From Traralgon to the Oceania Cup

Impact: Traralgon's Ben Waller made his way into the Australian team after being named as an emergency for the Oceania Cup. Photograph supplied




BASKETBALL appears to be the talk of the town recently, and it isn’t slowing down just yet, as another local continues to rise through the ranks.

Seventeen-year-old Ben Waller has progressively made a name for himself, continually stepping onto bigger and better stages to display his talent.

It has been a whirlwind last few months for the Traralgon teenager, who has been presented with a number of opportunities, grasping them all with open arms.

It all began when he was called up as an emergency for the FIBA Oceania Cup, with the opportunity to represent Australia at the Under 17s level in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

“It was a massive honour to be able to represent my country for my chosen sport. I really just couldn’t believe that I’d received the opportunity and that I was there,” he said.

“Being able to travel internationally to go play basketball – I was just really stoked about that.”

Australia faced the likes of Guam, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and New Zealand.

Australia played four games, winning most with relative ease. Their closest was a 12-point win over New Zealand on Gameday 3.

The Aussie youngsters smashed Guam 143-24 on Gameday 1, then Samoa 120-63 on Gameday 2.

“I got called up as an emergency, so unfortunately, I only got to play in … three (games) all up.

Waller arrived for Gameday 3 in the win against New Zealand, featuring for five minutes.

Australia’s final group game against Papua New Guinea was another walk in the park, beating the hosts 149-38.

Waller was one of eight players to score double digit points, with 14 to his name, he also recorded five rebounds and two assists.

Australia were clear favourites to win the tournament from there, going four from four, facing New Zealand once again in the final game of the series.

As expected, they secured the Gold, winning 96-49.

Waller recorded eight points and five rebounds in the win, collecting his first Gold medal, doing so on the international stage.

Coming into the squad as an emergency halfway through the competition, Waller needed to be able to adapt instantly.

He flew up individually, joining the team and moulding with them in between games. Thankfully he was already acquainted with some players.

“I definitely felt like I had to take a step forward in my personal development,” he said.

In the midst of winning Gold overseas, Waller was also throwing his hat in the ring to be selected for the Victorian team that will compete at the Australian National Championships next February.

“Unfortunately, I was only able to go to one of the try outs because they were placed when I away in Port Moresby,” Waller said.

“I got a call from the head coach, Nathan Cooper-Brown, and he just offered me the position in the team and spoke about the exciting team.”

The Australian National Championships displays the best young talent under the age of 20 from around the country, which will be a fresh experience for Waller.

“So, this is my first year in the Under 20s age bracket, it should be bigger bodies, more physical, a lot of skill and talent,” he said.

Waller was selected to be a part of one of the two Victoria squads – Victoria Navy – to compete at the championships in mid-February 2024.

The cherry on top was the opportunity to train with NBL1 side Casey Cavaliers, to further develop his game during the busy schedule he is set to face.

“It’s kind of like a development player role, where I get called up to train once a week and be a part of the program, see what the training is like and develop my own game,” Waller said.

Once again, it will be another step up for Waller, with the ability to train with people of all ages in the open-age team.

“I think a lot of them have experience and they can mentor me in different situations and skills,” Waller added.

“But also, I think the physicality, due to them being grown men, I think it’s gonna be a big step in how I go against bigger bodies.”

Waller will continue to be busy with basketball in the new year, with the Under 18 Asia Cup tryouts coming up.

He will once again be in the mix to represent his country, which he finds to be one of the most rewarding.

In the meantime, Waller continues to train with his local club as well as the Cavaliers, attempting to put his best foot forward it what will be at important period in his career.