Billy propels Vics to the top

By Andrew Johnston

BILLY Ilsley was always going to be great at basketball.

After the motorbike accident that saw him become a paraplegic in 2017, the Echuca resident wanted to find something to set his mind to.

Basketball was what came knocking.

And he has taken that challenge on with the determination we all know so well by now.

In the past six months, he has gained selection to the Victorian Wheelchair Basketball team.

Then, it was a shot for green and gold — a goal he is still working on.

Every level Billy has gone to, he has passed with flying colours — both on and off the court.

And now he has a championship to add to a list of achievements.

Billy’s Victorian side has claimed the 2018 Kevin Coombs Cup — the premier wheelchair basketball tournament in Australia.

And it was not only a massive achievement for Billy, but for the whole state.

‘‘It’s the first time that Victoria has ever won the cup,’’ he said.

‘‘In fact it’s the first time we have even made it to the gold medal match. it’s a pretty special moment for our team and I’m really proud to be a part of it.’’

Victoria claimed the trophy in a 68-60 win over Western Australia.

Billy’s role in the victory may be the most impressive in terms of what he has done and in how long he has done it.

‘‘I’ve been playing for six months now,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s incredible. When I started playing this game, I could never have imagined that I was going to be an Australian gold medallist after six months. It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s paid off.’’

Due to his classification in the game, Billy played the tournament as a defender.

Whilst the stats sheet doesn’t appear to show a great tournament, his defensive work throughout the tournament was key to Victoria’s win.

Though when asked, he was honest about his own performance.

‘‘I definitely was not a shooter and definitely lived up to that,’’ he laughed.

‘‘I’m what is classified as a one pointer, which is a high paraplegic. Your four pointers (low to minimally disabled) are the guys who get the shooting done. My job in this team was to defend. Hopefully I did well, I would say I was alright.’’

The Kevin Coombs Cup is named after the first indigenous Australian paralympian, Kevin Coombs, who represented Australia in wheelchair basketball at five paralympics, including the first in 1960.

With the cup under his belt, now attention turns back to the green and gold.

‘‘My goal is to make it to the Australian team, be that as a player or as a reserve for the World Championships in the next few years,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a long way to go but if I work hard, I believe I can do it.’’

On previous form — you’d be brave to bet against him.