Lethal Leary claims silver with WA
Albany basketballer Matt Leary has helped WA return from the Australian junior championships with a silver medal, playing a vital role as a member of his side’s starting five at the tournament in Canberra.
WA went through their pool games undefeated before thrashing South Australia in the quarterfinals and then booking a place in the gold medal match with a semifinal victory over NSW.
Leary was the dominant force in his side’s 18-point win over NSW to progress to the grand final, finishing with a game-high 28 points along with four assists and three rebounds.
In the gold medal decider, WA were left to rue a disappointing second term before storming back into the contest in the second half as they won both the third and fourth quarters.
Victoria held firm, however, as they kept WA at bay to win by seven points and claim gold.
Leary played 25 minutes in the decider and finished with five points, four rebounds and two assists as WA fell short 69-76.
After being a late call-up to the WA side, originally named as a reserve, Leary was a starting-five member in all seven games and averaged 9.29 points a game and 4.4 rebounds.
“I hurt my elbow in December, which set me back for six weeks when all the training was happening,” Leary said.
“So I missed out when the team was picked but two weeks before we went away, one of the boys knocked his teeth out in a nasty collision at training and I got the call-up.
“Four of our starting five have represented Australia in junior ranks and I ended up starting in every game.
“I didn’t need to have a massive offensive impact because of the guys we had but I just tried to take the opportunity with both hands.
“The semi against NSW was a bit surreal — I’d never beaten them at national level and I think the quarters we really hit our straps and that was the turning point in the week for us.”
The 19-year-old played in the State Basketball League for the South West Slammers last season and will join East Perth Eagles this year.
Leary hopes his performances at the national under-20 championships and another strong SBL could push him towards a potential development position with the Perth Wildcats.
“I’ve moved to Perth and will have the SBL season with East Perth,” he said.
“Adam Forde is involved there and he’s a major assistant with the Wildcats.
“Hopefully I can get some momentum in the SBL season.
“I don’t have a set-in-stone goal apart from getting to the highest level possible and possibly push towards a development position with the Wildcats.”
WA under-20 men’s coach Matt Parsons was full of praise for Leary.
“He was fantastic, even after that original setback of missing out,” Parsons said.
“He maintained that level of commitment and training. We needed that hard-nosed defender as the tournament grew and he played a pretty invaluable role in the end. His performances have put colleges in action for him and (it) opens a lot of doors going forward.”
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