Author: Peter Williams

United opens season with 24-point road win over 36ers

MELBOURNE United have opened their season with style, claiming a 24-point victory over Adelaide 36ers at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre last night. United did not have it all their own way, with the nominal National Basketball League (NBL) title favourites defeating the 36ers on opening night, 89-65.

United loaded up on star power over the summer, but it was a team effort that got the job done in the end, with second season guard, Shea Ili earning Player of the Match honours thanks to 13 points and four rebounds, shooting at 62.5 per cent from the field. He was far from alone though, with 11 players taking the court for the victors and everyone scoring at least one point.

Adelaide got off to a great start on the night, leading by four points at the first break, before Melbourne started to find its groove. Daniel Johnson was doing all he could for the home side, but United’s depth was becoming a problem and the visiting team piled on 26 points to 13 in the third term, and then repeated the dose in the final quarter. After trailing by two points at half-time, Melbourne flexed its muscles and scored 52-26 in a complete domination of the 36ers.

Despite Johnson piling on 27 points, five rebounds and two assists, the 36ers’ big man could not do it all, and instead it was the shared load between debutant and talented tall Jock Landale, and rising talent Jo Lual Acuil. The pair combined for 26 points and 20 rebounds, with Acuil being the only player to record a double-double in the game thanks to 16 points and 12 rebounds. Landale showed he has plenty to give with his 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks in an all-round effort.

Captain Chris Goulding stepped up to lead the side with 16 points of his own, as well as three rebounds, three assists and three steals to work hard on both defence and offence, while Japanese import, Yudai Baba made an impact off the bench with 10 points – four from six from the field – and four rebounds. New Zealand Breakers recruit Scotty Hopson did not have the impact he could have had with just the four points and four assists in 22 minutes, though Jack White looked comfortable in the four spot with seven points and seven rebounds.

For the 36ers, Johnson was the only player to hit double-figure points, though Jack McVeigh (nine points, two assists) got close. Young gun Josh Giddey managed the seven points, seven rebounds and four assists, as well as a memorable block close to the rim. Other than them, Keanu Pinder picked up five points and five rebounds, whilst Tony Crocker and Isaac Humphries also managed the five points.

Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman said he felt the team started slow, and then improved their defence in the second term. Whilst still behind on the scoreboard, United was able to work harder on offence and the team got “reward for effort”.

“I thought we started a little sluggish with our defence tonight,” Vickerman said. “We picked it up in the second period. I though there was a group in the middle of the second period that played four or five minutes, held them to four points and when we picked up our defence, we just didn’t reward ourselves at the other end, and I think there was five or six outnumbered breaks that we just didn’t convert.

“I think our half-time talk was just a little bit of anxiety with our offence, and it was to really sit down and try and fight over screens a bit better than we did in the first half and I think once we committed to that, we rewarded ourselves with getting some easy baskets at the other end. “There was definitely a defensive momentum that built, and to hold them to 65 is really pleasing.”

New Adelaide 36ers’ coach Conner Henry said the team needed to have better production on offence, and share the ball around more, having not been able to capitalise ofd second chance opportunities and then falling away on defence in the second half.

“I thought our effort in the first half was real good,” Henry said. “We just couldn’t score the basketball so there’s a lot of work to be done on the offensive end, as evident in the second half. “I don’t know what our one-pass and two-pass possessions were, but we sure didn’t share it with each other.

“Combine that with 19 offensive rebounds, they get 25 shots more on us. “Effort was good, we go 26 and 13, 26 and 13 in the last two quarters, giving up a bunch of points and can’t score the basketball so we’ll watch film. “It will be pretty evident that we have to share the basketball a bit more.”

Adelaide 36ers will hope to bounce back from their loss last night when they take on South East Melbourne Phoenix tomorrow afternoon, whilst Melbourne United have an incredibly long break, not taking to the court for a second time until Monday, January 25 when they travel to Cairns.

Picture credit: AAP IMAGE/David Mariuz

NBL21 Round 1 preview: Taipans, Hawks and 36ers to double up in opening round

A FIVE-game opening round which features seven of the nine teams was eventually indicative of what became of the 2020 season. Just when it looked like 2021 was going to be a better version on its predecessor, the global pandemic reared its head once again, and the National Basketball League (NBL) was forced to make multiple changes in a week after finalising the first few rounds last month.

The NBL cancelled the all-Melbourne showdown between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix, and then created two smaller hubs in Adelaide and Queensland to avoid the New South Wales and Victorian COVID-19 clusters. Whilst Brisbane then fell into a short state of panic with a three-day lockdown, the most recent NBL21 opening round fixture appears set after much conjecture.

The most notable features include three of the nine teams playing two games, and two sides playing no games, with New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats now sitting out the first round which tips off Friday. Instead, Adelaide 36ers will now open the season against Melbourne United, playing a home game before a 40-hour break to welcoming the Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.

Queensland hosts the remaining three games as Brisbane Bullets – who only found out their opponent earlier in the week – take on The Hawks in Brian Goorjian‘s return game, before Cairns Taipans host a double-header in North Queensland. The Taipans take on last year’s grand finalists Sydney Kings on Saturday night, before hosting a standalone game two days later against The Hawks in what should be an entertaining contest.

NBL21 ROUND 1 FIXTURE:

Friday, January 15:

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Saturday, January 16:

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks @ Nissan Arena
Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings @ Cairns Pop Up Arena

Sunday, January 17:

Adelaide 36ers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix

Monday, January 18:

Cairns Taipans vs. The Hawks

 

PRESEASON:

In terms of preseason form, Adelaide 36ers had two good wins over Brisbane Bullets early in the off-season, before going down to Cairns Taipans in the last match of the season. Melbourne United won its only game against the Taipans on New Years Eve, meaning the Taipans head into the first round with a 1-1 record prior to the season. The Hawks split their games with Perth Wildcats 1-1 over in Western Australia, before losing to Sydney Kings in late December. In the other two games, Brisbane Bullets accounted for South East Melbourne Phoenix on the Gold Coast in thrilling contests, which meant the Bullets went 2-2 throughout the preseason.

Melbourne United are considered title favourites, coming in against one of the up-and-coming outsiders of the competition in Adelaide 36ers. The 36ers have few admirers, but can head into the season underrated with some good young talent – led by Josh Giddey – coming through the ranks. The 36ers will be hoping to score a win against South East Melbourne Phoenix, though both teams will have faith in taking home the points.

Cairns has been installed as second favourite to United, and will hope to establish themselves with games against the New South Wales sides at home. Two wins sets them on the right paths, especially against sides that are considered lower down the order in favouritism. The Hawks and Brisbane Bullets will be the interesting match of the round, with both having points to prove following mixed preseasons.

 

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne United

The key to Adelaide’s success is hitting the triple-figures, winning all eight matches last season at home where they scored at least 100 points, whilst losing all matches that were in double-digits. Many will hope it is a repeat of the season opener from the 2017-18 season where United got up by just two points, 99-97 which resulted in the sides going all the way to the NBL Grand Final.

Dean Vickerman will coach his 100th game as United coach tonight, which was fitting considering his first match was that season opener, and has since won two NBL Coach of the Year awards and the championship in his debut season. For Adelaide, Donald Sloan celebrates his 33rd birthday on debut tonight, while fellow import Tony Crocker will do so on Sunday when the 36ers take on the Phoenix.

The keys to success for Melbourne lies in big man Jock Landale who has proved hard to stop over the preseason, with he and Jack White being welcome inclusions. Scotty Hopson has a lot more known about his ability having dominated for the Breakers in recent times. The 36ers have had a lot more change outside of their imports and young gun Giddey, with Isaac Humphries and Keanu Pinder returning, Sunday Dech crossing from the Hawks, and Conner Henry stepping to ex-coach Joey Wright‘s shoes.

Brisbane Bullets vs. The Hawks

The first match up in Queensland is as much about the men off the court as the ones on it, with legendary leader Brian Goorjian returning to the league having won more matches in it than any other. He steps up to take The Hawks role, and will face off against a former player of his in Andrej Lemanis. Both coaches are the only ones in history to lead their sides to three-peats, albeit with other teams in the New Zealand Breakers (2011-2013 for Lemanis) and Sydney Kings (2003-2005). As it stands in the head-to-heads, Goorjian leads 10-2 and will be hoping to build on that record that ended 12 years ago.

Brisbane have been hit badly losing their two biggest names in Lamar Patterson and Will Magnay. Whilst the Bullets had a promising season last season, they will be hoping new imports, Orlando Johnson and Vic Law can have an equal impact. Harry Froling and Anthony Drmic had good seasons in the Queensland State League (QSL) since crossing from the 36ers, as did Tanner Krebs a young player with plenty of potential. Nathan Sobey is always a crucial play and will look to team up with Jason Cadee in creating up the court.

By comparison though, The Hawks have overhauled their list as part of the rebrand, looking to get off the bottom of the ladder. Goorjian replaced outgoing coach Matt Flinn, whilst the likes of Next Star Justinian Jessup, and imports Tyler Harvey and Justin Simon lead the list of inclusions. They should provide the depth in the back court, whilst Cameron Bairstow and Deng Adel round out the front court. Sam Froling will lock horns with his brother, and as potentially the only starter who was at The Hawks last season.

Cairns Taipans vs. Sydney Kings

In the battle of two finalists, Cairns Taipans will be keen to go better than their semi-final exit last season, whilst Sydney Kings fell at the final hurdle in an interrupted COVID-19 Grand Final series. These teams faced off last season in Round 1, with the Kings getting up by eight points, in what was the North Queensland’s side’s first ever Round 1 loss at home. The Taipans strength at home was notable though, winning every match there in the 2020 calendar year.

The Taipans have relatively stayed the same with DJ Newbill and Anthony Fisher the key outs, while Next Star Mojave King and New Zealand Breakers talent Jordan Ngatai lead the inclusions. King is the second youngest contracted player in the NBL this year behind Giddey and becomes the second youngest ever to play for the Taipans. With crucial re-signings in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado working their magic, and having depth like Jarrod Kenny and Nathan Jawai coming off the bench in those spots, the Taipans look to be one of the teams to beat.

The Kings have lost a lot of quality over the offseason, with Jae’Sean Tate and Deshon Taylor out, the former heading to the Houston Rockets. Andrew Bogut called it a day, as did Kevin Lisch, with Lucas Walker also out of the side. They managed to pick up another import in Jarrell Martin, while Tom Vodanovich and Angus Glover joined from other NBL clubs. Martin is the only starting inclusion though, with the Kings picking up depth for roster rotation, and will again look to Casper Ware and Didi Louzada as the creators.

In the remainder of the round, the Taipans will go head-to-head with The Hawks as both sides double up, whilst Adelaide 36ers will take on a fresh South East Melbourne Phoenix in a standalone game on Sunday. Having covered the 36ers above, the Phoenix are a side that is hopeful of moving up the NBL table, having retained the crucial signature of Mitch Creek, and then brought in a number of starters who improve various positions.

Imports Keifer Sykes and Ben Moore will step into the side and provide experience at both ends, with Sykes able to replace the outgoing talent that was John Roberson. Moore can play that five role with great success, while fellow inclusions Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi have joined the Phoenix from the Bullets. They have more depth and top-end strength than season one, and while Roberson will be a loss – particularly from outside the arc – they seem to have a more balanced and all-round settled outfit.

NBL21 season previews: South East Melbourne Phoenix

THE National Basketball League (NBL)’s newest club, South East Melbourne Phoenix might have had a challenging first season after a strong start – finishing eighth with a 9-19 record – but were able to show at their best they could compete with the top sides. Now a year on, the Phoenix are better prepared as a unit, and aside from some retirements, have effectively kept a large portion of their list together, as well as brought in some exciting developing talents over the off-season.

Amongst some of the earliest retirement announcements, Tai Wesley and Ben Madgen both decided to call it quits at age 34 and 35 respectively, having been a part of the Phoenix’s foundation season. The announcements came following the re-signing of import Kendall Stephens, providing an established option for Madgen’s departure. Almost immediately following the back-to-back retirements, Cameron Gliddon signed on for a fresh start with the Phoenix.

The Brisbane Bullets guard gave the Phoenix an immediate starter in the back court, having been released from his contract with the Bullets a year early after not having the impact he could have late in his career. The 31-year-old has plenty of talent and was a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, so will be hoping to rekindle his form with the Phoenix.

Whilst not much basketball might have been going on in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand took centre stage with the NZNBL taking place. It helped hand Reuben Te Rangi and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa contracts, the former on a full contract, the latter as a development player. They were joined by another Kiwi in Yannick Wetzell, who signed on then exercised his out clause to play in Germany, only to re-join the Phoenix after passport complications.

A couple of later import recruitments occurred late in the off-season, with Ben Moore and Keifer Sykes signing on. The American duo have plenty of experience across the globe, with Sykes playing in Turkey, Italy, China and Greece, while Moore also played in Turkey alongside a long stint in the G League having had a one-time two-way contract with Indiana Pacers back in 2018. Sykes was once touted by Forbes as the “James Harden of China” following a ridiculous 50-point game and averaging 34.6 points in that league.

Sykes brought the intrigue with his signing, and will replace outgoing scoring machine John Roberson who lit up the league on a number of occasions. American duo Terry Armstrong and Devondrick Walker also departed, while the re-signings were just as big as the signings. Mitch Creek remained on board in search of another chance in the NBA, with the forward one of the most dominant players in the league.

Alongside Creek, Kyle Adnam, Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau also remained at the club, to create a stable core of players from last season. Dan Trist headed to New Zealand to play with the Breakers, but the inclusion of Gliddon along with Te Rangi and Tristan Forsyth as a development player meant the depth in the front court is not a concern.

Overall the Phoenix look stronger than last season, which should equate in a better season and move up the NBL21 ladder.

Picture credit: AAP

NBL21 season previews: Perth Wildcats

REIGNING back-to-back champions and the greatest team of the past decade – winning five of seven titles – Perth Wildcats face one of their biggest challenges this season. They have been the benchmark team for many years, but now the gap has firmly closed over the off-season, with a number of big names heading to other clubs, and a couple of crucial cogs departing the Wildcats over the break.

Six-time NBL champion and Defensive Player of the Year, Damian Martin called it quits after a decade-long career with the Perth-based side, and then Nick Kay opted out of his contract, and Terrico White left for overseas. A trio of starting talents all out of the squad, and at one point it looked like Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton might test his value elsewhere. Luckily for Perth, Cotton re-signed but it meant the Wildcats had to get creative with their signings if they were to compete again.

Firstly they managed to re-sign some strong rotation options in Clint Steindl, Mitch Norton and Jesse Wagstaff, as well as Majok Majok who will have further responsibility with ex-NBA talent Miles Plumlee also departing the club. Then the signings began to come in, including a number of talents from other NBL clubs.

Jarred Bairstow headed west from the Brisbane Capitals – having been a Brisbane Bullets developing player a few years back – joined by Todd Blanchfield who departed Illawarra Hawks, while Kevin White found a new home following a much-talked about departure from the Adelaide 36ers. Already the Wildcats were beginning to build up their experience base again.

College graduate John Mooney crossed from Notre Dame following missing out on the NBA Draft, with the 206cm power forward averaging an impressive 16.2 points and 12.7 rebounds in his 31 games last season. He will add X-factor to the side in the position and replace outgoing Kay and Rhys Vague who rolled through the four spot.

Also gaining size in the front court were Corey Shervill and Luke Travers who came out of the state league, whilst development guard Taylor Britt re-signed following a strong campaign with Canterbury Wildcats in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL). Towering center Andrew Ferguson also signed on as a development player, with the Perth native returning from college to play professional ball.

Wani Swaka Lo Buluk added to the back court to round out what is still a very solid list. Whilst the Wildcats have lost some key pieces over the off-season, they have been able to add a mix of experience and upside for the NBL21 season, which makes them an interesting team to watch.

One could never doubt coach Trevor Gleeson, so while on paper the Wildcats might not look as formidable as in past years, the development program in place, along with Cotton who can do unbelievable things, means you can never discount the Wildcats from challenging if everything can align in the 2021 season.

Picture credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

NBL21 season previews: New Zealand Breakers

THE sole New Zealand based side was unlucky not to make the postseason finals last year, narrowly missing out to Melbourne United, and falling just behind Brisbane Bullets in the tightest finish to a season in some time. RJ Hampton made his way to Denver Nuggets in the NBA, but then a shock loss of Scotty Hopson to Melbourne United left the Breakers a little short in the back court. A massive signing late in the season turned the offseason from potentially worrying to a positive, and the Breakers remain a team to watch in the NBL21 season.

Having come so close yet so far to competing with the best after a slow start last season, the Breakers were able to add some key pieces to their list, and re-sign some valuable members to remain a consistent threat heading into the new year. The loss of Hampton – expected – and Hopson – unexpected – was a bitter blow, but the only other key loss was Deng Deng who headed north to join The Hawks. Then came the flurry of inclusions across the off-season, but none bigger than former Brisbane star, Lamar Patterson.

The NBL All-Star talent immediately adds the star power lost by Hopson, and provides a real target across the court both in his shooting and rebounding ways. He is the kind of player who makes his teammates stand taller, and with Robert Loe and the returning college talent in Kyrin Galloway also in the front court, the depth there is more than solid. That is even before you add in veteran forward Thomas Abercrombie, and up and comer Finn Delany who remain consistent threats.

The back court might have lost a chunk of talent, but the likes of Corey Webster and Tai Webster returning from overseas, and Rasmus Bach – a dual Dane/Australian – also coming on board. Coach Dan Shamir clearly valued versatility and has a lot of top two-way ballers, as well as keeping an eye on the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL). Young guns Taine Murray and Isaac Davidson lit up the competition with their athleticism and shooting prowess, and earned NBL contracts off the form.

In the five spot, Colton Iverson joined from Zenit to join Loe in that area and add extra height to the team. With a few sub 190cm talents such as Webster and Jarrad Weeks, the Breakers have a nice mix of athleticism and power. Finally when talking size, it is hard to look past Dan Trist, with the Spanish forward crossing from South East Melbourne Phoenix over the off-season and will add great depth to the four spot.

It might have been a rollercoaster of emotions for Breakers fans, but with some great young up and coming local talent, as well as some big inclusions, New Zealand should be able to overcome the losses and remain a team to watch, particularly if Patterson can fire once again.

Picture: Photosport NZ

NBL21 season previews: Melbourne United

WITHOUT a doubt, Melbourne United looks one of the teams to beat in NBL21, with the NBL20 finalist having clearly improved its list from last season. Having secured the final spot in the postseason series after seeing off challenges from Brisbane Bullets and New Zealand Breakers, United went about a recruiting spree, only losing a number of international talents, before bringing in some imports of their own.

While the likes of Shawn Long and Tohi Smith-Milner‘s size and impact will be missed – particularly the former’s double-double ability – United will have no troubles finding the depth across the court, particularly in the front half. American duo Stanton Kidd and Casey Pranther also departed to go overseas, whilst David Barlow stayed on to ensure the Victorian side had some height up front. While Sam McDaniel also re-signed, it was the signature of captain Chris Goulding that was crucial.

The veteran guard was an important re-signing for the club to provide experience in the area, working well with Mitch McCarron and Shea Ili in the back court. From across the sea, Scotty Hopson was a massive inclusion to the side, with the 200cm star signing on from New Zealand Breakers and following in the footsteps of Ili the previous year. While Hopson was a marquee signing, the star-studded talent and depth in the front court did not stop there.

Mason Peatling and Jack White, two towering forwards returning from their college basketball to effectively negate any loss from the outs of last season. Throw in Japanese forward Yudai Baba via the G League, and the team was set in terms of what big bodies they could throw around. It will be more a case of what Dean Vickerman‘s lineup might look like, given the depth on offer for the experienced coach.

Looking at other inclusions, Sam Short has stepped up as a handy depth option in the back court, while Jock Landale is another Aussie who will take over Jo Lual-Acuil in the five spot, and Landale will be a massive inclusion for the side. The 211cm center is a Melbourne-born talent who went to Saint Mary’s and then via Partizan and Zalgris overseas the past two seasons. Given his obvious talent which he showed during his NCAA days, Landale is one to watch as a huge recruit to the NBL.

Acuil was one of the big improvers last season, and with all the bigs coming on board, United have plenty of size running about. There are few passengers in the Melbourne team, which makes the squad such a strong side. In their final preseason match, United knocked off Cairns by 16 points with Goulding (17 points), Ili (15), McCarron (14), Landale (11), Baba (11) and Barlow (10) showing just how damaging they could be in a shared load environment. Keeping in mind that Hopson was rested and did not take the court, it was a remarkable performance, and one that showed just how good United could be considering the Taipans are a challenger too.

United has to be the favourite for the NBL title, and with an enviable amount of depth and a great mix of bigs and two-way runners, there is more versatility in the team compared to last season, and they would be predicted to go deeper than a first round finals loss.

Picture credit: Melbourne United

NBL21 season previews: The Hawks

IF there was one side that has undergone a greater transition off the court than on it, then it would have to be The Hawks, having removed Illawarra from the name – at least for now – and under new ownership are looking to rise back up the ladder. LaMelo Ball was unbelievable for The Hawks last season, albeit in a shortened stint before injury struck. He became the youngest player to record a triple-double in history, then went up and did it at NBA level for Charlotte Hornets as a third selection.

Throw back to The Hawks, and they had a season to forget, finishing on the bottom of the table with five wins from 28 games. They were by far the worst team in the competition, and an off-season overhaul which included new owners, a new name and a new coach has the team more optimistic a year later. Legendary coach Brian Goorjian has returned to lead The Hawks, and with him, he has been able to heavily recruit, and therefore replace a number of talented players who have left, including Ball.

Replacing the talented ball is 201cm guard Justinian Jessup who is older than Ball at 22, but is also on the Golden State Warriors list, having been selected with Pick 51 in the 2020 NBA Draft. The long-term goal for Jessup was to step into the NBA, but he will run out for The Hawks this season under the Next Star program. Whilst not expecting to be picked up, Jessup will be a handy addition for The Hawks, having been considered NBL quality.

Jessup joins another American guard in Tyler Harvey at The Hawks, while compatriot Justin Simon and college graduate Isaac White also follow them to the NBL. White graduated from Stanford, though unlike the other trio hails from Adelaide. He will add extra depth to the guard position, and with G-League inclusion Simon, and international traveller Harvey, there will be no shortage of experience amongst the guard spots.

In the front court, Deng Adel spent time with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2019, and is most recently from the Long Island Nets. He hails from Victoria having been born in South Sudan. Alongside him in the 200cm club is another dual citizen of South Sudan and Australia, Deng Deng, crossing from New Zealand Breakers. With Cameron Bairstow (206cm) adding to the strength of the side, the team will be difficult to stop. That is before even looking at the five spot which includes AJ Ogilvy and Sam Froling who return to the club.

No one could question that The Hawks have much greater depth than previously, with Emmett Naar and Daniel Grida remaining on board, though the latter is returning from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. While Todd Blanchfield, Josh Boone and Angus Glover join Ball as outs from the 2019-20 side, The Hawks needed change, and if Goorjian can get the chemistry up and the team to gel, then they are much better placed for an attack at the title in 2021.

Picture credit: Getty Images

NBL21 season previews: Cairns Taipans

AFTER a successful season which saw the Cains Taipans snake their way up the ladder, the North Queensland team is ready to build on that stepping stone and go all the way in NBL21. The Taipans finished third on the NBL20 ladder, but were knocked out by Perth Wildcats in the semi-finals. Prior to that, the Taipans had won 16 of 28 games, a massive improvement from a shocking 6-22 record the season before where they finished six games adrift on the bottom of the tale.

While the Taipans are still searching for their first championship – having reached the finals eight times in the past 16 seasons and made two grand finals in that time – they have shown the capacity to turn around misfortune quickly. The turnaround in form from 2019 to 2020 rewarded coach Mike Kelly with the NBL Coach of the Year Award, whilst star D.J. Newbill picked up the Best Defensive Player, and Scott Machado made the All-NBL First Team.

The biggest goal for the Taipans was retaining the signatures of Newbill, Machado and Cameron Oliver, who had all been massive influences on the side’s rise up the ladder. While Newbill announced in August that he would be headed overseas to Japan, both Machado and Oliver were retained on the list as imports. The combination of both the big (Oliver) and small (Machado) combination will worry opposition sides, though it was the arrival of another shooting guard that took the headlines.

New Zealand-board Mojave King signed on with the Taipans, hitting the court two years after signing with the NBA Global Academy. At 195cm, King is a handful across the court, with great shooting ability and a combination of strength and power. He has a number of nice tricks and is one NBA clubs will be keen to keep an eye on, following in the footsteps of LaMelo Ball who is already turning it on for Charlotte Hornets.

The backcourt duo of Machado and King will cause plenty of headaches for the Taipans, whilst Mirko Djeric provides another guard option who adds a three-prong attack, whilst the forward combination of Oliver and Kouat Noi are twin 200cm towers who can score and rebound consistently. Whilst entering the twilight of his career, 34-year-old 209cm Nathan Jawai will always have to be watched, though he could have his greatest impact off the bench.

Having kept a close eye on the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), the Taipans signed Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Ngatai, a duo that was joined later by Jordan Hunt who provides more size for the team. Kenny is a great playmaker who can provide superb depth in the guard spot, while Ngatai can shoot from just about anywhere and hardly had a poor game in the NZNBL. Throw in other bigs, Fabijan Krslovic, Majok Deng and George Blagojevic, and there are no causes for concern for the Snakes in that regard.

In short, the Taipans have what it takes to go all the way in the NBL21, with an exciting young talent in King, as well as elite stars in Machado and Oliver, and consistent talents in Noi and Jawai, alongside the New Zealand up and comers who continue to have impact wherever they go.

Picture credit: Cairns Taipans

Basketball Draft Central – Happy holidays and what to expect in 2021

IN what has been a challenging year for everyone, Draft Central would like to thank everyone for the support throughout 2020 in what was a remarkable year for the organisation. Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, Draft Central was able to expand its coverage and increase its reach across the country far greater than any previous year. Thanks to the support of you, the readers, listeners and watchers, Draft Central was able to stand up in a tough time.

We wish everyone a happy holidays, and while we will be having some content go up over the break reviewing some of the most memorable moments of the year, we look forward to a massive 2021 where we will aim to go bigger and better.

In 2021, Basketball Draft Central will not only cover the National Basketball League (NBL) and Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), but continue its expansion into the NBL1 having covered the initial competition in 2019. Next year, Basketball Draft Central will cover all the NBL1 competitions, as well as the Big V and of course the Victorian Junior Basketball League (VJBL) in the Under 18s and Under 16s Championship Divisions.

Our coverage of the top basketball leagues in New Zealand will also continue, taking a look at the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) which sees its men’s competition tip-off in April. Then when the women’s season rolls around again, we will look to cover it in indepth once again.

We will also look to bring more features, and begin a basketball podcast to follow in the footsteps of our other branded podcasts, Final Siren (Australian rules football) and Centre Pass (netball) podcasts. There will be no time wasted once the New Year hits, with the NBL season starting early on January 10, and we will recap all the action from Round 1.

Join us in 2021 as we look forward to bringing you expansive basketball coverage throughout the entire year.

NZNBL 18IN18 team review: Harbour Breeze

WITH the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition done and dusted, we take a look back at each of the six teams, how they performed and some of the top talents who stood out across the condensed season.

We finish off the series with the premiers, Harbour Breeze who went through undefeated, winning the grand final in style against the Waikato Wizards to make it a memorable condensed season.

SUMMARY:

Position: 1st
Wins: 5
Losses: 0

STATS:

Points: 74.0 (1st)
Rebounds: 41.6 (5th)
Assists: 16.3 (1st)
Steals: 13.7 (2nd)
Blocks: 5.0 (2nd)
FG%: 41.8 (1st)

It was hard to fault the machine that was Harbour Breeze, with the undefeated side storming through the competition and winning every match by double-digits on their way to the 18IN18 title. They had moments where they had to claw their way back into contention, but once in control, they hardly lost it from there, and throughly deserved the title with the most depth in the competition. They were the number one shooting team with a bullet, and had a five per cent greater accuracy from the field, as well as number one in assists, and second in steals and blocks. Offensively and defensively they were on their game, and really only lacked in the rebounds, but that was predominantly due to their work on the floor in winning the ball back, or denying the opposition from putting up shots.

RESULTS:

1: defeated Capital Swish by 23 points
2: defeated Otago Gold Rush by 11 points
3: defeated Canterbury Wildcats by 22 points
4: defeated Waikato Wizards by 15 points
5: defeated Auckland Dream by 13 points
SF: defeated Capital Swish by 13 points
GF: defeated Waikato Wizards by 11 points

TOP TALENT:

Brooke Blair

There were no shortage of stars in the Harbour Breeze line-up, but one has to opt for the overall competition Most Valuable Player (MVP) in Blair. She was simply sensational, averaging 15 points – at a 47.9 per cent efficiency no less – that included 1.4 triples per game. She also knocked down about four assists, three rebounds and two steals per match, pulling out plenty of tricks all season. While her teammates had some huge games, Blair was a standout for her impact from start to finish and has a huge future.

OTHERS:

Ashleigh Kelman-Poto was the other part of the damaging duo with Blair, knocking down 15.4 points and picking up eight rebounds per game. Almost notching up a double-double average, she also had two steals, an assist and a block per match in a productive season, getting to the charity stripe regularly. Gabriella Fotu (10.1 points, 3.1 assists, 2.7 rebound sand 2.3 steals), Zara Jillings (6.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.4 assists), Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu (7.0 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Keeley Tini (8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds) were others who shared the load with points and working off the boards in the premiership season.

Picture: Photosport