For Bol Dengdit, the opportunity to play basketball for Australia is particularly special.
The 18-year-old, had never played basketball until he moved to Melton from South Sudan when he was 12.
At 15, he was invited to a basketball camp in Canberra and has never looked back.
Now a member of the under-19 Australian extended squad, he is hoping to be selected in the final team for the World Cup to be held in July.
“When I came to Australia, I only played soccer,” he said.
“At school one of my classmates said as I was pretty tall and to come and play basketball …I fell in love with it.
“Everyone encouraged me to play basketball and I loved it and kept playing. It’s all about basketball now, I grew too tall for soccer.
“It would mean a lot to play for Australia, especially where I came from.”
Dengdit, took part in a four day camp with the rest of the under-19 squad recently.
Speaking before the camp, Dengdit said he wasn’t surprised to have been selected in the squad, as he is part of the NBA Global Academy, an elite basketball training centre at Basketball Australia’s (BA) Centre of Excellence based at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra.
“At age 15, I got offered one of the NBA Global Academy camps and a couple of camps for the ADC [Australian development camps].
“It felt good and showed me different options than just going to the states and stuff [for high school].
“I kept coming to other camps and playing with my age group and started to feel comfortable.
“I kept coming here and I’ve learnt a couple of lessons about being a leader.”
Dengdit, who was recognised while playing for the Longhorns Basketball Club, is the latest in number of players to be produced by the club which is based at Sunshine.
Former Longhorns player Kuany Kuany, who is now in college in America, was one of Dengdit’s idols. He says it’s nice to now be someone others can look up to.
“When I go back to Melbourne I want to pass that on and work on that and be a leader and encourage other kids.
“Deng Adel [another former Longhorns player] is in the NBL and it’s good for the kids to see. It feels good to be a role model. I try to give advice and be a leader and show they can make it as well.
“I was in the same situation as them.”
The future is looking bright for Dengdit, who made his first state team last year, and he’s keen to make the most of it.
His end goal is to play in the NBA.