Shepparton basketball talent Jordan Michel has joined rarefied air.
Michel was part of the under-16 Bendigo Junior Braves team that claimed National Junior Classic glory in Melbourne on Monday — just the fourth time in the rich history of the competition that a regional squad has snared gold in the same category.
Following in the footsteps of Shepparton (1983), Geelong (1999) and Southern Peninsula (2015), Michel’s Braves took on the best under-16 clubs the nation has to offer and came out on top.
The Classic is an invitation-only tournament that pits the best 16 club teams in each junior age group against each other in a bonafide basketball extravaganza.
The Braves earned their place in history during the Queen’s Birthday long weekend with wins against Sydney-based Hills Hornets (71-52 in the grand final), North Adelaide (77-65 in the semi-final) and Sydney Comets (66-62 in the quarter-final) in the knockout stages after progressing out of their pool.
Michel put up 54 points for the tournament at an average of nine per game, but showed his defensive capabilities as a guard in the decider by keeping a close eye on an opposition star.
‘‘The Hornets’ star state player Eoin Fitzgerald was a threat averaging 30 points a game and was described as un-guardable, but he met his match with Jordan playing his guard roll perfectly,’’ Michel’s mother Annmarie said.
‘‘The team’s strength, skill set and determination brought to the weekend was astonishing, and they fought hard to make their place in the VJBL (Victorian Junior Basketball League) to be invited to the National Junior Classic (in the first place).’’
Also taking part in the Classic from Shepparton was Boston Dowling.
Dowling held his own for the under-14 Hawthorn Magic, averaging five points per game as his club, which is coached by multiple-time NBL champion Marcus Timmons, exited at the quarter-final stage.
‘‘It was a great experience for him,’’ Dowling’s father Brad said.
‘‘Playing at that level for his club against the top 16 teams in the country was a real eye-opener. It was also really good to watch Jordan in the grand final and show Boston what he needs to aim for at that next level.
‘‘In the last six months under Marcus Timmons at Hawthorn, Boston has improved out of sight and we’re just rapt that he’s getting that experience at the top level.
‘‘Boston is just at the start of his basketball pathway, but to see Jordan and the Bendigo team win gold as a regional side was absolutely outstanding.’’
Dowling, 13, will continue to work on his game at the highest level possible, while Michel is preparing to captain the under-16 Victorian Country outfit that will do battle at the Australian Junior Championships on the Sunshine Coast from July 7 to 13.