Basketball center could have future in unique sport

Photo by Carly Fristoe<br>Stanislas Heili attempts to block the shot of Missouri Aouthern's Charlie Brown last season.

Photo by Carly Fristoe
Stanislas Heili attempts to block the shot of Missouri Aouthern's Charlie Brown last season.

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Walker Van Wey | Reporter
May 5, 2016; 2:30 p.m.

Photo by Carly FristoeStanislas Heili attempts to block the shot of Missouri Southern's Charlie Brown last season.

Photo by Carly Fristoe
Stanislas Heili attempts to block the shot of Missouri Southern’s Charlie Brown last season.

A random Facebook message appeared in the inbox of Lindenwood senior, Stanislas Heili informing him of interest in his height and athleticism.

Such messages were common during his senior year in high school when college basketball coaches were reaching out to him. But this was a different story.

As a senior in college, the same message was coming from an Australian Football League scout and was confusing and unusual.

Jonathan Givony is a basketball scout hired by the Australian Football League to reach out to American basketball players and recruit them to travel to Los Angeles to try out for the AFL and play the game’s height-driven ruckman position.

The position is tasked with the responsibility of controlling “throw ins” and “ball ups,” both of which happen very frequently in games and strongly resemble an opening tip or jump ball in basketball.

An entire team suffers from an underperforming ruckman because of their ability to gain possession.

The players who meet Givony’s search criteria are 6-foot-7 and taller.

Photo by Carly FristoeStanislas Heili dunks against Washburn University in a game last season.

Photo by Carly Fristoe
Stanislas Heili dunks against Washburn University in a game last season.

The AFL expanded recently and with other sports such as basketball already pulling away all of the tall athletes, the AFL was forced to use creativity to lure in extra height.

“What we’ve done is created an alternative talent pool. Right now, the U.S. seems to be where they’re most successful,” Givony said.

“I’ve always kind of thought that there’s more talent in the U.S. outside of just Division I.

So I put that to the test by inviting guys from Division II to try out.”

Givony runs the website draftexpress.com and using resources at hand, he was able to search his database for all players above 6-foot-7, seniors and leaders in height-driven statistics such as rebounds and blocks.

After narrowing it down to seniors, this formula led him straight to Heili, who is 7-foot-1, along with 17 other players around the country that all matched the criteria he had entered into the online database.

“It was kind of random. I got a message on Facebook, and they said, ‘I think you could be good at this’,’’ Heili said.

“I called the guy and registered online. Until I got the plane tickets I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not.”

Before flying out, Heili decided to try and quickly study up on the sport that was completely foreign to him before realizing he was not the only one new to the sport.

“I had never heard of it,” Heili said.

“The tryouts were all basketball players and mostly seniors who had never heard of it before either.”

The tryouts were a three-day event that were designed to test each of the players to see how quickly they would be able to adapt to an entirely new sport.

Day one consisted of testing physical abilities with drills.

Day two was kicked off with a 3 kilometer run at 9 a.m. and then centered around meeting certain skills that pertain directly to Australian rules football that may be different from any other sport they had played.

Photo by Carly FristoeStanislas Heili attempts to take a shot, while he is surrounded by two Central Missouri defenders in a game last season.

Photo by Carly Fristoe
Stanislas Heili attempts to take a shot, while he is surrounded by two Central Missouri defenders in a game last season.

Day three was the hands-on application of the skills learned.

The scouts will be inviting the top three performers to try out in Australia.

As for Heili’s performance, he left everybody at the camp highly impressed with what he was able to accomplish.

“He did very well,” Givony said. “I kind of did an informal poll of the players. I asked them who impressed them the most, and they all said Stan.”

Heili added: “It was fun, great atmosphere. Everybody was a beginner so nobody had anything to prove. Looking back I think it was a great experience. Even if I’m not going to Australia. I had a lot of fun.”