Long on ambition: Teenager reaches NSW Country start

THE sky appears the limit for Newcastle basketball prodigy Kouat Noi as he eyes Australian under-16 honours at the age of 14.

The 195-centimetre centre has been selected in the NSW Country under-16 side for the national titles in Tamworth from July 7 to 14.

Noi made the final cut for the squad this month after a series of selection trials.

He is the youngest player in the line-up and will have another chance to play in the under-16 tournament next year.

But one of the hottest young talents in Newcastle basketball will not be holding back this time around.

‘‘I just want to play well at nationals and hopefully make the Australian side,’’ Noi said.

The year9 student at San Clemente High School, who turns 15 on October 29, first dunked last December at an Australian Sudanese national competition and dreams of playing in the National Basketball Association.

However, the quietly spoken Noi, who started playing basketball ‘‘six or seven years ago’’, knows he has a long way to go.

Although strong on the boards and in defence, he said his shooting skills needed to improve.

Newcastle Basketball development manager Rohan Stevenson, who is assistant coach of the under-16 NSW Country team, described the Mayfield teenager as a freakish talent.

‘‘Apart from his obvious stature, he’s got great ball control, he’s a total mismatch for any defender because he’s agile, he can jump and his arm span is amazing,’’ Stevenson said.

‘‘And he’s a really good kid with a fantastic family as well.’’

Noi’s older brother, Dhiu, is part of the Newcastle Hunters under-18 representative side and another of the club’s brightest young talents.

Their father, Ater Dhiu, who brought his family to Australia from war-torn Sudan in 2002, played basketball for his native country.

‘‘Having an older brother and a lot of the Sudanese community involved in basketball who are older, he’s playing against men every day and he plays in the senior comp as well. It’s just hardened him up,’’ Stevenson said.

‘‘When you throw him out against boys his own age, it’s like boys against men.’’

Noi’s father, who is chairperson of the Hunter South Sudan Community group, said the sport played an important role in his people’s integration into the Newcastle community.

‘‘There are great opportunities here and I have told my boys that if they work hard, they can achieve anything,’’ Ater said.

Newcastle teammates Myles Cherry and Joseph Parente are reserves for the NSW Country side.

Hunters president Martin McLean is the coach.

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