Fifteen thousand kilometres from where they grew up, Tasmanian basketballers Kai Woodfall and Callum Barker have been united once again.
Born in Launceston and Hobart respectively, the pair played in the same Tasmanian side that won bronze at the 2013 under-18 national championships and have since completed three years of college basketball in the US.
By chance the 21-year-olds will both play their final college season at Missouri Baptist University this year, filling guard and centre vacancies in a side which performed well last season.
Woodfall, who met up with his new teammate at a junior basketball clinic in Launceston at the weekend, said he was thrilled to join forces with his old mate.
“We played together all through juniors,” Woodfall said.
“There’s so many colleges in the States so it is rare to end up in a team with your friends… it’s just the right time, right place and we’ve been mates forever so it worked out.”
After playing his first three seasons at Missouri’s Southwest Baptist University, Woodfall is relishing a new challenge as he completes a bachelor of biology.
Upon return he hopes to study medicine, play SEABL and eventually NBL, but until then his sights are locked on going deep into the national tournament with his new club.
“They had a really good run last year, they were nationally ranked for a lot of the season but they missed out at the end and probably needed a bit more leadership.
“We’ll both have pretty big roles in terms of scoring and leadership next year… they graduated a senior guard and a senior big so we’re stepping in to hopefully replace those guys and bring them back to the top.”
Barker has spent his past three seasons at Bradley University in Illinois, playing in front of crowds as big as 10,000 people.
In that time the six-foot-nine centre has come on “in leaps and bounds”, practising three hours a day as he looks to create an opportunity to play in Europe or win a spot on an NBL list.
“For me it’s been a great experience to get the American game style, it’s more fast paced and there’s more athletes out there so to experience that is unreal,” Barker said.
“I’ve become a lot more muscular and stronger and I’ve benefited from the extra lifting and shooting and I feel like I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I was when I left.
“My passion has only grown - I feel like you really find out when you go to America if you have the passion or not because you have a ball in your hand most of the day every day and for me my passion grew.
“I’ve learnt so much of the smaller aspects of the game now, so a chance like (the weekend clinic) where I can come in and teach some of the younger kids what I’ve learned... it’s a great opportunity.
“I feel like what I’ve benefited from learning through coaches in colleges I can pass on to other people.”