31 December, 2022
Mitch one slam dunk away from national league
A TOTAL of 27 athletes from across Australia travelled to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra to compete in the Frank Ponta Cup (FPC), including 18-year-old Woodford-based basketballer Mitchell Duncan.
The Frank Ponta cup provides an intense four-day camp environment for learning and development, and two days of competition.
The FBC was introduced in 2010 to acknowledge a member of Australia’s first wheelchair basketball team, Francis Ettore Ponta who heavily contributed to the growth of the sport.
Mitchell, who has just completed year 12 at Tullawong State High School, said whilst the FPC was a competition it was more about developing his skills and learning new things from the coaches as he prepares for the Queensland Spinning Bullets National League Team pre-season trials next year.
After receiving a scholarship with the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) last year, Mitchell has been training with the Queensland Spinning Bullets National League Team once a week, but expects the number of sessions to increase in the New Year following his participation in the FBC.
He said that last year he just missed out on securing a position on the team, but was grateful to have still been able to train with them.
“I just didn’t have the strength last year,” Mitchell said.
“But hopefully I can make the squad this year.
“I’m doing everything I can.
“It’s just all about learning the mental side of the game.”
Mitchell said that his coaches have really emphasised having a long-term perspective, as the prime age for basketball athletes is 30.
“I’ve just got to be patient and wait for the right opportunity and when that comes, taking it as best as I can,” he said.
Currently, Mitchell does two gym sessions a week – one with QAS and one at home – as well as a lot of conditioning, such as hill climbs and swimming.
When he first started high school, Mitchell actually took to swimming and started playing basketball as cross-training.
After falling in love with the team sport, Mitchell said it “felt natural to take that up”.
“I love the team environment,” he said.
“It’s a good feeling to know you don’t need to worry about your disability.
“As soon as they (the other players) get in a chair, they’re on my terms.”
Mitchell said basketball gives him so much freedom and makes him forget about his disability.
“(Playing) becomes almost like a drug.
“You want that feeling of freedom.”
The Suncoast Spinners Wheelchair Basketball Tournament 2023 is set to be held at Caloundra from January 13-15, which in the past has seen players from all across Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia come to compete.
This competition is important for Mitchell because if he performs well, it will put him “a good position for getting into the National League Team”.
He said that whilst his end goal is to compete at the 2032 Olympics, his aim for now is to compete at the Junior Worlds tournament in two years.
“I’m going to train week in and week out.”
This year, Mitchell said his proudest achievement was earning silver at the Kevin Coombs Cup, a national tournament held at Ballarat in April.
He hopes to turn that into gold in 2023.
Apart from basketball, Mitch said he is also passionate about business after studying the subject at high school and he plans to attend university in 2024.