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Aussie boys being American boys

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OCHS gives Australian travel team taste of American basketball

By Jason Stamm

The Australian basketball players had never seen anything like it before: cheerleaders wearing short skirts with makeup highlighting their faces, leading a cheer during a timeout of their varsity game Friday at Oldham County High School.

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Five teenage basketball players from Australia shamelessly raised their cell phones simultaneously to take video and photos of the cheerleaders with high ponytails in front of them.

A team from an Australian private boarding school made its second stop in a 16-game tour of Kentucky and Tennessee Friday at OCHS. Every other year, administrators from Rowville Sports Academy take players that can afford a $6,000 trip to the United States to play at least 10 American high school teams.

This year, the team brought 15 of its 22 players on the 40-hour plane ride mostly to gain exposure from college coaches chaperone Suzie Prvan said.

“We wanted strong teams and we heard Kentucky was a strong basketball state,” she said.

But on the second stop of their tour the players seemed just as interested in everything that goes into a Kentucky high school game. The cheerleaders, music during timeouts and the roar of the crowd had the Australians in a daze.

That type of excitement and entertainment are non-existent at Australian games, said Rowville center Damien Rance, 17.

A few hundred fans attended the game and Rance said that’s a far cry from the few dozen fans that attend Australian games.

Rowville guard Brayden Flanigan, 17, said the biggest crowd he’d played in front of in Australia was 70.

“I think the adrenaline takes over most of the time,” Rance said. “With these crowds, they’re getting pretty hectic and it’s good.”

The Colonels’ crowd rose to its feet in applause after a first quarter timeout when Oldham County senior guard Parker Simpson lobbed an alley-oop pass near the rim that Wesley caught and slam dunked.

The Australians sat shocked in silence.

Midway through the second quarter, Rance stood next to Colonels’ senior forward Tyler Wesley during a free throw and asked for the names of cheerleaders on the sideline.

Rance also asked how Wesley executes a dunk, which isn’t as common in Australia, and about some of the rule changes he and his teammates had to learn.

Though Kentucky high schools don’t use a shot clock, Australian basketball games include a 24-second shot clock. Kentucky high school basketball also allows 10 seconds for the ball to be brought across half-court, while Australian basketball allows 8.

In addition to playing by American rules, Rowville coach Alex Palazzolo said he also wants his players to observe the nuances of American basketball.

“We want our players to experience college-style basketball and the different style of play that the Americans play with,” Palazzolo said. “They play with great structure.”

After three quarters, Oldham County led 64-31. Rowville rebounded after the Colonels took all their starters out, before falling 71-61.

Following the game, the Australian players hung around for a few moments to take photos with and talk to high school girls who approached them.

The Australians split into groups to stay with five OCHS players and their families who had volunteered to house them for the night. Wesley, Simpson, senior forward Tyler Mason and senior guards Nick Davis and Jordan Gates and their families hosted the Australian players.

Wesley said he, senior guard Alante Flores and three of the Rowville players stayed up until 4 a.m., looking at Facebook, talking about girls and hanging out.

The Australians laughed when Wesley and Flores said they would stop for gasoline instead of “petrol.” Wesley and Flores laughed when the Australians looked bewildered when they were told to “throw it in the trash,” instead of the putting trash in a “bin.”

“We just enjoyed having ‘em,” Wesley said. “They’re really cool dudes and like us. They have a different accent, but they’re cool dudes.”

Flanigan said he doesn’t notice many differences between Australian and American culture.

“We have this perception over there that you guys are arrogant and rude,” Flanigan said You’ve got your jocks, but you’re like us, just chill and cool.”

Email us about this story at: sports@oldhamera.com.