OLIVIA Barber may well be the next great basketballer to emerge from Albury-Wodonga.
The up-and-coming Lady Bandits star turned in a dominant display at the School Sports Australia National Championships last week in Darwin, guiding the NSW team to the under-18 gold medal and being named in the All-Australian team in the process.
In NSW’s thrilling five-point grand final win over Victoria, Barber was irrepressible.
She dropped a tournament-high 23 points to lead the way for the victors, topping of a string of consistent performances throughout the week.
It was just a glimpse of what the young gun might be capable of, considering she was selected in the under-18 team as a bottom-age player.
With two seasons of SEABL experience under her belt, Barber was well positioned to turn in a solid performance in the Top End.
She saved her two best performances for the Victorians, scoring 15 points in an earlier match-up in the tournament.
Despite only having one training session with the rest of her team before the tournament began, Barber said the NSW squad had gelled together from the first whistle.
“It was really good, just an amazing experience to win gold,” she said.
“I hadn’t played much with the team, I couldn’t make the one training session we had in Sydney but we did have one session the day before the carnival started.
“During the week we gelled really strongly, and the results showed that.”
Barber said her SEABL experience had proven valuable as the week wore on.
“Being coached by Jim (Wilson), I loved that, I think it’s really improved my skills as a basketballer,” she said.
“Playing with some older, more experienced girls also helped.”
With the gold medal game against Victoria hanging in the balance, Barber knew someone would have to step up.
“I just thought, we’re not going down without a fight,” she said.
“We went up there for a reason, I gave it my all and we got the result.
“Being an All-Australian is pretty exciting.
“It’s a pretty good feeling to know the hard work is paying off.”
Barber averaged an impressive 7.4 points and 3.8 rebounds in her second season with the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits.