By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Earn or learn.
That’s the advice being given to Red Roo’s irrepressible team of basketballers about to hit Casey Stadium this weekend.
Coach and director James Kerr instills a work ethic to the young men who have won a swag of national titles.
He implores his charges to enrol in study or work a job. And he’s urging his older players get their driving licences and gain independence.
“You’ve got to get to work or actively look for work. That’s part of being on the team.”
He has personally invested his time and resources into the team based at HOOPS 24/7 Dandenong over the past four years.
Now he’s helping some players find that valuable foot-in-the-door to their first job.
He tells them to be leaders and help turn around the “negative press” surrounding the South Sudanese community.
“It’s part of your community. You’ve got to say it cannot be tolerated – you can put a stop to it and help to do it on the basketball court.”
In the meantime, the club has grown to 50 players spanning five teams – Under 16s to Open Mens. They’re a tight-knit and successful team.
At the recent South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association titles, the Under 20s team won Red Roo yet another trophy.
The Under 18s came runners-up.
Mr Kerr said his program – and its success – could be replicated and expanded across Melbourne as a cost-effective way of engaging young men.
Despite making overtures to Victoria Police and Greater Dandenong Council, Mr Kerr has been unable to get their support.
“With all the money that the Government has spent trying to tackle anti-social behaviour, what has it solved?”
Mr Kerr said there was demand for Red Roo to start an Under 14s team but for a lack of available courts.
His dream is for the team – with the support of benefactors – is to give the players the best opportunity.
“There are a lot of players who want to play basketball but can’t get into the mainstream system. It’s the registration, uniform and transport costs.
“Parents don’t have the resources. You know what it costs to live in Melbourne!”
Red Roo plays Casey Cavaliers in Under 16s and Under 18s games at Casey Stadium, 65 Berwick-Cranbourne Road, Cranbourne on Sunday, 18 February from 2pm.