NBL legends and former Illawarra Hawks teammates Glen Saville and Mat Campbell have seen their basketball journey come full circle as their children compete in the Under 14 nationals – the same competition the pair competed in in 1989.
Saville is head coach of the Hawks Under 14 boys team, while Campbell is assistant coach of the Hawks Under 14 girls, which will both compete in the Under 14 Club Championships in Melbourne from 24 September.
Saville’s son Riley and Campbell’s daughter Sarah are playing in the Under 14s teams, which is the only age group that has Australian club championships.
But the competition is a familiar one for the pair, who played together as teenagers for Bendigo.
“Mat and I, funnily enough, went to it in 1989,” Saville said.
“We raised all this money because it was supposed to be in Devonport (Tasmania), but Ansett had an airline strike.
“No one could get down there, and they had all these teams flying from all over the country, so they moved it to Albert Park in Melbourne.
“So we’d raised all this money and we only had to now drive from Bendigo to Melbourne. We lived like kings.
“I mean some of the tournaments we went to, we stayed in tents.
“We rolled into Melbourne with all this money to spend and we stayed in these four-star apartment buildings with spas and pools.
“We’re like, ‘Oh, man, this is unreal.’”
Saville recalled they placed about 10th, but admitted he had good memories of that time.
“We’re going through the fundraising phase of it ourselves,” he said of the current Under 14 teams.
“I remember our parents going through it, too.
“Speaking of what goes around comes around, I just remember we had this massive trailer full of the big raffle prizes of a mower and all this hardware stuff.
“I remember my dad in his Kingswood driving it into the mall, and we parked it, and we’d be standing there selling raffle tickets and just the amount of effort that was put into doing it.”
He recalls one of the mums making the team outfits.
“We had jackets and tracksuit pants – she made our entire playing uniform,” he said.
“We rocked acid wash jeans.
“When we walked out, we all had the same shoes on – we were all wearing pumps and the acid wash jeans and the jackets.”
He said he wasn’t getting acid wash jeans or their ’80s haircuts past the boys this year.
“I put crap on Riley, my son, that when he runs around the basketball court, he looks like a baby giraffe,” he said, laughing.
“That was my short memory because that’s exactly what I was like.
“If you ask Mat, ‘What was Sav like when he played under 14s?’, ‘Well, he couldn’t control his arms and legs’.
“I was the most awkward-looking kid you’ve ever seen.”
He said the Bendigo team was the start of a long journey together for him and Campbell.
“I guess it’s pretty rare in a way, because I left to go to the Institute of Sport for two years and then Mat stayed in Bendigo.
“But then he made a big move – it’s like what I did going from the Hawks to the (Sydney) Kings being a big no-no – he went from Bendigo to Ballarat to play.
“It was like the crosstown rivals.
“I came to Wollongong to play (for the Hawks) in ’95 and then the coach, Alan Black, went to coach Sydney and they hired a new coach, which was Brendan Joyce from Ballarat, who was Mat’s coach.
“When Joyce came to sign on as coach from ’96, he brought Mat up with him and then Mat and I became teammates.”
The pair played their junior basketball from under 14s to 18s, state basketball, and Australian championships together.
“I would imagine we have maybe a duo game record that might not ever be broken,” he said.
“I think it goes myself and Mat, and then Andrew Gaze and Lanard Copeland.”
Campbell is still heavily involved in the Hawks as head of basketball operations.
“I obviously went on to have a different career, but how we made our way back to basketball is we both coach with the (Illawarra) Academy of Sport as well.
“It’s a pretty interesting story from that perspective and our ability to put something back into the sport locally now.”
Now gearing up for the nationals in September, he expected the girls team would perform well after winning the state championships by 20 points.
“They’re easily our best team in the state, because they finished top and they didn’t lose all season,” he said.
While the boys didn’t perform as well at the state level, they made it through the four-tournament competition to make the nationals.
“You watch these kids in Under 14s and I don’t remember us being that athletic and our skills being like that,” he said.
“It seems like basketball has gone, particularly in our country, to a pretty good level.”
The Under 14 Club Championships will be held in Melbourne from 24-29 September.