Kyogle teen's big chance to play basketball in America
ISOLATED in the bush twenty minutes west of Kyogle, a teenage boy got on his hands and knees carving up grass and weeds to level out hard ground for a basketball court.
Three years later when he's not at school or playing, basketball fanatic Djalu Barsah, 16, is on his home-made court practising.
He started playing basketball at around age 10 when he moved to Kyogle from the Byron Shire and now, the Eden Creek teenager has a chance at pursuing basketball as a career.
He will travel in June with Sydney-based Australian team, USA Pathways, to Virginia and Washington D.C. in the USA to train and play basketball with Australian NBL coach Gregory Jones, and other US coaches at the Massanutten High School.
During the trip he will play two tournaments in front of scouts from American schools and colleges.
"I had nothing to do out at Afterlee Primary, where I was for Year 3 to Year 6. I was really bored all the time but they had one basketball hoop,” Djalu said.
"I just started playing it and I started watching it and it grew on me kind of like an infection.”
A few years ago Djalu started the Monday night competition at Lismore Basketball, then played the Friday night social competition at Casino Stadium, and returned to play and train with Lismore basketball coaches, playing to represent Lismore for two years.
He now trains at the new Kyogle court and every day on his dirt court he has carved by hand and plays the Wednesday night men's competitions in Lismore.
"We live pretty much on top of a mountain. It's really far out of town and I didn't have anywhere to train so I started playing on this little dirt pad that was designed for a swimming pool,” Djalu said.
"It took a bit of bargaining and arguing but I got there so I started digging it out and levelling it and fixing it up for a court.
"I fixed up my own ring and I tried to widen it as much as possible but it's pretty small.
"It's been a three year process to make it what it is now. I wore it down so it's a hard rocky, dust court.
"Whenever I miss a shot the ball bounces and it goes down a massive 50 metre steep hill. It's good motivation not to miss.”
The closest real basketball court is around a half an hour drive from Djalu's home, where he trains most weekdays after school.
He said he was overcome with emotion when he found out he will get a shot of getting into a school where he can get training to potentially make it to professional basketball.
"I was looking for an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) comp and usually they have to scout you out but mum called on the right day when someone had dropped out of the team.
"It was just by luck this pathway was opened for me. I was dancing and I was nearly about to cry, I was so happy.
"I've been wanting to do that pretty much ever since I started basketball. It was awesome, it was such a good feeling.”
Djalu said he would train the hardest he ever has if he were to get scouted during the trip, but if he doesn't get selected to get a scholarship he will keep on trying.
Parent's supporting children's dreams isn't cheap so to help Djalu follow his dreams he has set up a GoFundMe at https://www.gofundme.com/vyraa-basketball-in-the-us.
Djalu's mum, Camilla Warner, thanks the community for their generosity - including Kyogle IGA who are hosting a sausage sizzle on Sunday May 26 and Kyogle CWA Branch among other organisations "pitching in to support this country kid have a shot”.