Basketball legend Patty Mills has launched the Indigenous Community Basketball League (ICBL), a pathway to success for the next generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

Directed towards kids under 14, the competition will run across eight locations in Australia, with Mills’ home the Torres Strait Islands scheduled to host the first round on February 7.

ICBL is the first competition aimed at engaging and empowering undiscovered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

The program will begin at a grassroots level and provide a platform for aspiring players to progress into Australian basketball leagues, Australian national basketball teams and teams across the world.

NBA champion, three-time Olympian and proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man Patty Mills founded the league with the intention of building upon the programs delivered by Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA). The IBA’s current programs are centred on the core principles of culture, education, health, safety and wellbeing.

Mills said for him, the true outcome of his personal success has been in continuing his efforts as a community leader and his family’s legacy of providing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“What we will do with the IBA programs and competitions has never been done before and is the first of its kind in this country’s sporting environment,” he said.

“It’s game-changing and we’re creating history.”

Mills said the decision to direct the programs at the under-14 age group was because early adolescence years are crucial for a child’s cognitive, emotional and social development.

“Our complementary programs throughout the competitions of IBA will support these kids and their communities in embracing their culture and unlocking one’s full potential in an environment that is safe and free from any discrimination,” he said.

“We want to give them the best possible chance to succeed. As we grow, we will expand to more regions and more age groups.”

The motivational sessions that will accompany the weekly competitions are unique to the program. Role models and motivational speakers will share their stories of setting and achieving goals.

Tyson Demos, Head of Basketball at the IBA, said the benefits of the ICBL will be felt in many ways.

“It will give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth a chance to participate in basketball, a team sport that is well-loved, while also being inspired and mentored by positive role models,” he said.

“Many of these kids may not normally have access to these opportunities which is why the IBA program is critical, it will help build their self-confidence but also equip them with important life skills such as setting and owning goals, accountability and resilience.

“Our ultimate goal with the programs and competitions is to engage, champion and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in a safe and positive environment and give them every opportunity to be successful, in whatever they choose to do.”

Each player competing in the ICBL will automatically be in the running for selection to represent their region and represent their state at the National Indigenous Basketball Tournament on Queensland’s Gold Coast in April.

Learn more about the Indigenous Community Basketball League here.

By Darby Ingram