Simonds win their way to the state champs

Simonds win their way to the state champs
Jack Hayes

Simonds Catholic College has defied the odds, taking out Basketball Victoria’s Victorian College Championships regional qualifiers and punching their ticket to the state finals on June 20.

Competing in the under-20 category, despite only having one player eligible for the age group (the rest qualify for under-17), Simonds went through to the qualifiers on May 30 with an undefeated record of six wins and no losses.

The success comes off the back of a new basketball academy established at Simonds under the guidance of sports director Marcus Luisetto and semi-professional basketballer, skills coach at Precision Basketball and mentor Buay Jok, who is from South Sudan.

After Mr Luisetto reached out to Mr Jok on Instagram, the pair trialled a program that provided guidance and training to students, both on and off the court.

“It might sound like a cliché, but we wanted it to play out like Coach Carter,” Mr Luisetto told North West City News. “We want to turn them into young men. To have someone like Buay who they can see themselves in; they have the same background, the same families. It’s been incredibly important.”

“After we won the tournament, there was something that hadn’t quite clicked for our boys. I told them that we have just done something pretty special here and asked them, which of them had won a championship before.”


None of them had won anything before … they are always going up against the odds, but they had the whole college behind them.


Mr Luisetto said since the mentoring program started, the school had seen a remarkable shift in behaviours, leadership, and accountability from players within the team.

Leading the team as captain was Deng Jako, a Year 12 student who relished the opportunity to show what he and his peers were capable of.

“As the captain I can say I am really proud of the boys. In a short time, we showed people what we could do both on and off the court. I am really looking forward to the state tournament, and one last run with my boys to send off my senior Year 12 year,” Deng said.

“This is the first year the school gave us a chance to show what we can do when we have a teacher with a plan to work on our basketball skills as well as helping us to become better young men.”

“But it came with responsibilities like coming to school on time, completing work, wearing the right uniform and also going to training on a Monday and mentoring on a Wednesday.”

According to Simonds’ principal Robert Anastasio the mentoring program has been pivotal for these boys to find their sense of purpose and joy in the school system.

“We want to provide an opportunity to achieve success, whatever forum that is … academics, sport or any other area,” Mr Anastasio said.

“With the size of our school, it’s often hard to compete in sporting fields, but everyone has been in awe of this team, so much so, they are being scouted for representative teams.”

“For us to be able to provide a new role model and mentor for our boys has been incredibly important for their schooling and development.”

Simonds will compete at the Victorian College Championships on Thursday, June 20. •

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