Ex-NBL coach has an eye for talent

FORMER National Basketball League coach Mark Watkins will pass on his vast knowledge to juniors next week when he visits the Far North Coast for a series of coaching clinics.

Watkins has been appointed as the NSW head coach for the National Talent Identification Programme (NTIP) and is looking forward to coming to the region.

“I’m looking to travel two or three times each year to country areas to work with athletes,” he said.

“As head coach, I select 60-70 athletes from across the State between the ages of 14 and 17 to enter the program.

“From there, we provide set programs for individual workouts and have a network coach for each region.

“We also have an equal selection of metro and country basketballers.”

The Far North Coast has two NTIP squad members in Lennox Head locals Jessica Ward and Chris McIllhatton.

“The players in the program are more likely to be Australian junior representatives.” he said.

“Chris and Jess are both guards, but they are in the same boat as everyone else (in the program). They have to do the hard work to succeed.”

Watkins has also made time to impart some of his basketball wisdom to other local junior basketballers and their coaches.

He will hold a clinic for under-16s and under-18s at the Southern Cross K-12 School gymnasium from 7.30pm to 9pm on Tuesday.

Another session, for under-12s and under-14s, will be held at the Lismore Basketball Stadium from 4pm to 5.30pm on Wednesday.

Watkins coached in the National Basketball League at a time when the league, and the sport, were flourishing in Australia.

He spent time as an assistant coach at the Canberra Cannons, the West Sydney Razorbacks and the Gold Coast Blaze, as well as becoming the head coach of the Razorbacks in 2004.

During that time he was also assistant coach of the Australian Under-20 and Under-22 teams at their world championships.

But Watkins is quite happy in his job now and does not envisage a return to coaching in the rebuilding NBL.

“I think I’m past that, I’ve been there and done that,” he said.

“I am happy where I am at the moment.

“Back when I was coaching in the NBL, I liked running clinics at schools and developing young talent.”

All basketballers and local coaches, regardless of their association affiliation, are encouraged to attend.

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