WITH a name synonymous with hoops, Kobe Mansell was only ever going to be a basketball player.
Dominant in the same position as future Los Angeles Lakers hall of famer Kobe Bryant has been for the last 15 years, Mansell shone at shooting guard for his NSW Kookaburras under 14 side at the 2014 Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup, guiding the Blues to second.
In the process, the dynamic guard earned a place in the 16-man Australian Country squad set to tour New Zealand over Easter.
It’s a dream come true for the quietly spoken 13-year-old.
And with the standard of basketball set to reach new levels across the ditch, Mansell believes the toughest part of the tour will be acclimatising to the foreign playing conditions.
“The different courts and a different country,” Mansell fired when asked what the toughest part of the looming overseas tour will be.
“They’ll all probably be bigger too.”
Size, however, didn’t seem to phase Mansell too much at the Australian country Junior Basketball Cup staged in Albury.
Competing in pool two of the under 14 boys championship, the NSW Kookaburras and Mansell got their 2014 campaign off to the best possible start with a win over WA Country in their first clash before edging the Victoria Bushrangers 76-64.
The Kookaburras then suffered back-to-back defeats against New Zealand (52-50) and South Australia Sharks (63-42) before bouncing back in style with a 54-44 triumph over the Tasmania Platypus to finish the pool stages third.
Mansell and NSW then beat the NSW Waratahs 59-38 in the quarter-finals, snuck past WA Country for the second time, 61-54, in the semi-finals before eventually falling 75-55 to a dominant SA Sharks in the final.
Mansell scored 13 points in the final against the Sharks, not a bad effort up against one South Australian player measuring six foot, three inches.
Labelling his performance at the championship as “pretty good”, the Orange product said his toughest opponent was South Australia, the cup’s eventual champions.
Mansell is one of five Blues in the Australian Country team, but impressively is the only NSW player west of the Blue Mountains to make the cut.
The tour will start at the end of April.