MICHAEL RITCHIE’S passion for basketball was always going to lead him to join the Colac Kookas in the Country Basketball League.
The 25-year-old Colac point guard has followed the sport since taking it up as a junior – discovering NBA powerhouse Boston Celtics as a teenager only fuelled the fire.
The team – whose logo Ritchie has tattooed on his arm – even lured him to America for a three-week trip touring some of the world’s elite basketball venues including Staples Centre, TD Garden and Madison Square Garden.
“I’ve been following the Celtics since I was about 13, one of my brother’s mates lent me a Larry Bird DVD and I’ve been into it ever since,” Ritchie said.
“I just love the club – they’ve got good players, I always follow them through the playoffs because they’re just good to watch,” he said.
The overseas trip, combined with joining the Kookas in their inaugural season last year, inspired Ritchie to better his basketball.
He played every game in season 2009-10 and continues to play his role in the current Kookas’ push for their first finals campaign.
“I just wanted the chance to play some better basketball, help improve my game and meet a few new people from the other Colac teams,” Ritchie said.
“It’s helped heaps – learning to come off screens and cut and get better ball movement around the court,” he said.
“It’s just been the fact that we’re getting regular training, having a few game plans and playing alongside experienced guys like Matty Lucas and Juddy Williamson.”
Ritchie returns to the Kookas along with teenage centre Shaun Dell, who overcame an ankle injury, for the club’s final CBL clash of the year.
The Kookas will make a three-and-a-half-hour road trip to take on the Horsham Hornets at Horsham Basketball Stadium tomorrow night.
The team will hope to return to the winners’ list after losing its past two games, despite missing regulars Matt O’Dowd, Matt Williamson and Michael Neave.