The Basketball Australia (BA) Aussie Hoops program is a gateway for young ballers to learn and develop their fundamental basketball skills, get active and above all, have fun in a safe and inclusive environment. At the conclusion of the yearly program aimed at children aged 5-10 years old, a participant is chosen by way of a public vote as the “Aussie Hooper of the Year”. To be in the running for the award, parents with children involved in the program put forward nominations; a shortlist is compiled by an internal BA judging panel; and then a public vote takes place on the Aussie Hoops Facebook page. The 2020 Aussie Hooper of the Year recipient, with 410 votes was six-year-old Harlon from Western Australia. Harlon’s parents, Andy and Tam, entered their son into the 2020 Aussie Hooper of the Year competition following his first experience with the grassroots program. Tam explains that she felt that Aussie Hoops would be a great introduction to sports for Harlon who has autism and is nonverbal. “I played basketball and still do, so when I heard about the Aussie hoops program, I thought it would be a great opportunity for Harlon to get into sport. “The fact that it’s an inclusive program was the big drawcard. As a mum of a child with special needs you’re very cautious about the situations you put your child into.” The program has seen Harlon develop in more ways than one explains Tam. Not only has Harlon found a love for the game, but also shown development in his physical strength. “To be honest, I don’t know specifically what he loves the most about Aussie Hoops, all I know is that he loves it! The smiles and laughter I see from him during the sessions say it all. He is a boy of few words, so expression is everything,” says Tam. “When Harlon first started, he was very weak in his upper body and struggled to throw the ball halfway to the ring when shooting, but now he’s getting baskets and gets so excited.” Tam recounts their family highlight of Harlon’s time at Aussie Hoops as the moment he made his first two-point shot. “Our standout memory would be the day he got his first basket! He turned around looked at me then did a little happy dance and “yelled I did it!” After winning Aussie Hooper of the Year, Harlon was excited to receive his prize which included an Australian Boomers and Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals signed basketball and a voucher from Spalding, which he has shared with his older sister, Skylar. “I don’t think he was fully aware of the competition but when he received his prize, he was so excited and happy. “He shared his prize with his big sister Skylar. She has been a huge support for him and has helped him every step of the way. We can’t wait for him to join a team and play actual games,” said Tam. Tam also sent along her thanks to Coach Thommo and Mandurah Basketball Association for all their support in delivering the Aussie Hoops program. The Aussie Hoops programs run throughout each school term. To register click HERE.