FOR Melanie Kirby, giving back to the sport she loves is second nature.
The Albury junior, 14, lives and breathes basketball and has been rewarded for her passion with the second annual Allen McCowan Basketball Scholarship.
The scholarship is awarded in honour of the late Albury-Wodonga Bandits icon, who died from a pulmonary embolism, aged just 42, in June 2012.
When she’s not at school, Kirby spends most of her spare time at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre, playing in several competitions well above her age bracket.
In addition, she’s been invited to train with the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits, giving her an idea of what it takes to play at a semi-professional level.
“It (the scholarship) means a lot, I’ve been playing for a few years now,” she said.
“I’ve been refereeing as well just to get another perspective on the game.
“And I’ve just started doing a coaches course so I can bring back what I learn to help younger players too.
“I got to talk to Allen a few times and to win this means so much.
“I’d like to get to play at the highest level and hopefully this helps me get there.”
Sponsored by Albury’s Insight Clinic, the scholarship provides financial and emotional support to a player who best displays the qualities shown by McCowan in his time as a player and coach.
The scholarship includes payment of all fees incurred by the player for tournament registration, travel and uniforms to a maximum of $1000.
Applications were open to Albury Cougars players in any junior age group.
Insight Clinic manager Debbie Barker said the clinic was honoured to award the scholarship in McCowan’s name.
“We’re doing this for Allen and the inspiration he provided for so many young players,” she said.
“His commitment and generosity to young players means it’s truly an honour for us to help Melanie out.”