Five-star Cavs make elite program

Casey Cavaliers young guns Lucy Dexter, Blake Shankland, Kyra Webb, Ethan Bolton and Dakota Crichton. Picture: SUPPLIED

Five elite youth basketball players from the Casey Cavaliers have been selected to participate in the Victorian National Performance Program (VNPP).

Dakota Crichton, Lucy Dexter, Kyra Webb, Ethan Bolton and Blake Shankland have been earmarked with the potential to one day pull on the green and gold of Australia, giving them the chance to be part of this high performance program.

Cavaliers basketball development manager Darren Best praised all five of the young Cavs for their commitment to becoming better players.

“First of all, it’s recognition for the work the athletes have put in,” he said.

“They don’t get there without having internal drive and focus.

“It’s always nice for us to say we have these athletes doing this, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones that are putting the work in.

“We’ve got to give them and their families recognition first and then everyone who has helped them along the way, whether it’s us through our development programs, Basketball Victoria and some are in school academies.

“Everyone plays a part in it.”

While the program will have undoubted benefits for the five players, it will also mean more training and more time on the court, adding to an already jam packed schedule.

Casey Basketball is in constant dialogue with school coaches and Basketball Victoria coaches to ensure the work loads do not become a burden on the players.

“We are very aware of burn out,” Best said.

“We run a wellness app through Basketball Victoria, which monitors their load, their mood and how much sleep they’re getting, so we’re are all on top of that.

“We’re in communication with Basketball Victoria high performance coaches and their school coaches around where we can find time for the kids to have a break.

“I would say the kids are probably more advanced with their planning, organisation and time management than a lot of adults.”

The VNPP can be used as a stepping stone to state and national teams.

All five of these Cavaliers have pulled on the Big V at some point in their junior careers.

The holy grail is the chance to represent Australia and that aim can be accelerated through programs like the VNPP.

“Provided they’re performing well and hopefully getting selected for Vic Metro and Vic Country state teams, they’re a chance to go to Australian Junior Championships,” Best said.

“From there, they get invited to those national selection camps and performance camps.”

THE CHOSEN ONES

Development manager Darren Best gives his assessment of the five young Cavs stars in the VNPP …

Dakota Crichton

“When I first got here, she had a lot of success because she was a little bit bigger than most and played a lot harder, so she was quite dominant in the under 14s because of those characteristics.

“The pleasing thing over the last couple of years is she’s starting to develop her skills and understanding of the game more and not just relying on being bigger, faster, stronger.

“Her progression on the mental side of the game has been big, along with her shooting development.

“Really pleased she made the state team last year.”

Lucy Dexter

“She’s a guard or a wing player, an aggressive player and a really strong athlete.

“She’s a great communicator and a good finisher around the rim.

“Underrated defensive player.

“I’m looking forward to seeing her during the year because she’s been putting in a lot of work on her shooting form.

“We’re looking for her to extend her range out beyond the three-point line.”

Kyra Webb

“She’s probably the most intriguing prospect I’ve seen for a little while on the girls side.

“She’s quite tall, nearly six-foot-two, but she plays on the wing and has great guard skills and good passing ability.

“Her ball handling rivals some of our best guards in the program.

“She ticks all the boxes from a national standpoint.

“Even though she’s in under 16s, she’s likely to suit up for our senior women’s team this year.”

Ethan Bolton

“He’s very athletic, his shooting touch is there and just needs to have the confidence to shoot it.

“He’s one of those guys that at the moment is playing a forward for us, but long term he’ll be a wing player and we’re making sure he can get the reps for that.

“He’s developing very quickly.

“Two years ago when he was a bottom ager in the under 16s, he was in our twos.

“Fast forward two years and he’s in our bottom age under 18s and he’s in our ones.

“He could end up being a major focal point in our team this season.”

Blake Shankland

“He’s a wing, quite long and rangy, underrated athlete.

“He’s started to play more and more above the rim, which is quite good.

“His shooting form is constantly improving and he’s definitely a threat from three, but once again he’s a very versatile player who can play both sides of the ball, both offensively and defensively.

“We’ll roll out a line up this year where he can play shooting guard and we’ll also roll out a line up where he could be playing power forward or centre, so he’s very versatile.”