By Warren Yiu
Meet 20 year old, Martin Bleeker.
Martin grew up in Merrylands, a suburb 25kms west of Sydney.
Reaching a long and lean 6'9", Martin fell in love with basketball when he was in year 10 at high school.
Never in a million years did he think back then that he would be offered a scholarship to play college basketball in the USA.
"Back then at about 17 years of age, even playing in the UBL was just a dream".
But playing ball at the highest level was something he quietly imagined, as he would turn up to practice after practice, and spent the next four years learning how to move, run, jump and transform his body to the rhythm of our sport.
"In the very back of my mind, I knew I had work to do."
And work hard he did. And slowly but surely, Martin listened, learned and integrated the skills necessary to compete at the highest level. In 2013 Martin played in his first UBL Summer League, an off-season tournament which attracts some very talented senior players from the NSW leagues. This was a great learning experience for Martin.
Martin turned up to every practice. Even the 6:00am ones on a Saturday morning. And even after enduring a 6 month absence from the academy in early 2014, when an incident at practice left him with a broken tibia and fibular, he returned with even more determination to get back in form.
Whilst working on a quick recovery, Martin also faced great adversity as his family life called him to step up through some challenging times.
And step up Martin sure did, whilst still managing to secure a scholarship with the Chargers at Briar Cliff University in Iowa, USA.
"It's been a tough year but the support around me has been brilliant, family, friends, hoops for health, it's been amazing. That's the reason I'm here!"
When asked how he is feeling only a few days into his new adventure, Martin replied,
"It's really cool, the coach here sounds like a swell guy. These 4 years are gonna be such a memorable experience and I want to make it the best memories ever. I want to go the distance I know is the furthest I can reach in my basketball career. If I've pushed myself to the peak then I'm happy."
Martin will spend the next year as a freshman and will compete in the Division 1 NAIA.
All the best Martin, we are so proud of you!
The school holidays will be extra special for three basketball teams.
The 30-strong group of 17's and under women's squad, a senior womens squad and a youth men's team will travel to New Zealand on September 29 for a basketball tour hosted by Hoops for Health.
Hoops for Health owner and coach Emma Bramston, 34, said the tour was a development opportunity for the young players.
"Although most of the players are from Parramatta Basketball Association, it was open to anyone that wanted to develop as a player and get some experience playing against New Zealand," she said.
"They play differently to here. They still play hard, but they have such a respect for the game, they really play in the spirit of the game.
"They have such a rich culture of people caring about people, I think that comes through."
The teams will be staying together in maraes and competing in tournaments and exhibition matches in Whangarei, Auckland, Gisbourne and Rotorua.
Ploy Sananpa, 14, of Auburn, can't wait to take on the kiwis.
"It will be different to here because we aren't that physical, but in New Zealand the players are very physical and very tough."
Bernadette Makhlouf, 30, of Waterloo, went on the same tour last year.
"For a lot of us it was the first time experiencing the culture, especially by staying in the marae," she said.
"Staying in the marae means you get to know each other a bit better and can support each other. We eat, sleep and drink basketball."
To follow the 2013 Teams on their NZ Tour, like our page on Facebook.
For more details about the Hoops for Health NZ Tours please click here.
Article Reads; About 60 young basketballers spent three days running off extra energy and learning new skills at a basketball development camp at Auburn Basketball Centre.
Run by Hoops for Health owner and coach Emma Bramston, the players, aged between five and 13, exhausted themselves on drills before putting their skills to the test in afternoon games.
"What amazed me was how they just kept going," Bramston said.
"The drills and stuff were quite intense, but they got to play at the end of the day, so they got to see those skills come out quickly in the game time.
They were happy to play to the very end and stayed back and kept playing. The parents would be trying to drag them out."
On Friday the clinic had a special visit from Sydney Kings guard James Harvey. "He was so good with the kids. He was really calm, a real people person." Bramston said.
"He talked to the kids about playing at the highest and what's required. It reinforced what the coach had been telling them throughout the day."
Players were split into two groups. Beginners focused on the fundamentals, basic movements and finished with the modified game of RunBall.
The intermediates played a more intensive game, where they were expected to make mistakes as they played to speed.
Bramston said four players from Lidcombe Public, Berala Public and St John's Auburn schools were given sports awards to let them come to the camp for free.
"The main intention is to give children in our local community an opportunity to participate in sport outside of school." she said.
For more information including details for our next Holiday Camp please click here
'Offering some tips and encouragement to young basketballers, James Harvey from the Sydney Kings dropped by on the final day of the Hoops for Health basketball camp at the Auburn Basketball Centre on Friday'
Hoops for Health are once again invited to the Eastern Suburbs these July School Holidays delivering 3, two-hour basketball sessions as part of Waverley Council's extensive Winter Holiday Program.
Hoops for Health are pleased to facilitate the 'Basketball Basics' sessions for 6-8 years of age and a 'Skills and Drills' session for 9-13 years of age.
Our programmes are designed to support the development of basketball fundamentals including ball-handling, passing, footwork and shooting.
Each session includes game time where participants enjoy their learning experience whilst playing our super fun modified game called 'RunBall'.
All sessions are held at the Margaret Whitlam Recreation Centre (Indoor Sports Court)
Waverley Park, Bondi Rd, Bondi Junction. (see map below)
Ph: 9389 5010
Basketball Basics (6-8 yrs)
Date: Tuesday 2nd July
Time: 2.00pm - 4.00pm
Basketball Basics (6-8 yrs)
Date: Monday 8th July
Time: 10.30am - 12.30pm
Skills & Drills Basketball (9-13 yrs)
Date: Tuesday 2nd July
Time: 10.30am - 12.30pm
Places in these sessions are limited Bookings open on Thursday 20th June
by contacting MCA Ticketing
phone: 1300 306 776
For programme information please contact Hoops for Health by clicking here.
Auburn Review 23rd April, 2013
PLAYERS from the Sydney Kings handed out advice, tips and encouragement to young basketballers at a Hoops for Health school holiday camp at the Auburn Basketball Centre last week.
One young player even managed to win a shoot-off against Kings player James Harvey.
Auburn Review 9th April, 2013
EMMA Bramston is passionate about basketball.
A member of the Parramatta Wildcats senior women's team, the 33-year-old also runs Hoops For Health, a company providing a pathway of coaching and programs for the development of basketball skills at the grass-roots level.
"We are particularly focussed on our younger generation participating in sport, especially children six to 12 years of age," Bramston said.
"I have been playing basketball my entire life, I just love it.
"I have been coaching for 15 or so years. I just love kids and any kid who can have a sport around them is the most supportive thing I can imagine.
"Apart from providing the children with opportunities to be active and improve coordination, our programs promote social interaction, improve teamwork skills and increase self confidence as the kids foster their own sense of love for sport and recreation."
Bramston also thanked Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club who have been supportive of their programs.
She said that during the upcoming school holidays, Hoops for Health is running camps at the Auburn Basketball Centre from 9am to 3pm from Wednesday, April 17, to Friday, April 19.
Guest players from the Sydney Kings will also help the children work on their skills with each participant receiving a free T-shirt and ball.
The Parramatta Advertiser 26th March, 2013
AUSTRALIA'S future basketball stars are being developed in Lidcombe,
thanks to a creative new program.
Hoops for Health was started in 2011, with the aim of targeting athletes from the grassroots through to high performance representatives.
Owner and coach Emma Bramston, 33, said the main targets were children aged six to 12, who they worked with through a modified basketball game called RunBall.
"It teaches the kids really general concepts of basketball without complexity," she said.
"It's really fun; any kid can pick it up and play. It's something that can be run in schools and done straight away."
The company also runs high performance sessions for beginners, intermediates and elite athletes at Auburn Basketball Centre on weekends and runs school holiday camps.
Bronwyn Lewis, of Toongabbie, said her daughter Angel Cassidy, 10, started playing after her friend Moana "Moey" Tuala, 8, encouraged her to attend.
"It's good for fitness and got them moving without thinking it's fitness," she said.
"She's playing at zone level for school and started playing rep this year for under 12."
For the girls, playing is just about having fun.
"We get to learn things and it's good for your body," Moey said.
"At first I wasn't really sure, but when I got started I really liked it and I am getting better every week," Angel said.
A collection of our young company's growth in the community