MOLLYMOOK Beach’s Ziad El Tobgy has taken a massive step towards achieving his dream of becoming a professional basketball player, after starring at the recent NSW Country Development Tournament in Newcastle.
El Tobgy, 15, was selected to attend this four-day development tour in January, following a three-day selection camp in September.
“The trials were extremely gruelling and the drills were incredibly challenging,” El Tobgy said.
“The top players from across the state were selected to attend the tournament, from several hundred players who tried out.”
While in Newcastle, El Tobgy, who can play both guard positions, went through rigorous training sessions with elite coaches as well as playing in multiple games each day.
“My team won three out of five games we played,” he said.
“The aim of the tournament was player development rather than taking home a trophy.
“As such, the quality and skill level of each team was about equal.
“On a personal note, the calibre of playing was the highest I have ever experienced.
“Every player was highly skilled in different ways.
“I was thrilled with how well I played – I was able to implement my strengths, particularly shooting and scoring.
“I also had the opportunity to showcase my offensive ability against giant powerhouse defensive players.
“It reinforced for me that basketball is just as much a mental game as a physical game.
“You constantly have to remember plays and where you have to be on the court.
“If you’re playing good basketball, you should be mentally drained at the end of a game.”
El Tobgy, who first started playing basketball in Egypt aged eight when his Teta (grandmother) took him to the local sporting club, ranks this tour as the greatest achievement of his career to date.
“I’ve been training so hard for so long; to finally get recognised by elite high-level coaches is an achievement in itself for me,” he said.
“People often overlook small town country players from small clubs.
“But that just makes me more motivated to prove them wrong every day.
“It is a huge stepping stone in my basketball career and was an amazing opportunity to develop my game and get myself in front of the coaches.”
The year 10 student at Ulladulla High, who credits Milton Ulladulla Basketball Association coach Cath Hewitt for getting him to where he is today, hopes this is just the start of greater things to come for him on the hardwood.
“The representative season starts next month, so I am focusing on our team dynamics as we prepare for the upcoming Southern Junior League season,” he said.
“I have also received a basketball scholarship to the Illawarra Academy of Sport in Wollongong, so that will also be a primary focus for me this year.
“I am training with Illawarra Hawks point guard Rhys Martin.
“I am 100 per cent committed to having a professional basketball career.
“My focus is on being the best shooter and scorer wherever I am.
“I just want to keep working hard and improving every day.
“I know what I want and I know what I need to do to get there.
“This game is such a huge part of who I am.”
Following his playing career, El Tobgy wants to open an orphanage for street kids in Egypt, as well as conducting basketball camps.