Austin Shelley may still be in the early stages of his basketball pursuits, but what he lacks in age he is making up for in ambition.
“I would like to be one of those Australian players that kids can look up to,” Shelley said. “I want to show them that it's not about how many state teams you make or what junior teams you are in, but rather, how committed you are to getting better and improving your game that makes you the player you are.”
When you think of up-and-coming Victorian basketballers, the Shelley family are sure to come to mind. With three of four of the Shelley siblings making names for themselves as competitive basketball athletes across the world, Austin said a life shaped by the sport was inevitable.
"My family have probably been one of, if not the biggest influence in my passion for basketball,” said Shelley.
“With us all being heavily involved in the sport, I have been around it my whole life and seeing my siblings succeed in their own careers has influenced me in trying to achieve my own goals in the sport.”
Shelley grew up playing most of his juniors with Dandenong Basketball Association, before rounding out his junior days in the Under-18's team and Big V Youth League at Pakenham.
As his time came to a close with Pakenham, he looked for a new basketball community to grow with and contribute to.
Knox was his clear choice.
“After my time at Pakenham I came to Knox to play Youth League and test myself in the highest division to see if I could really compete with others at the level,” said Shelley.
“Knox is really big on culture, which is what drew me in. They want the senior program to be one unit that represents the club, setting a standard for the younger age groups,
“Having this responsibility as part of the senior program is big for me as it helps me to improve myself, on and off the court, as well as influencing the younger kids at the club to do the same.”
Now a key contributor to the association’s Big V squad, upholding a sense of reliability and consistency, Shelley is taking the next steps in his athletic abilities, having recently committed to play college basketball in the U.S. with West Texas, A&M.
With his older brother Luke having played in Europe, U.S. and now the Big V, and his sister Jaz announced in the 2021 Australian Opals squad, Austin feels he can take some of their learnings and apply them to his story.
“It's been great having a family that is so invested in basketball and committing to West Texas might be my greatest achievement so far,” he said.
“College has been a dream of mine for a long time and West Texas just seemed like a great fit to make the jump. They just made the championship game in the National Division Two tournament and their style really suits my game.
“Having Jaz and Luke succeed in their own areas of the sport has allowed me to kind of use them as a blueprint to how I can go about achieving my own goals, especially with trying to go to college as they have both gone themselves,
“I plan on going over there and learning as much as I can from the coaches and older players, as well as hopefully carving out a great college career for myself in the process.”
While Shelley’s siblings may have helped him to pave the way for the success he is sure to have, he said there’s one individual who has been by his side for the entire basketball ride.
"Without a doubt, my nan is my number one supporter,
“She's always up to date with what's going on with my basketball and congratulating me for my achievements and cheering me up when things don't fall my way.”
Before Shelley takes his place on the West Texas college stage, his eyes are fixed on a championship with Knox’s VYCM in the Big V 2021 competition.
“I've been really impressed with our team since the start of preseason,” he said.
“Even now with the season starting, we've come in focused and ready to play, which has helped us start off well. I think with the team we have we should win the whole thing, no doubt, and as for myself, I just want to help us do that in any capacity necessary.”
With everything Austin Shelley and his family are expecting from the future of his basketball triumphs, there’s one moment he looks back on and thank for what it did to him as a person.
"I keep coming back to the end of the School Sport Australia National Championship I competed in a few years back,
“That tournament was the first time I had represented my state for basketball, and it felt like the first time I really showed what I could do against some of the top players in the state and country,
“Just the feeling of knowing that I can compete and succeed against those types of guys was a really big confidence boost for me and has motivated me to keep working - so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Austin Shelley had to answer these five questions as fast as she could. How did he go?
Go to post match snack? Muesli Bar
Current song on repeat? Lemon pepper freestyle - Drake
Best dad joke? I'm going to be honest. I don't have one hahah.
Netflix choice? Last Chance U
Finish the sentence – nothing is better than.... Knox Raiders winning the chip!