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Australia's South Sudanese community producing teenage basketball stars - Sep 25, 2015

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Deng Gak
Australia's South Sudanese community is turning out promising teenage basketball stars, with dozens of young men winning competitive sporting scholarships in the United States.
A little-known basketball club in western Sydney is one the clubs which has been a training ground for players who are being noticed by American scouts.
The Savannah Pride in Blacktown has teams made up of all South-Sudanese-Australian players.
Head coach Mayor Chagai said between 10 and 15 teenagers from Australia's South Sudanese community were going to the United States every year, to take up sporting scholarships in schools and colleges.
"It's a big opportunity," Mr Chagai said..
"It gives them better education, better basketball, and a chance of a lifetime career."
He said Australian teenagers were playing in Kentucky, Florida and Texas.
One of Savannah Pride's latest teenage stars, Deng Gak (207-C-98), has just left for the United States, after he won a scholarship at the prestigious Blair Academy in New Jersey.
At a statuesque 207 centimetres, that's 6 foot 10 inches, 17-year-old Mr Gak has caught the eye of scouts.
"They want me to be like part of their basketball program and finish my next two years of school there," he said.
"It's obviously what I want to do and you have to kind of be willing to do things that other people don't want to do, lots of early morning training.
"I come back here and play [in Blacktown] all the time. I love the atmosphere that this place brings, that South Sudanese people bring to basketball."
Savannah Pride was formed almost a decade ago by 30-year-old South Sudanese refugee Mayor Chagai after he arrived in Australia from war-torn Sudan.
"What it is about is the love for the game, it is also the other aspect of it is the social part of it and education," he said.
"It's not just only about basketball. It's also engagement and social inclusion for these young kids and the fun of playing basketball."
He said most of the boys are children of parents who fled Sudan before South Sudan officially gained independence in 2011.
"Most of their parents fled south and they settled here in Australia or some kids come here with their uncles, aunties and the mother or the father they all remain in South Sudan and that's always a challenge as well because they miss their family," Mr Chagai said.
Mr Gak said teenagers from the South Sudanese community are attracted to basketball because they have "natural skills".
"We're long and tall. We can run pretty fast, jump pretty high so I think we've like found out that we're pretty good at it and everyone likes it."
While Savannah Pride was one of the first teams of its kind, teams are now starting up across Australia.
The National South Sudanese Australian Basketball Association now has 1,000 teenagers involved.
Mr Chagai said he was incredibly proud of his proteges.
"They're having a lot of opportunities here. There's a lot of opportunities for them in Australia compared to South Sudan where we all came from," he said.
"It wouldn't be the same if these kids were in South Sudan or any part of Africa compared to the opportunities that they are having right now in the community, playing basketball, having an education which is one of the biggest opportunities.
"So their dreams now are more positive."   

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