Get a good look at the four faces in this story's picture – they're four of what local basketball administrators hope will be many to use next week's Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup as a launchpad for success, not only on the Border, but further afield as well.
The annual tournament, the largest of its kind in regional Australia, has often played host to players who have gone on to have success at the highest levels of basketball.
Administrators from both the Albury and Wodonga basketball associations, as well as the Albury-Wodonga Bandits, are under no illusion as to the importance of next's week's tournament when it comes to developing the Border's next star player.
The likes of current Lady Bandits Olivia Barber, Mel Kirby and Casey Arden have all cut their teeth at the tournament.
So too, did the likes of Steph Gorman who, after three seasons playing at SEABL level, two of them as a high-schooler with the Lady Bandits, has since gone on to play for Div I college Utah State.
Bandits board member Matthew Whitfield says there are a growing number of local elite prospects across several different age groups.
“I really think both the Albury and Wodonga basketball associations are in a really good place at the moment,” he said.
“With the number of kids playing at the moment, it is incredibly important that we as a community can continue to support kids through junior basketball and through to the elite level
“It’s a great opportunity from our point of view, it’s great for our kids to have this exposure, not only for the ones who make Victorian or NSW teams, but for our Albury-Wodonga invitational teams as well.”
Though many of the aforementioned Lady Bandits players have acquitted themselves well at the senior level, Whitfield said competing at the elite junior level was also highly important.
“It’s still very important for kids to be exposed to players at that level who are in their own age group,” he said.
“Having those opportunities to challenge themselves at the next level as well is something we have that is incredibly unique.
“The Albury and Wodonga basketball communities, as well as the Bandits, becoming one basketball community will give us so much going forward.”
The opening ceremony for the Country Cup will take place at 9am on Monday, at the Wodonga Sports and Leisure Centre.
The annual tournament attracts thousands of competitors to the region from across the country, as well as several teams from New Zealand.
- Receive our daily newsletter straight to your inbox each morning from The Border Mail. Sign up here