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COTTESLOE resident Nik Lackovic teaches the importance of mental health among young basketballers prompted by the loss of a close friend at the start of his coaching career.
The Perth Redbacks and Hale School basketball director was appointed the North of the River coach for the annual State Basketball League (SBL) All Star Game on June 5 at the Bendat Basketball Centre in Floreat.
The charity game is co-organised by Basketball WA and Lifeline WA, with funds raised going towards suicide prevention services.
The 43-year-old’s friend Eden committed suicide in the early 2000s – a time he described as the most “challenging” in his life.
“It was an experience where a good friend of mine and I grew up playing junior level together in the same teams,” he said.
“When I began as a coach (at Perth Redbacks), I recruited him to come and join from a previous club.
“We played a game on a Sunday and we embraced after the game, talked about what a good weekend it was and how we had a couple of good wins over the weekend.
“I got the call Monday night and on Tuesday at training and the team was notified that he decided to take his life which was quite devastating.”
The former Perth Redbacks and Perth Wildcats guard said his good relationship with Eden inspired him to become the best coach he could be.
“For some reason, he did not have the strength to be able to share with me the troubles and the challenges that he was having,” he said.
“So each and every day, when we are out there on the court, whether we are successful or not, I make sure that I tap into player welfare.
“For me, it is not all measured about wins and losses on the court, it is about the kind of young player that we are developing as a man and surrounding the player with a great support network.”
Lackovic said he emphasised family values when coaching at SBL, WA Basketball League (WABL), school level and the All Stars North team.
“Coaching is my soul… I enjoy putting back into young men and helping them to maximise their full potential and teaching the skill set, which is relative both on and off the court,” he said.
“I was fortunate because I had a coach that helped and inspired me at state league level; his name was Norm Majors.
“He was the reason why I got into coaching as well as my family and a close network of really good mentors.”
Lackovic said he looked forward to coaching the most talented players in WA at the game, which included Redbacks star Shawn Redhage and potentially a few other Redbacks gaining selection on the bench.
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SBL All Star Game
Who: North of the River vs. South of the River
When: Monday, June 5, doors open at 10am with the women’s tip off at 12 pm and the men’s game at 2pm.
Where: Bendat Basketball Centre, Floreat.