Kansas City, USA (Oct 10) - The NBA's been benched, but we'll all be watching college basketball and the five new Australians in NCAA Division I when the season tips off across the US next month.

The highly ranked University of Connecticut boasts the pick of the five new division I Australians - 7-footer Justin Brown.

But there's also Canberra's 6'8" forward Paul Denman joining West Virginia. And don't forget Sydney's 6'10" forward-centre Steve Ryan who just played two big years at North Idaho Junior College - he'll be playing at Colorado this season.

In the womens NCAA, 5'10" guard Clarissa Tomlinson is at Samford University. Tommy Goyne, a 5'2" guard from Boronia in Victoria, joins Queenslander Louise Hunter at Tulsa, after two years at North Idaho JC.

Brown, a 240lb centre from Western Australia, at Connecticut is joining one of the elite college programs in the US.

Last season Connecticut won both the Big East Conference regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the NCAA "Elite 8". The school finished the year ranked in the Associated Press National Top 10 (6th) for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

UConn will welcome three newcomers to its 1998-99 roster and all three could become key contributors for the Huskies.

Justin Brown (Perth, Australia), a 7-0 freshman center, was a member of the Australian Junior National Team and is considered one of the top young frontcourt prospects in all of Australia. He averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Australian Institute of Sport.

Two rookie Australians clash on January 9 when West Virginia and Paul Denman host Connecticut and Brown, so make sure you check out Australian Hoops for the full report!

There'll be two Australians at Tulsa University this season when Tammy Goyne teams up with Louise Hunter.

Last season, the Hurricane made quite an impact during its sophomore year as a member of the Western Athletic Conference. They were picked to finish at the bottom of the Pacific Division in the preseason coaches poll, but shocked opponents and finished fifth in the division and earned a trip to its their first-ever postseason tournament.

The Hurricane returns one lone senior to the hardwood this season as Louise Hunter hopes for an injury-free senior campaign. Hunter missed the 1996-97 season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon during fall practice. Last season, Hunter played in 24 games, but missed several key contests due to injuries.

Louise Hunter, a 6' 1" centre from Tully in North Queensland, will compete for the starting center position. She scored a career-high 12 points against Southeast Missouri State and pulled down a career-best six boards against TCU.

Goyne, a 5' 2" point guard, transfers to Tulsa from North Idaho Community College where she led the Scenic West Athletic Conference with 3.7 steals per game, was third in the league in assists with 4.8 per contest and was fourth in scoring with 15.3 average. She earned honorable mention All-American honors. Goyne led her team to a 22-7 record and the conference semifinals.

Australian Hoops will report on all the US-based Australians throughout the college season.

Natalie Hughes (pictured above) from Gladstone in Central Queensland, was a stand-out at the University of Oregon last season, and now plays professionally in Australia.

Suzi Raymant (pictured front page) at the University of Kansas is one of a handful of Australians who will again suit up for NCAA Division I college teams this season.

Perth, AUSTRALIA (Oct 10) - The National Basketball League season tips off this weekend with a match-up between two teams - Perth and Adelaide - that may well be playing one another in the grand final.

The Perth Wildcats have promoted rookie guard Greg Smith to the starting five for their NBL season opener against the defending champions Adelaide 36ers in Perth on Saturday.

The ABC reports Smith has replaced the injured Ricky Grace in the starting line-up after impressive form in pre-season games.

Wildcats coach Alan Black says Smith is a hard nose defender and his match up against Adelaide's Darnell Mee will be one of the highlights of the game.

Australian Hoops tips that the same two teams, Perth and Adelaide, will also be playing one another on the last weekend on the season - the grand final.

Perth, AUSTRALIA (Oct 10) - Australian Opal Jenny Whittle added to her glittering trophy cabinet by winning the Western Australian State Basketball League title.

Already with a World Junior Championship gold medal, as well as Olympic and World Championship bronze medals, Whittle led Perry Lakes Lady Hawks to a WA SBL grand final win.

Whittle, the 6'7" Opals centre, poured in a game-high 26 points as her Perry Lakes beat Wiletton Tigers 71-63 to claim the 1998 western crown.

Click here to go to the latest SBL Womens Scores for both Western Australia and New South Wales.

Meanwhile, Bunbury Slammers beat Cockburn Cougars 105-96 in the mens Western Australian grand final.

And the New South Wales semi finals are played, with the preliminary and grand finals set for this weekend.

Click here to go to the latest SBL Mens Scores for both Western Australia and New South Wales.

Vancouver, CANADA (Oct 6) - World television beauty Peta Wilson is a former Australian Opals superstar. Never heard of her? Neither, it seems, has basketball in Australia.

She's the heart-throb star of La Femme Nikita - an action packed series now sweeping the television world - whose biography promotes her as "the youngest woman and best player on the Australian national basketball team".

Peta who? Basketball Australia has no record of her: "... we don't have any record of Peta Wilson representing Australia," replied Colette Steer, the international co-ordinator for Basketball Australia, when asked about the La Femme Nikita star by Australian Hoops. Basketball New South Wales haven't yet responded.

But Australian Hoops is still getting inquiries from around the world, wanting to know more of the former model now TV star, and we've never heard of her.

"I read in a magazine that La Femme Nikita TV star Peta Wilson is a former Australian Basketball star... could you email me some pictures of Peta playing basketball?" asked Santanu Gupta, the first of the world-wide fans thirsting for information.

Peta Wilson, 5'10", is a 26-year-old Sydney-born actress, daughter of a retired warrant officer, Darcy Wilson, and a caterer, Karlene White (they also have a son, Rob, 25, an Australian army truck driver).

So if there's any readers out there who can shed light on her basketball career, please let Australian Hoops know.

"She is a champion sailor, and with her father and brother she has received the title of Australian Champion Sailors," her official television biography alledges.

"She was also the youngest woman and best player on the Australian national basketball team."

Not yet convinced that she's a real life hero? There's more...

"She became a model in Europe, but she grew tired of being judged by how she looked and was suffering from bouts of anorexia and bulimia, so she packed up and moved to Los Angeles in 1991."

Personally, I can't wait until La Femme Nikita makes it to Australian Television. Just check out this stunning story line:

Taken away from the troubled streets where she was living, Nikita is quick to recognize that her life as she once knew it is gone forever.

Faced with playing the role of the ruthless killer which her employers think she is, she depends upon her lethal skills and drop-dead looks to achieve her dangerous objectives.

Always supremely confident, spirited and courageous, Nikita finds herself entrenched in situations where her compassion and generosity of spirit come in direct conflict with her work.

In Nikita's now-murky world, she may not always make the right choice, but she tries to - even though she understands that having a conscience can be a fatal flaw.

So please, please, email Australian Hoops with news of the REAL Peta Wilson so we can know more about her "drop-dead looks" and "fatal flaws"!

Portland, USA (Oct 6) - Good news for those of us who shop at K-Mart for those $19.95 Dunlop Volley Internationals - some NBA players may be left without a shoe deal as Nike announced plans to cut endorsement spending by about US$100 million annually.

AP reports however that the cuts will not affect all NBA players, as Nike still plans to spend about US$200 million a year on athletes who will endorse its products.

"As a rule, we'll spend less on endorsements now than 12 months ago," Nike Chairman Phil Knight said after meeting with Wall Street analysts in New York. "But we will never get out of it."

Athletes already are feeling Nikes change in direction, said Bill Duffy, a sports agent who represented this year's top NBA draft choice, Michael Olowokandi.

Duffy said even the top rookies are getting athletic shoe endorsement contracts worth half or less what they've gotten in previous years.

So the reliable Dunlop Volley Internationals could be making a fashion statement sooner rather than later.

Beirut, LEBANON (Oct 6) - With the NBA lock-out still in full force, some players including former Adelaide 36'ers import Rick Brunson are desperate for a game - even touring as far as civil war ravaged Lebanon.

After overcoming security fears, a North American basketball team led by NBA players from Portland, Sacramento and Vancouver opened a series of "friendly" games in Lebanon, reports AP.

The first game in Beirut's Sports City, which was rebuilt after the country's 15-year civil war infamous for the kidnapping of Westerners, was against Lebanon's national team. The visitors won, 90-81.

They also will meet an Arab All-Star team and practice with a local team. Coach Anthony Ronzone said it took two months of negotiations to round up a team to play in Lebanon, which is still struggling to shed its civil war image as a dangerous place.

"It took me a lot of effort to get it done," said Ronzone, who is leading the team on behalf of FIBA, the international basketball federation. "I had to talk to many people, their families, their wives." Ronzone said the players' first question was, "Is it safe?"

Among the visiting team is National Basketball Association player Rick Brunson of the Portland Trail Blazers, who previously played with Adelaide in the Australian NBL.

The Sports City, which was destroyed during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, was rebuilt to host the pan-Arab track and field games in summer of 1997.

Perth, AUSTRALIA (Oct 5) - Perth Wildcats are set to be the big improvers in the National Basketball League with the new season now just days away - any team would be if they added a 7-foot Boomer.

The ABC reports that Perth Wildcats coach Alan Black says he's thrilled by the pre-season form of recruit Paul Rogers in the lead-up to the start of the NBL season.

The 213-centimetres tall Rogers has averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds across the first six pre-season games.

Black says the big-man combination of Rogers, Scott Fisher, Andrew Vlahov and James Crawford will be one of the best in the NBL.

And I am not one to disagree.

Rogers had an enormous World Championships with the Australian Boomers, showing big improvement after a less-than-impressive season with European powers Real Madrid. That was after three outstanding seasons at Gonzaga University and being drafted second round by the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I'm not happy with the lifestyle over there (in Spain)," Rogers was quoted as saying. "I'd love to play in Australia. The quality of the leagues over there (Europe) aren't superior to the NBL."

Click here to go to the Full 1998-99 NBL Draw on-line.

Sydney, AUSTRALIA (Oct 5) - The Australian Baby Boomers are set to tour Europe in December now that its team has been announced.

The Australian junior mens team is in preparation to go one better than their silver medal achieved at the World Junior Championships held in Greece in 1996.

Held every four years, the next Championships will be held July 15-25, 1999 in Portugal, so European experience is esstential.

The squad is : David ANDERSON - Wollongong Hawks, Stephen BLACK - AIS / WA, Andrew LATIMER - AIS / Qld, Andrew Looke - AIS / Vic, Adrian MAJSTROVICH - Perth Wildcats, Neil MOTTRAM - Vic, Andrew RICE - AIS / WA, Bradley SHERIDAN - Victoria Titans, Luke SPENCER-GARDNER - Vic, Daniel THOMPSON - AIS / SA, Huw WARDROPE - NSW.

Basketball Australia quoted head coach Frank Arsego as saying, "With a silver medal in the World U/20 Men's Championships three years ago and a gold medal for Australia in the World Men's 22 & Under Championships held last year in Australia, Australian junior basketball has set a standard I believe this team can continue."

"It is an exciting group of young men with size, talent and speed and a credit to the continued development of all Australian junior basketball programs".

Brisbane, AUSTRALIA (Sept 28) - Brisbane Bullets legend Leroy Loggins says he is hopeful a back injury sustained recently will not keep him out National Basketball League action.

Loggins, who in recent weeks has had a heavy pre-season workload, will rest the injury as a precaution, according to the ABC.

He says the injury, which has caused problems with his left leg, is responding well to treatment.

"I've been getting a bit of physiotherapy and a bit of acupuncture as well as massage.

"And I hope I've got it under a bit of control at this particular moment," Loggins said.

Meanwhile, Australian Hoops has the entire 1998-99 NBL season schedule on-line!

Go to the NBL Pages for the complete playing schedule, where you will also see the latest scores and standings updated throughout the season.

Sydney, AUSTRALIA (Sept 28) - It's not the grand final - yet - as Bankstown Bruins host Illawarra Hawks in the New South Wales State Basketball League semi finals this weekend.

They've been the two best teams all year, and now that the regular season's over, both the Bruins and Hawks finished tied for the best record in the state at 20-2. That puts them ahead of even the Penrith Panthers (18-13) in the CBA, which recently ended its season.

The CBA is a different league of course, but with New South Wales starved of senior basketball success - the Kings never go close in the NBL, the CBA national title has never been won by the "premier state" - winners are valued no matter what the competition.

Both teams are chock full of headliners, including the Hawks from former Australian Boomers and Sydney Kings guard Greg Hubbard, to Matt Flinn who spent several seasons with the recently crowned CBA national champions Cairns Marlins.

Bruins host the Hawks in the first semi final this weekend, with the winner going straight into the SBL grand final.

The loser plays the winner of Hills Hornets and Maitland Mustangs, both of which are streets behind both Bankstown and Illawarra. (Hills beat Maitland 93-66 in their last regular season game over the weekend.)

So expect to see the two best teams play-off again in the NSW SBL grand final the following weekend. You can see the results right here at Australian Hoops.

Meanwhile, in the Western Australian State Basketball League this weekend, Cockburn Cougars play Bunbury Slammers in that grand final. It's all happening here at Australian Hoops.

See all the SBL scores, regular season ladders, and finals draws for this weekend at the SBL Results Page.

Gold Coast, AUSTRALIA (Sept 28) - The Continental Basketball Association's national mens grand final was aired on national television (sort of) over the weekend, and boy, it really needs some help.

Cairns Marlins beat Frankston Blues to claim their first CBA national title, with Frankston tieing Cairns for the most losing grand final appearances (2). See the CBA match report and CBA Finals Homepages.

And for the sixth consecutive year, the CBA's last game of the year almost sent me to sleep.

Don't get me wrong - it was a great game, they normally are, and a great result, with the Marlins coming from behind for a thrilling win.

But with the match unimaginatively edited into 1-hour by the ABC, basketball wasn't done any justice.

Plus the commentary - obviously the CBA couldn't get the ABC's Peter Gee this year, so I suppose we had to put up with the ABC replacement.

The co-commentator Barry Barnes we didn't have to have. He's a nice bloke, and of course knows his stuff (he doesn't coach the Boomers for nothing), but Barry is not what you'd call a bubbly on-air personality.

If the CBA is to truly establish itself as a big-time winter event, now that it's big brother NBL has gone to summer, it needs a personality of its own.

The league has its own heroes with super players (I think they are Australian sports' best kept secret, with mainstream media ignoring the national competition almost entirely).

If only it could also get its own personality on-air with good, knowledgeable commentators - and I don't mean commentators who know everything about the NBL.

This is the CBA, yes the CBA, and NOT NOT NOT the NBL! It's a different league guys.

And CBA administration - get some help with your media. You're taking too much on and missing the mark every year.

Develop CBA commentators with personality who love the CBA. Get a good time-slot on TV, and get full match coverage. One-hour on a Saturday afternoon 8 days after the event doesn't cut it.

Don't say it can't be done - if you start planning now, it can be done.

Firstly, announce the grand final venue NOW (this should've been done at the grand final dinner, at the latest).

We know it's played on the second last Saturday in September. For 24 months now I've heard the 1999 game is going to be in Melbourne, so why hasn't it been confirmed?

That way you can negotiate a serious time-slot, and get some sort of coverage of the quarter and semi finals leading up to the big one. (Highlights should be a cinch.)

That way the public will get to know and love that CBA personality.

After all, what other national sports league in Australia includes over 70 teams with the local heroes playing in front of their home crowd? (Ans: none)

It's a great league, now let's see it!

By the way, you can see the womens grand final on ABC TV this Saturday afternoon, and a grand finals highlights package on WIN TV the following weekend. (My bet is WIN's highlights will top the lot!)

- by Harold Peacock

New York, USA (Sept 28) - The NBA announced that player training camps for the 1998-99 season have been postponed indefinitely because of the stalled collective bargaining negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association, and that all preseason games scheduled through to October 16 had been cancelled.

That leaves Australia's NBA players Luc Longley and Chris Anstey still out in the cold.

"Unfortunately, it is now clear there will not be enough time for teams to fill their rosters, go through a necessary period of conditioning, and be ready to play preseason games by mid-October," said NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik, according to reports on the NBA web site.

Meanwhile, the likelihood grows that the league will be forced to cancel regular season games because of a work stoppage for the first time in its history, reports Associated Press.

"Nobody wants to miss the whole season, but there are 29 owners that are willing to do so if they have to," deputy commissioner Russ Granik said.

The unprecedented cancellation of two dozen games came one day after commissioner David Stern, Granik, union director Billy Hunter and union president Patrick Ewing met for about an hour at the union's offices - the first sit-down between the sides since owners stormed out of a bargaining session on August 6.

The regular season remains scheduled to tip off on November 3.


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