By Jackson Russell
Basketball clubs across Victoria have had to send their import players home after the Big V season was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Whittlesea Pacers imports Francis Kiapway and I’mani Davis have returned home while Saule Kontautaite resides in Melbourne.
Wallan Panthers import Sharif Black was given the choice to return to the United States by the club but elected to stay in Wallan.
Wallan president Gary O’Brien said the Panthers were one of the few clubs to retain their import.
“We gave him the choice of going home, he chose to stay and now we’ve got to work out different arrangements so he can stay financially stable,” he said.
“Sharif’s engaged really well with the community and I think that’s encouraged him to ride it out.
“For us, it’s about looking for ways to support him. He wants to stay in Australia and keep teaching kids where he can and ride it out so when basketball starts, he can still be here for it.”
Whittlesea Pacers women’s coach Damon Lowery said there was no point keeping Davis and Kiapway while the season was delayed.
“It was best to send them home with their families, they wanted to do that as well,” he said.
“We were very fortunate this year, Francis and I’mani are fantastic, they were so active with our juniors.
“We want to bring them both back next season and pick up where we left off with those two.”
All of the Pacers’ imports participated in development programs and individual training with the club’s juniors and created online lessons to keep juniors practicing.
“They were young and enthusiastic, they were like coaches. They just wanted to give back so we were really fortunate to have those two,” Lowery said.
“I’ve spoken to both and told them we’ll run it back when the season gets underway next year.”