Mali Hodzic’s dream of playing professional basketball took a dramatic turn when he broke his arm over a year ago. But the determined 15-year-old made an inspiring comeback to keep his dream alive.
Australian born and bred Mali Hodzic is visiting the
Cook Islands – the home of his mum Lenore Chambers, for the first time.
Chambers hails from Mauke. She is daughter of Matakeu
Ngaoire Chambers and John Panapa Chambers (son of Joseph Chambers and Popotai
Munokoa – owners of Best Fish and Chips in Aitutaki in 1980s). Mali’s great
grandmother is Narai Atua Vaike Ngaoire and great great granddad Tupuna Ngaoire
of Mauke. His dad Mahir Hodzic is a Bosnian, based in Australia.
The family of five – including Mali’s two younger
siblings – are on a holiday here exploring their roots and reconnecting with
their Rarotonga-based relatives.
For Mali, visiting the Cook Islands for the first is
an amazing experience. He is now inspired to represent the country – if given a
chance – in international competitions.
“It’s an amazing feeling, my grandma and grandpa they
are from here too and to come into an experience with other families here has
been an amazing feeling. And I love my grandparents, they’re like been there
since forever and to see more people and to meet all my cousins and to go
explore where I’m from, makes me want to represent Cook Islands in the future,”
Mali took up basketball in 2016 after a stint playing
Rugby was mum’s sport and basketball was his dad’s.
“Rugby was my sport and I loved playing it. But I
wanted to try something different,” he says.
He was going to play rugby for Western Australia in
the state level when he picked up basketball. He was later selected to
represent his state in basketball too.
“Because they will have different seasons and his body
will be different, says dad Mahir. In rugby he will have to be bigger, while in
basketball he needs to be slim. So we ended up having a talk one day to decide
which one he wants to pursue, because representing state level is pretty big,”
Mali ended up choosing basketball, “because it was
something that I just love playing and I enjoyed it”.
His mum wasn’t happy with the decision.
“There was crying and his mother said, ‘Why do you
want to play basketball?’
“He said ‘When the ball goes through the net and I
hear it, that’s the best sound in the world’. And his mum said ‘okay’, but she
The family then moved to Gold Coast because in
Karratha, their previous home, they didn’t have any coaches. There they secured
the services of Pero Cameron, New Zealand basketball coach and former player
and FIBA Hall of Fame member.
Mali, who plays point guard and shooting guard, was
also drafted in the Queensland’s performance programme and things were going
great in the court when disaster struck.
In a school-related injury last year, Mali, who plays
in U18 Queensland Division One competition, suffered a “full snap” on his arm, that
put the brakes on progress he had made
in his flourishing basketball career.
But about 12 weeks following his injury, which
required surgery and implanting a plate and screws, Mali returned to the court
and finished as top scorer in the Queensland U18 competition.
“The injury put me back a lot and I missed out on a
lot. It was a big obstacle that I needed to get through.
“I felt like everything was over. But luckily I had
good people who supported me like dad and Pero who has been there helping me
for the past 18 months. Pero said I could get through this, and I know - because
he’s been there and done it.”
Mali, who looks up to NBA star LeBron James and hopes
to play in Europe and/or NBA level, plans to return to Cook Islands and run
basketball clinics with support from his dad Mahir and coach Pero Cameron.
“I love basketball and I would love to inspire other
kids to play as well. You can always try new things and if you believe in it
then you can get it. It comes down to hard work.”
Hodzic – 15 years old
Byron bay division 1 under 18 NSW state competition
North Gold Coast Seahawks division 1 QLD 18s state competition
Queensland State performance program
Queensland state performance program
Coast basketball representative 14’s state champion gold medal winner