Encampment student to compete in koala country


Encampment High School sophomore basketball player KeeGan Johnson is hoping to represent Wyoming this summer, at one of the 2014 Down Under Sports tournaments in Australia.

The Utah-based Down Under Sports, which celebrates 25 years this year, hosts international events in Australia, New Zealand or Hawaii, where students from high schools all over the world participate in sports during the summer. Student athletes compete for a week in one specific sport, such as basketball, cross-country running, football, track and field, volleyball, wrestling and golf.

KeeGan said two weeks ago he received his invitational packet to participate in basketball on the Gold Coast of Australia, for his efforts in the sport over the past two years. KeeGan’s mother, Lisa Johnson, said he was invited by a reporter from the Casper Star-Tribune.

“There were some articles on him and they noted that he was a valuable key player, so they nominated him,” said Lisa Johnson, KeeGan’s mother. “They said he was a valuable key player for two years in a row.”

Coaches can nominate athletes to Down Under Sports, but officials from the company also scout at state events or call schools to ask for top athletes. They may also find and research statistics, including events participated in and placements, of various student athletes online.

If able to attend, KeeGan will represent the Wyoming boys basketball western conference, which will include close to 40 athletes, four teams and eight or nine kids per team. He would spend eight days playing basketball in Australia, from July 13-21, and possibly two days in Hawaii during July 21-23 as part of his trip.

“I have to earn $1,000 by March 1, and that will give me the Hawaii trip for free,” KeeGan said.

KeeGan also said he is trying to gain sponsors and raise a total of $4,500 for the whole 10-day trip’s cost by a June 2 deadline. He said that $1,000 of that total, which would be for the days spent in Hawaii, needs to be achieved by March 1.

“If he can make that $1,000 mark, he would be able to go to Hawaii,” Lisa said. “If not, he either doesn’t go to Hawaii and gets sent home, or he pays extra to go to Hawaii. Sponsors can be anything from anybody as long as they’re willing, and can be from anyone across the U.S.”

Aside from gaining sponsors, KeeGan said he was looking at selling Down Under Sports T-shirts as part of his way to earn money toward the trip.

“Down Under Sports has their own fundraisers that they’ve stated we can do, and one of them is selling T-shirts, which I’ll probably be doing,” he said. “There are plenty of other they’ve listed on their website. Anyone who sponsors me, I sent them a ticket they can sign and fill out, and it will put them in a raffle for a trip to Australia to watch me play and a five-day cruise.”

Lisa said both of the trips are for two people, and that anyone who sponsors KeeGan can be entered into the raffle. She said anyone can be a sponsor, and that people can register online to be a sponsor.

Debit or credit cards are accepted for those wanting sponsor.

“People can go online and sponsor him at http://www.downundersports.com,” Lisa said. “Every time someone sponsors, KeeGan gets an email letting him know who sponsored him. If they do write a check, they can give it toKeeGan and we’ll send it all in. If anyone sponsors him after June 2, then their entry into the raffle is only for the cruise.”

Lisa added that the checks are to be written to Down Under Sports because of the NCAA rules.

KeeGan said he plans to not only raise money by selling $20 Down Under Sports T-shirts, but also sponsor a meal at the Grand Encampment Opera House. Those who buy a shirt can also receive a “thank you” ticket.

“The other fundraiser is he can sell the tickets for the raffle,” Lisa said. “It’s either $5 apiece for a ticket, or you can do six tickets for $25. That’s basically like a sponsor, and you’re to be entered into the drawing for both the trip to Down Under in Austraila and the cruise until June 2. It’s not the deadline for the sponsorship, because they can still sponsor him throughout his trip and throughout August.”

KeeGan said he was excited to play basketball under olympic rules against athletes from other countries. He said he was curious to watch and learn how others play.

“You get to understand how other countries play and how they’re taught to play the game,” KeeGan said. “You get to see how strict they are, like if they’re really cool about it and relaxed, or just rigid. I’m excited to see the difference with how they play.”

Those interested in being a sponsor for KeeGan can go to http://www.downundersports.com, click on “Sponsor” in the top right section of the page and fill out what is requested in the “Participant Information” section. One may also call the Johnsons at 307-327-5318 to be a sponsor.


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