Week 11 Men's SBL Player Column – Travis McIlroy

EVERYONE was really excited last Friday when we got our first win of the season in overtime over Lakeside. I even got to go home and have a really good sleep that night. I was just happy for Coach Clarke and for the younger guys on the team for them to see what can happen when you execute his strategy.

It also broke a 26-game losing streak and was only the second time in Eastern Suns history that they have beaten Lakeside. The first time at their stadium.

I know basketball is never going to be 100 per cent in your favour but intensity and energy, and us remaining confident for the whole game are the keys to success. If you are able to have those three things it enables you to keep going for all four quarters, and even the fifth quarter, as we experienced on Friday. We have been building resilience and people always ask me that it must be tough after losing games on the trot, but to be honest I’m having so much fun at this club and it’s great to see young players grow after being given an opportunity to play for their home club at this level.

It's about Coach Clarke having belief in himself enough to give this squad, the opportunity to grow as athletes but more importantly as men. Our vision as a team is solid. Success doesn’t just come from who is on the better side of scoreboard at the end of regulation. Coming together in pre-season was a process, working together during the season is in progress, and staying together through the ups and downs is the success. This win is just the start of things to come and I hope that the rest of the league is appreciating what it is that Coach Clarke is doing at our club for all the juniors who are coming through.

From day one when I was recruited to the club and I sat down with Clarkey to talk about his vision, there was no hesitation to sign on the dotted line. He is after people of character and if you can play basketball with great ability it's a bonus. But character is No. 1 for him. And you look at organisations like the San Antonio Spurs, who have veteran leadership and some great role players as opposed to a team full of superstars, and they build their team on character, they are a superstar team because of it.

We are built of those very foundations and the body always follows the head. Michael Clarke is a man of extreme character and I have fully respected him from the first time I came in contact with him. For him to recruit me, it's a blessing because I have been searching for a club that I can call home and where I can do what I do best which is empower young people to believe in themselves, and look at the next level in their career and the next step in their lives.

I love the leadership role I have at the club and it's something that even as a young player I have always been a person who goes above and beyond to keep the game pure. Off the court, I'm a happy, nice guy but on the court I have so much respect for the game that there's no question that won't get asked, and there's no answer that won't be given, and there is no task that I won’t take on for the betterment of team, the club, and the man next to me. The game of basketball saved my life and has given me opportunities that most kids with my background have never had the chance to experience. Ball really is Life to me.

Before I came over to WA, I was playing basketball back in New Zealand in the NBL, and in addition to this I was a coordinator in community development. Worked alongside various indigenous organisations with intervention programs as well as a youth crime intervention program in partnership with the NZ Police.
I founded numerous basketball trusts and re-established a former NBL team called the Northland Suns. Northland has a similar demographic to Midland over here with it being low socio-economic, and is full of talent but it's quite a big area. My friends and basketball legends Pero Cameron and Judd Flavell were discovered in this area and went on to achieve great things on the world stage. I founded the Northland Suns Basketball Development Trust and was fortunate enough to meet a number of high profile sports executives and business professionals who invested in me and believed in my vision to produce and assist the next Pero’s and Judd's of the world. They now have junior programs running externally and internally and I follow their progress from afar with much pride.

Late in 2013 I saw the opportunity to catch up with some close friends in Kalgoorlie, there was an opportunity to play for the Giants and I was eager to take that journey and explore opportunities abroad. I wanted to see what the SBL was all about and I already had a few friends and relatives playing over here Dennis Tawhiti, Ezra Nikora and Zach Makavilitagia and my cousin Ike Smith who plays for the Geraldton Buccaneers. Kennedy Hamilton was here coaching the women's WNBL team and me and him are close from when we were both student athletes at the S.I.T Basketball Institute back in NZ. I knew that Jason Kyle was also over here who was an idol of mine coming through the ranks. He was captain of the Canterbury Rams NBL team and he is a legend back home. That name Jason Kyle you mention in New Zealand basketball circles and everyone knows who he is. I saw the opportunity to come over and fell in love with Perth when we were on the trips from Kalgoorlie. At least I was lucky in my year they were flying for those trips so that was good timing!

After one year there, I moved to Perth and fell in love with the city and got a call from Jason Kyle to ask if I wanted to be part of the Mandurah program and I said yes straightaway. It was great to be down in Mandurah and to be able to surf a lot, but things didn’t turn out too well for me and I only played 11 games where we had a 7-4 record before I went through a dark time. My grandfather, passed away last year when I was playing down in Mandurah, and he was a great influence on my life and an influential figure throughout NZ on working with people and trying to share positivity on the world. That's what I have dedicated my life to do. Basketball is a job but working with people, and youth in general, is my passion. I would like to thank the Chegwidden family who have helped me make Australia my home and who helped me get through a tough time in my life and opened their family for me be a part of.

I also found the love of my life Pia in Perth and we are engaged to be married in December, moved directly into Perth and in that time while I was looking at career opportunities I formed my organisation, Raise Up Youth. I have been committed to that since its establishment last year in August and it continues to grow.

I have formed great relationships in basketball and none better than the one I have with Adam Desmond and Binar Sports. Dezzy has been working tirelessly to get opportunities for the youth of Midland and form junior program for a large number of extremely talented youth in Midland. We have been taking them to and from Midland to Kalamunda, and all over the place. Adam has been doing it for the last five years and I have since I met him 12 months ago.

Together we founded the Swan City Basketball Association. The Swan City Mustangs have been defunct now for 12 years and there hasn’t been any junior basketball programs taking its place so we are committed to resurrecting the once thriving basketball community in the area and honouring the past to create the future.

I come into contact with a lot of youth who have issues with family and identity, and especially the Indigenous youth where they live in two different worlds with the different cultures. Something that I live with myself being indigenous of NZ. That creates some difficulties about how to go about things, and it can create a lot of social issues. I founded my organisation Raise Up Youth and we offer strength based anger management programs and career workshops with cultural awareness integrated throughout.

We also offer education & mentoring programs through Raise Up Youth and we have just signed an agreement with public listed, Global organisation iCollege LTD to deliver the Diploma in Sport Development. We have set up a high performance basketball program that will be led by Michael Clarke and will be starting on June 22. It is all pretty exciting and I just love the chance to do anything I can to help the youth and build the next SBL stars and the future leaders of tomorrow.



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