Year 12 student, Riley Johnstone-McCloud, wonders if he may have found himself playing basketball with the Bendigo Braves earlier if he’d been less scared to simply put his hand up and have a go.

He started with the sport when he was 10 years old after receiving a basketball for Christmas.

“We already had a hoop,” Riley says, “and my Dad’s Michael Jordan videos were pretty inspiring.”

It would be more than five years before Riley found himself on his first ‘proper’ team—the Bendigo Braves U16—and competing in tournaments.

If it were possible to go back in time to when he was twelve years old, Riley would tell his young self to “Put yourself out there more and take the risk of being rejected.”

Although Riley thinks of himself a late starter, he knew from the beginning that basketball was for him. The idea of an entire weekend filled with basketball was all he wanted.

These days, playing point guard in the U23 Youth League, Riley’s ambition is to play for the Braves one day. After completing pre-season training with them, his resolve is even greater.

Asked to name a player he admires, Riley names NBA Golden State Warriors’ star Stephen Curry. Considered undersized, Curry’s shooting prowess has written him into NBA history. A two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, he has helped the Warriors win three NBA championships.

Selection for the NBA is something every serious basketballer dreams of, and a scholarship to play college basketball in the US is one avenue Riley is considering.

In addition to his VCE studies, Riley trains numerous times a week and plays on Wednesday evenings and the weekend.

It’s no surprise to hear that if Riley could have a conversation with one person, Michael Jordan is at the top of his list.

“I’d ask him what ‘he’ thinks made him such a talented basketballer,” Riley says. “How was he able to drive himself to put in all those extra hours.”

Like almost everyone who pursues sport at the elite level, he knows he wouldn’t be where he’s at without his family onboard.

“I’m so grateful to my dad who gets up at 6am to take me to training and is often late to bed waiting to get me home after a game,” Riley says.

“He works so hard and supports me so much. It probably helps that he coaches basketball and understands what it takes to excel.

“My Step-Mum is also awesome. She runs everything at home and keeps me on track with fresh gear and good food.”

Despite his considerable commitment to basketball, Riley has a full load of Year 12 subjects and enjoys the academic side of life too.

That’s lucky, because he wants to be a physio and will need a great ATAR—which he’s powering towards.

“I find biomechanics and the management of rehabilitation very interesting,” Riley says. “I’m also really enjoying Biology—learning how the body works—and understanding what goes into becoming an athlete.”

Like most high-performance athletes, Riley has had a lot to do with physiotherapists.

He has fortnightly maintenance sessions with local physiotherapist, Alan Pang, and when he’s injured these sessions are often twice-weekly.

Riley wisely took Business Management 3/4 in Year 11, recognising that if you run a physio clinic you are also running a business.

“Considering my sport and training schedule, I was really proud to receive an academic award for Business Management 3/4 at the end of last year,” he says. “It’s so satisfying to achieve both academically and in my sport.”

Riley came to the college from BSE with a good group of friends, but has connected with a diverse range of people at BSSC.

“I really like it here,” he says. “The opportunities you get and the support for things like your sport are really good. The subject options are so wide it can be hard to decide what to choose.”

This year, Riley is studying and has definitely noticed a step-up in workload between Years 11 and 12. English, PE, Biology, Chemistry and Further Maths.

“I’m really happy with my teachers,” he says. “They make classes so enjoyable and they’re great at making the links between what we’re learning and how it will fit into a practical setting.”

Riley says the extra freedoms at BSSC have ‘opened his eyes’, made him more independent and willing to take responsibility—ideal for anyone planning to go to university and take on a course with significant study loads.

So what is Riley’s hot study tip?

“Flash cards,” he says. “Especially for learning definitions.”