High school games against teams from a different part of the state of Texas are fairly rare, and contests against squads from other states are rarer still.
So it’s a pretty special occasion when a Waxahachie team plays somebody from an entirely different country.
On Friday evening, the Lady Indians will say “G’day mate” to the Aussie Basketball Travellers. There may not be any shrimps on the barbie at Mike Turner Gymnasium, but there will be plenty of local hospitality as the varsity game tips off at 7 p.m.
Lady Indians first-year head coach Ashlaa Zuniga previously taught and coached at Cypress Fairbanks, near Houston, and while she was there, her school hosted an Australian traveling team. So when the chance to do the same at WHS came up, she seized upon it.
“Usually around this time, when they’re getting ready for the Olympics and the Junior Olympics, they come to the United States and play teams,” Zuniga said. “So I saw that a team was looking for a game, and it worked out that they had a date available and we had a date available. So I’m excited that our kids will get to experience that. I know it’ll be very competitive and it’ll be a great experience for our kids.”
Waxahachie High School will allow the Australian girls to come to class with the Lady Indians and interact with them throughout the day Friday, and the two teams will have a dinner together the following night, Zuniga said.
“We made this a big event for our kids because I think, yes, you play basketball and that’s what were here to do, but it’s so much bigger than that,” Zuniga said. “I want them to be able to experience what it’s like to have interactions with people who are (from) a different part of the world.”
Aussie Basketball Travellers was founded in 1999 by David Greenberg, an American-born coach and former player who now resides down under. Because the University Interscholastic League allows games against international teams who are age-eligible, the Lone Star State has become a frequent destination for their teams.
In fact, in 2016, on Ellis County schedules, Aussie teams seemed almost as common as bluebonnets on a Texas roadside. The WHS Runnin’ Indians took on Sydney’s Newington College, losing 63-52; and Red Oak played the same team that year, falling by three. Also three years ago, Life Waxahachie beat Melbourne’s Box Hill Academy in a tournament in Hillsboro.
More recently, Midlothian Heritage’s boys played in the Caprock Classic in Lubbock in which Australian teams also competed during the Christmas 2017 holiday.
Coming to the States to play is of course a learning experience for the visitors from down under. But the same is true for the hosts as they learn about a culture that speaks the same language but is different. And in the end, both get to play what should be a very competitive game.
“We may be separated by a lot of miles, but basketball is basketball, no matter where you are,” Zuniga said.