The stock of rising Traralgon basketball star Jade Melbourne has risen to new heights after being named as the sole Australian in the FIBA U19 World Cup All-Star Five following the tournament in Hungary.
Leading the Australian Gems to a Silver Medal, with the team falling 70-52 to the USA in the Gold Medal match on Monday morning, the 18-year old proved she will be a key figure in the future of Australian basketball averaging an impressive 12.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game throughout the tournament.
After going down to the Yanks 99-59 in a group stage encounter some seven days prior, the Australians came into the finals as firm underdogs against the powerhouse reigning champions.
However, the Gems would make a bright start on the big stage, going toe-to-toe with the Americans in the early stages and trading baskets to take an early lead before the USA warmed their way into proceedings and ended the first term with a 7-0 run to take a 18-14 advantage at the first change.
The Australians would again come out firing to begin the second term, with some nice work from Melbourne setting up Olivia Pollerd for a three pointer to trim the margin to one, before some more excellent team play saw Australia capture the lead with six minutes remaining to half time.
This however, would see the Americans once again click into gear, as they did what all great sides do and closed the quarter out brilliantly with a 12-2 to take a comfortable 36-28 lead into the main break.
With the game up for grabs heading into the third term, the reigning champions took the opportunity to flex their muscles, tightening up their defence and improving their offence to put on another nine unanswered points to extend the out to 19 midway through the stanza before the Gems narrowly trimmed it to 17 come the final change.
Playing for pride in the final term, the Gems showed their never say die attitude by not letting the USA extend the lead any further, with a 70-52 final score line indicating a brave performance from the Australian team.
A crucial reason as to why Australia got to their second successive U19 World Cup title match, Melbourne did all she could to will her team across the line against the star studded US – registering a gallant seven points, five rebounds and four assists.
Despite the unfortunate finish however, the tournament was filled with highlights for the Latrobe Valley point guard, dropping 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the Quarter Final against Canada, 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists in a semi-final win against Mali and 19 points, three rebounds and five assists in the tournament opener against Egypt.
Her consistency, tenacity and ability to come up with clutch buckets were highlights of her game throughout the tournament, as she served as a real leader for the Gems team who grew as the competition wore on.
Melbourne was joined in the U19 FIBA World Cup All Star Five by American duo Caitlin Clark and Sonia Citron, Hungarian Julia Boros and Mali’s Sika Kone.