program that nurtures both of these qualities. This is where the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Basketball program excels.
Basketball was one of the eight founding sports of the AIS. The program began in 1981 under Head Coach Dr Adrian Hurley. It is based in Canberra and offers residential scholarships to men and women. The program has developed a strong tradition of striving for excellence in basketball and in life, through a family-like atmosphere that supports the development of talented junior players.
This tradition of excellence and professionalism ranks the Basketball program with the best of the AIS programs, and sees the program recognised around the world as one of the best of its kind.
The AIS has developed some of the world’s best ever basketball players, including Lauren Jackson, Andrew Bogut, Penny Taylor, Andrew Vlahov, Shane Heal, Allison Tranquilli, Trisha Fallon, Brad Newley, Kristi Harrower, Jenny Whittle, Mark Bradtke and Luc Longley.
In 1983, the AIS progressed to the semi-final under first year coach Brendan Flynn. Then in 1986 they finished runners-up with Adrian Hurley back at the helm. Phil Brown took over the head coaching role in 1991 after six tough years, they progressed to the semi-finals in 1997, the preliminary final in 1998 before famously winning the 1998/99 championship.
Brown’s championship side of Suzy Batkovic, Deanne Butler, Rohanee Cox, Lauren Fitzgerald, Desiree Glaubitz, Tania Heritage, Tammy Hoare, Lauren Jackson, Narelle Lindsay, Deanna Smith, Penny Taylor and Kristen Veal defeated Perth 88-79 in the grand final and finished the season with a 16-and-5 win/loss record.
And it was that year the world was woken to the talents of the one Lauren Jackson who was named league MVP that year.
Since, the AIS have been unable to progress to the finals however have produced many Opals and Boomers players, WNBL MVP’s and 12 Bettie Watson Rookie’s of the Year. Luciliie Hamilton (1988), Renae Fegent (1989), Trisha Fallon (1990), Chika Emeagi (1995), Lauren Jackson (1997), Shelley Hammonds (1999/00), Laura Summerton (2000/01), Kelly Wilson (2002/03), Kathleen MacLeod (2003/04), Renae Camino (2004/05), Abby Bishop (2005/06) and Cayla Francis (2006/07).
Coaches in the program are dedicated to the ideal of ensuring players' daily improvement in their basketball development, academic progress, employment, welfare and personal growth. There is a full-time support network of highly qualified sports medicine doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, a nursing sister, physiologists, biomechanists, psychologists, academic tutors and house parents to assist with players' specific needs.