Author: Vincent van Oorschot

Perth takes 2-1 lead in Grand Final Series

PERTH Wildcats proved too strong in Game 3 of the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final Series running out convincing 15 point winners  over Sydney Kings. The Wildcats edged one game closer to back-to-back championships with 111-96 victory. It was the first time since 1999 that the first three games in a grand final series were won by the visiting team.

As both sides channelled their inner basketball gym memories thanks to the empty seats due to the coronavirus, it was Perth that edged ahead to begin the game. Following the explosive start from Miles Plumlee, earning himself six points, two assists and a couple of blocks within the opening five minutes, the Wildcats finished the quarter holding the Kings to a mere 18 points as they produced 29 of their own, setting the tone early at Qudos Bank Arena.

The second quarter featured a couple of standout performers for the Kings, as three second quarter three-pointers from Brad Newley kept the home side within striking distance, while Jae’Sean Tate made his mark around the rim. Despite these factors, Sydney’s mission to cut the deficit was becoming futile given they had only outscored the Wildcats by one point in the second period, trailing by 10 at the main break.

However, it was in the opening half of the third quarter that Sydney finally made headway, tying up the game off the back of a pull-up three from Kevin Lisch. Nevertheless, that would be as close as Sydney would get to stealing Game 3 from the defending champions thanks to two big three pointers from Nick Kay, who ultimately set himself up for a night to remember. Stretching their lead back out to 14 with ten minutes remaining in the contest, all Trevor Gleeson’s men had to do was conduct their regular brand of basketball to the end, and following an alley-oop jam for Plumlee four seconds into the fourth quarter, it was safe to say Perth would conduct business as usual.

Good shooting from the starters to the bench for the Wildcats would see out a competitive Game 3 winning the contest 111-96, therefore setting up a bid to win the series back in Perth for Game 4. But, given the fact that the home team in all three games thus far has not won yet, it could mean a potential Game 5 if the Kings can pick themselves up. While four out of Sydney’s starting five amassed double-digit numbers, Will Weaver’s men still could not get the job done. Nevertheless, noticeable performances by Tate (20 points and six rebounds) and Newley (19 points and five rebounds) rounded out the Kings’ stat lines. Lisch also made substantial contributions with 16 points, while Casper Ware again struggled from the field with 11 points, going 5-20 (25 per cent) from the field.

For the Wildcats, it was a two man show once again as their NBL First Team stars were the main culprits. Bryce Cotton who shot close to fifty per cent, finished with 31 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in what was an all-around performance from the MVP.

On the other hand, it was a career-high night for Kay, collecting 30 points, 12 rebounds and four assists as he dominated from start to finish from deep. Alongside his numbers, Kay managed seven threes in a dominant performance offensively further solidifying his spot amongst the NBL’s elite. It is the second time in NBL history (first time since 1986) that two teammates have amounted 30 points each in a Grand Final series game (Cotton, 31 and Kay, 30). Good performances from Plumlee (13 points and seven rebounds) and Terrico White (10 points and four assists) aided the away side, while Clint Steindl made his shots count as he summed up his night with 13 points, going three of four from deep.

With Game 4 scheduled for Friday at RAC Arena, Perth has the chance to retain their championship on their home floor, but whether this kicks the Kings into gear and force a deciding Game 5, we will have to find out later this week.

Cotton’s 32 stuns Kings, Perth leads GF series 1-0

CLOSE to 12,000 people made their way to Qudos Bank Arena to see the two top teams – Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats – throughout the regular season, battle it out in Game One of this season’s NBL Finals Series.

It was the Kings that struck first as there would open up the first quarter 7-2, but thanks to the work of their leaders in Nick Kay and league Most Valuable Player (MVP) Bryce Cotton, the Wildcats would only trail by a single basket following 10 minutes of play and an entertaining start to the series.

Good shooting by Sydney’s secondary unit was responsible for their good start in the second period as Daniel Kickert, Didi Louzada and Xavier Cooks were culprits in doing this. But offensively, Perth started to find their stride. Finding their way to the basket across the team, the Wildcats were able to edge themselves in front by a point, off the back of a Kaye layup heading into the break.

The home side composed themselves early on in the second half, stringing together a succession of field goals, including a crown raising one-handed jam by Louzada to put the Kings up by 10 with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter. However, a massive three-pointer by Terrico White, would cut the Kings’ lead from eight to five with only a couple of seconds remaining, giving the Wildcats a little sniff of hope with the final quarter to come.

With both sides trading buckets, the task of getting his side out from under an efficient shooting Sydney Kings outfit, once again fell to their man. Cotton, who was relatively quiet, turned up the heat significantly, alongside new import big-man Miles Plumlee, as they grinded their way back to a late-game lead. To further add insult to injury, Damian Martin, who had yet to make a single field-goal throughout the entire game, gave his side the lead after knocking down a wing triple.

Despite White’s two missed free throws with 11 seconds remaining, missed three-point attempts to win the game by Shaun Bruce and Casper Ware would give the Wildcats the series lead and shift the focus over to Perth for next Friday.

For the Wildcats, a 32-point, six-rebound and four-assist night is becoming pretty standard for Cotton, as he took out Man of the Match honours by a mile, whereas Kay was the next man up with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists. Plumlee provided substantial numbers too, finishing his night with 10 points and seven rebounds.

While Andrew Bogut made his mark through his four quarters of play (18 points, 12 rebounds), it was Ware that was rather unproductive. Shooting 1-14 and going 0-10 from behind the arc, Ware would finish with five points and four assists, encapsulating one of his worst performances of the season. Nevertheless, three other players would finish in double-digits such as Kevin Lisch (17 points), Jae’Sean Tate (11 points) and Bruce (11 points).

With the Kings set to head to Perth in the coming week, Will Weaver and his staff have some serious tactical meetings ahead as one more loss would put them on the brink of a very anti-climactic end to a somewhat successful season.

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 3 preview: Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans

WITH the series at one game apiece for two of the highest scoring offences in the league, Game 3 of the Wildcats/Taipans series goes back to RAC Arena on Thursday night and the Cotton/Machado MVP conversation can finally be laid to rest for this season.

The opening game of the series went Perth’s way by a single point off the back of a 43-point exhibition provided by Bryce Cotton, in front of more than 13,000 screaming fans layered in red clothing. The following game at the Cairns Convention Centre, however, was one that was efficiently and diligently handled by the Taipans, as a 30-16 first quarter by the home side, was enough to keep the Wildcats at bay for the remaining three quarters, leading to an 11 point victory for the Snakes.

With the result of this series to be determined later tonight, there are a number of things each side needs to do if they are to gain any significant edge throughout the 40 minutes of basketball.

If we look at the Wildcats first, the main factor in anything the defending champions do, is decided by the performance of their league MVP in Cotton. Their star import guard shot the lights out in Game 1, going 14 of 25 from the field, while also accumulating 10 made three-pointers in the process. The fact that the Wildcats live and die by Cotton’s sword was further proven in Game 2 up in Cairns, where Cotton’s stat line was a complete shell of his previous game’s, going five from 12 from the field, resulting in only 11 points. This stark contrast in points and performances outlines that Perth’s number one concern going into the deciding game of the series, will be their reliance on Cotton.

While Cotton is Perth’s number one producer on the floor, it is also important to remember that another member on the Wildcats’ squad is a member of this season’s All-NBL First Team. This individual being Nick Kay. Kay, averaged over 15 points, 7.6 rebounds and more than three assists throughout the NBL season, has often been touted as the league’s most productive work horse. Kay’s output come Game 3, will decide how effective Cotton can perform, which in turn would affect the entire squad as a result.

Looking to the team that has its mind set on spoiling the party for all of Western Australia, the Cairns Taipans are starting to hone in on their franchise’s first NBL title, and with one more win, they could have one hand on this year’s hardware.

In terms of what the Taipans need to do to make an away win at RAC Arena a reality, does not rely on the performance of a single player. Mike Kelly’s playmaking schemes throughout the season have been based on a five-man offence and defence. With this style of play by the Taipans, the majority of their ball flow goes through their star guard in Scott Machado. Machado who has proven himself one of the league’s top play makers given he averages 16 points and 7.9 assists per game following the regular season, the way he controls the game’s tempo sets him apart from his peers in the competition. However, while Machado’s numbers were high in their Game 1 loss and low in his team’s Game 2 win, his ability to move the ball on offence on a consistent basis makes his weapons around him more effective against an inconsistent Wildcats defence as shown in Game 2.

While players like Marco Djeric, Nathan Jawai, Kouat Noi and Jarrod Kenny are all able to be utilised in their own ways against Perth’s defence, the most impact for the Taipans depends on the outputs of Dj Newbill (18.8 points, 3.1 assists and 3 rebounds) and Cameron Oliver (17 points and 9.1 rebounds). It can be assured that both these stars will look to make an impact on Thursday night, but will the size of Perth’s front-court be too much for Cairns’ “big three”.

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 3 preview: Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United

FOLLOWING their fourth quarter disintegration back in Game 1, nobody expected the retaliation that Melbourne United was going to release upon a visiting Sydney Kings side at Melbourne Arena in Game 2. A retaliation so severe that one might ask, “how are Sydney meant to bounce back from this?”

Moving on from their monumental 45-point blunder on Monday, Sydney heads back to their fortress Qudos Bank Arena, a place they have only lost at twice in 15 encounters. Given their stellar record at home and thousands of raving Kings fans, barely any teams have been able to crack the code of getting an away win at Sydney Olympic Park.

For United, they have two decisions to make if they are to put themselves in the best position to go to the grand final series for the third consecutive year. Either follow the same strategy that almost got them over the line in the series’ opening game, which included a dribble first slashing playbook that spread the Kings thin in almost every area of the half court. Or, United goes with the high-octane shoot first and early blitz offence that completely shocked the Kings on Monday in Game 2. Either way Will Weaver will need to be ready to adapt to whatever situation comes his way like he has done the entire season.

The main downfall for the Kings has most certainly been the absence of point-guard Casper Ware throughout the opening two games. Averaging a miniature eight and a half points, Ware has been nothing more than a shadow on the court compared to the production of Melbourne’s Melo Trimble. Ware, who averaged close to 20 points per game in the regular season, is in desperate need of finding his stroke as he has forty minutes to do so in what could be an anti-climactic end to a somewhat impressive season.

The Kings’ only constant up to this point, has been the performances of wing-player Jae’Sean Tate. Averaging over 20 points per game at a rate of over 50 per cent in the series, the responsibility to step up falls to Ware, and also Andrew Bogut, who so far has been covered by Jo Lual-Acuil and Shawn Long (has scored a total of three points in both games). With the main objectives for the Kings being some form of improvement from their marquee players, it will come down to if these players can rise to the occasion.

Back-tracking to Melbourne’s key performers, a major emphasis has been placed on defence as evidenced by the statistics surrounding the Kings’ most prolific players. The headlining names in this retrospect are Mitch McCarron, who has been a defensive anchor all season for United, and Shea Ili, an up and coming ballplayer who is quickly making a name for himself as a result of his coverage on Ware this series.

Offensively, United holds strong position players at the point, the perimeter and inside. More specifically Trimble, Chris Goulding and Long. Trimble, who experienced a slump of his own during the late stages of the season, has picked himself up and has showcased his abilities so far in the postseason, averaging 22.5 points in the semi-final series. For Goulding, he has failed to put on a spectacular shooting show at this stage, however, averaging 17 and half points per game whilst shooting at 42 per cent clip throughout the season should be enough to worry any opposing side, including the Kings. Lastly, Long has displayed his dominance as an inside force, a monster on the boards and a perimeter shooter, averaging 24.5 points and 10.5 rebounds.

If United can click on these facets of the game with these players, stopping this side would be an arduous task for the Kings.

NBL Semi-final reviews: Wildcats and Taipans exchange blows, set up for wild Game Three

AFTER an A-grade first two games in this season’s semi-final matchup between the Perth Wildcats and the Cairns Taipans, we look forward to what will be an intense final game between two of the top offensive sides in the league. Here were the series of events that occurred over the weekend during a turbulent first two games that have led us to this point.

Game 1: Perth Wildcats (108) defeated Cairns Taipans (107)

In front of the red army, Bryce Cotton and his entourage came up big in the NBL’s opening playoff game, as RAC Arena witnessed perhaps the best game of the NBL 20 season to date. Cotton came out of the blocks strong, torching the Taipans from the perimeter, including a four-point play to end the opening period. With the Wildcats leading by nine after ten minutes, the Taipans showed why they are one of the most entertaining offensive sides in the league, completely upending the game and reversing the roles. Following a 34-16 second quarter, thanks to premium shooting by Scott Machado, Marco Djeric and Cameron Oliver, it was Cairns that went into the main break up by nine points. With their work cut out for them in the second half, Perth’s Nick Kay was the next man up, as he hit back-to-back three pointers to finish off the third period, therefore cutting the deficit to just three points, setting the crowd up for a do or die final quarter. Down the final stretch, Kay again came up big, nailing another three-point dagger with 30 seconds remaining to tie the game at 93 points apiece, which was followed up by the Taipans’ Fabijan Krslovic miss, sending the game into overtime. With the big guns going back and forth from both sides following regulation, the ball fell to Wildcats veteran Jesse Wagstaff at the free-throw line. After nailing both, it put the game beyond reach of Cairns, as the Wildcats took Game 1 by a sole point, setting the series up for a highly touted game two rematch.

Through four quarters and overtime, Cotton remained Perth’s go to man, finishing with a monumental 42 points through 43 minutes of play, staking his claim as the NBL’s only MVP. His counterpart in Scott Machado also made his presence known with a spectacular 31 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, but it was not enough to get his squad over the line. Other than Cotton, a major contributor for the Wildcats was Kay, who shot at a second to none rate, putting up 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He also went on to hit the mark on five of his six three-point attempts proving to be Perth’s lifeline in game one. For the Taipans, the other two from the big three tried their best to get their side over the line, with Dj Newbill accumulating 25 points, while Oliver was big on the boards with 17 rebounds, alongside 19 points. With Game 2 just two days later in North Queensland, Mike Kelly’s men were keen to bounce back and fight to their last breath.

Game 2: Cairns Taipans (85) defeated Perth Wildcats (74)

Following their narrow defeat on Friday night, Cairns got the jump on the Wildcats in the first quarter of Game 2, opening up a 14-point lead off the back of a Machado triple to end the period. The damage caused by the Taipans in the first quarter ultimately set the tone for the rest of the game with more of Cairns’ secondary players having an impact like Nate Jawai and Majok Deng putting up substantial numbers on the night. Despite outscoring the Taipans by six in the third quarter, the Wildcats could not get within striking distance of the home side, mainly due to inefficient shooting. With Perth shooting 38 per cent on the night compared to Cairns’ 47 per cent, it would be hard to shake a determined Taipans outfit eager to force a Game 3. At the end of forty minutes, the Taipans took out the contest 85-74 setting up for a deciding game back in Perth.

Oliver was the Taipans’ leading scorer on the night, making his minutes count with 22 points and 19 rebounds (averaging 18 rebounds through two games). Newbill was also prominent in front of the home crowd with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. An unlikely standout performance in Clint Steindl for the Wildcats was the main talking point for the team, as the forward secured 18 points in 25 minutes of play, whilst Terrico White was good for 13 points of his own. It can be guaranteed that both sides will bring their best cards to the table come Tuesday night, but will the Taipans be able to upset the Wildcats on a home court that is seemingly impossible to win on? Or will the Wildcats handle business as usual and head to the final dance once again to defend their title?

WNBL Grand Final G1 review: Cap’s one win away from back-to-back glory

IN the first game of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) grand finals series the Capitals clenched victory over a gallant Flyers side by a mere two points.

Southside Flyers (80) defeated by UC Capitals (82)

The league’s top two teams finally met in a clash that embodied everything the WNBL, as both the Southside Flyers and the UC Capitals went to war at Dandenong Stadium. Both sides came out of the block shooting at an efficient rate, but the real talking point came when Jenna O’hea, who had been out the last six weeks due to injury, made her impact known instantly. Coming off the bench after three minutes, O’hea scored seven straight points getting into a groove very early on. Leading by a bucket after the first quarter, the Capitals struggled to fend off a gritty Flyers side that had barely let anything slip through the cracks throughout this season’s campaign. With the Flyers getting to the basket fast and often, and making free-throws when they could, a four-point lead was what Southside had to deal with, against a Capitals side that has been unstoppable for almost a month now. Rebecca Cole led all scorers with 18 first-half points, setting the tone for the home side.

With both sides going back and forth at one another, a deep two from Leilani Mitchell on the buzzer separated the sides by six points with the final quarter yet to play. But the Capitals would stubbornly not fall away, matching the flyers basket for basket until the final buzzer. Then, with less than a minute and a half to play, a spinning layup with contact by Olivia Epoupa put the Caps up by two. The final possession led to a turnover by the Flyers and fell into the hands of an elated MVP in Kia Nurse, as the Capitals stole Game 1 in Dandenong, taking home the win 82-80.

It was the perfect ending for Nurse, as she led her side on the court and on the scoreboard, finishing her night with 19 points and five rebounds. While no single player achieved twenty points on the day, it was an overall effort, as four players reached 14 points or more. Kelsey Griffin was next on the podium next to Nurse, with 18 points and 12 rebounds to her name. While, Marianna Tolo and Epoupa each finished 15 and 14 points respectively, as Epoupa also snagged nine rebounds and six assists. For a disappointed flyers side, Cole rounded up her night with a solid 23 point and seven assist night, meanwhile Mitchell was good for 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. O’hea provided 14 points and six rebounds off the bench in 33 and a half minutes in her return to action.

The Flyers now travel up to Canberra to try and win an almost impossible game, as through 14 match-ups this season at the AIS Arena, the Capitals have only lost once (13-1). But, with the only team having beaten this team at home being the Southside Flyers at the start of this season, perhaps WNBL fans can expect some déjà vu. If not, then the Capitals will win back-to-back titles, possibly their ninth in franchise history.

Game 2:

7:30pm @AIS Arena, Canberra

March 4, 2020

2019/20 NBL Semi-final 2 preview: Melbourne United vs. Sydney Kings

MELBOURNE United will be ruing their last quarter stumble less than two days ago in their best-of-three series against the Kings, and as a result are down to their final chance as they host their New South Wales rivals at Melbourne Arena.

Despite leading by as much as 16 against the minor premiers with less than a quarter to play, the heroics of Didi Louzada, Casper Ware and Xavier Cooks were to blame for their seven minute collapse and Melbourne’s head coach, Dean Vickerman, was adamant the atmosphere and late game tempo were the main factors for his side’s regrettable defeat.

“I thought what changed the game was the pace they started to really push,” Vickerman said post-game on Saturday night. “They felt like we bogged them down in the half-court, so they really grabbed it out of the net.”

“I think [Brad] Newley was a factor in just really changing the pace of the game the way that he was attacking,” Vickerman added. “I thought for the last five minutes we probably slowed our attack to get started in our offence.”

The main takeaways from Game 1, for United was that if you can slow down Sydney’s fast-break attack, they become slow to get to the basket and distant from the perimeter. While the Kings will try to remedy these holes in their game plan, a huge amount of credit falls to Shea Ili. The guard’s first season in the black and white has been one of defensive prowess and neutralising star players, and Game 1 was no exception. Ili held Ware to a mere seven points in 31 and a half minutes of court time, in what has been hailed as one of the best defensive performances of the season. It will come down to Ware if his fortunes will change in Game 2 and possibly in a grand final series.

Heading back to Melbourne Arena is a welcoming prospect for Melbourne guard, Melo Trimble, as he is confident the backing of the United loyal will be the kick his side needs to get his side over the line despite losing game one.

“[Game 1] was very disappointing, but it’s a series,” Trimble said post-Game One. “I think we’ve figured out how we’re gonna play our defence and a lot of shots didn’t fall.”

“I feel like on Monday, at our house, with our fans behind our back we’ll be a different team, a better team.”

While Melbourne seems to have the Kings’ main offensive tactics locked down, players like Cooks (six points and nine rebounds) believe that having the right mindset is what makes great teams great.

“When we’re down, bad teams start to doubt themselves,” Cooks said, “we never start to doubt ourselves, we stay with it, we put our front foot forward and we took over the game when it mattered.”

What the Kings need to think about heading to Melbourne, is that the home crowd is raring to back their team. This in turn means, that Ware needs to find space if the Kings are to have any chance of stealing a win on the road. To be able to do this, other players need to step up further and Ware himself needs to shoot better than he did in game one (3-14). In addition, while small forward Jae’Sean Tate performed well in Game 1 (23 points and five rebounds), it’s Sydney’s frontcourt that needs to improve around the rim.

Kings big-man and former league MVP, Andrew Bogut, was not as effective as he has shown previously, leaving Qudos Bank Arena with just eight points thanks to the presence of Melbourne’s Shawn Long and Jo Lual Acuil. While Bogut’s work on the boards for the Kings has been nothing short of valuable, averaging close to nine rebounds a game, more consistency on second chance points would go a mile for his side as the veteran only averages eight points a game.

We will see tonight if Melbourne really does have a hold on Sydney’s offensive schemes, or if Sydney has a trick up their sleeve to put away their long-time rivals. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, if Sydney is to silence the Melbourne crowd, an explosive first five minutes is required.

NBL Semi Final review: Kings overrun United in a Game 1 thriller

GAME 1 of the National Basketball League (NBL) clash between the Kings and United lived up to the hype with Sydney showing who’s boss in an enthralling encounter.

Sydney Kings (86) defeated Melbourne United (80)

Despite facing a side that has only lost at home twice this season, Melbourne United was not going to lay down and concede Game 1 of their semi-final series without a fight, as they opened up their matchup against the Kings with a 7-0 run.

The plan of attack for United was clearly to exploit their accuracy from the three-point line as Chris Goulding, Melo Trimble and even Shawn Long were hitting their mark from downtown. As a result, Melbourne was looking terrific after the first half, leading a somewhat confused Sydney side that was struggling to find their stride after twenty minutes. United’s masterclass continued, as they extended their lead even further in the third quarter, but the tides started to change five minutes into the third, as Casper Ware made his first field goal of the game. Trailing by as much as 16, the Kings began their uphill climb with Jae’Sean Tate’s fastbreak layup, which in turn caused the 13,103 that were in attendance at the Qudos Bank Arena to get behind their team and will their side back into the contest. Led by the 20-year-old Brazilian import, Didi Louzada, the Kings went on to score nine unanswered points to finish off Saturday’s night clash, as well as 24 of the next 26 points scored from both sides to pull off one of the biggest upsets in NBL postseason history, edging out United 86-80 in an unwanted home scare.

While Ware was not effective against a side that he had abused so far this season (seven points and five assists), it was Tate that picked up the slack with 23 points and five rebounds, as he was a driving force in his sides come from behind triumph. Xavier Cooks was also a driving force on the night stopping one rebound short of a double-double, finishing the night with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists, whereas Brad Newley was effective from the free-throw line going 10-12 from the charity strike. He finished with 17 points.

Trimble’s first half was phenomenal, as the import guard racked up 24 first-half points that got United’s nose out in front early in the contest. While he slowed down later on in the game, he still capped off a respectable night with 34 points and five assists in his side’s loss. Meanwhile, Long showed off his range, converting on four of his three-point attempts, which contributed to his 23 point and 10 rebounds double-double night.

Whether United can bounce back for Game 2 or not, will define how their season will be remembered, against perhaps one of the best NBL teams in history.

Upon reflection: Nathan Crosswell

ONE of the most durable players in National Basketball League (NBL) history, Nathan Crosswell holds a formidable track record when it comes to basketball success. Enduring stints at the Victoria Titans, Victoria Giants, Melbourne Tigers and the Adelaide 36ers just to name a few, the new NBL1 head coach of the Southern Sabres certainly has extensive knowledge around the game of basketball. Draft Central’s Vincent van Oorschot was lucky enough to sit down with Mr. Crosswell at the Sabredome on Tulip St, to recount the events of one of the NBL’s longest ever prospects.

Born roughly twenty minutes south of Byron Bay in the northern regions of New South Wales in the small town of Ballina, Nathan Crosswell found himself intrigued by the sport of basketball at a reasonably young age. Due to the small size of the town he resided in, Nathan, or as most people know him, ‘Crossie’, spent the majority of his time playing on outdoor courts at his local school, in a competition made up of four teams from the Ballina area. It was not until Nathan had reached under 14s that they finally had a roof to play under.

By the time Crosswell had reached around 10 to 11 years of age, his family had moved half an hour inland close to the town of Lismore, where he would get his first taste of a more intense brand of the sport becoming part of the Northern Junior League (NJL). Other teams within the NJL consisted of towns further South such as Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree and all the way down to Newcastle. Every fortnight Crossie and his team would cram into the team bus and travel up to six to eight hours each way, for a weekend that would consist of two or three games against other sides.

“It was a huge commitment from the other kids and the families and the coaches just to give us an opportunity to play a good standard of Basketball,” Crosswell said. “Otherwise we would’ve just ended up playing those same four teams every other week.”

Nathan got into playing basketball at a serious level through the NJL, but he was also exposed to the game at an early age, for reasons a little bit closer to home. Brian Crosswell, Nathan’s father, would play in the local domestic leagues from which a young ‘Crossie’ would follow along and watch his old man compete.

While his parents exposed him to the game of Basketball, Nathan recalled his parents always pushing him to get involved in sports that he himself favoured personally.

“My parents were awesome in allowing me to play whatever I wanted,” Crosswell said. “I did a lot of soccer. I wasn’t very good at it. I also played a little bit of rugby league, not a lot though. I just stood on the side because I was too scared, but my parents pushed me to do what I wanted.”

The next step for Crosswell was when he reached the under 18s, which led to him being coached by Tony Gaze, the brother of ex-Boomers coach Lindsay Gaze. Tony had moved up to Little Italy just south of Lismore, in a bid to breed Ostrich eggs, which fell through, ending in the growing of coffee trees.

After Tony Gaze had coached Lismore’s side for 12 months, Crosswell had to decide his next move as he approached Year 12. Tossing up options between Sydney and Melbourne, Nathan decided the latter, given his goal from day one was to really challenge himself in the sporting capital of Australia and make it to the top level of the basketball scene Down Under.

“As much as it hurt my mum to leave, I finished my school formal and the next morning me and my dad drove down to Melbourne to give Basketball a crack,” Crosswell said.

Gaze had organised the aspiring baller to live with his son’s family until Nathan had his feet on the ground and adjusted, while he shopped around for his spot in the Victorian melting pot of basketball players.

Remarkably, Crosswell earned himself a position in an under 20s squad at the junior program of the Melbourne Tigers under the guise of the then-assistant coach of the senior side, Al Westover.

Nathan would constantly train with the NBL side throughout his time in the under 20s side, and then in 1999 when Andrew Gaze made his way to the San Antonio Spurs, that gave Crosswell a spot in the senior’s side as a “tenth man”.

“I didn’t play a lot throughout that year,” Crosswell said. “But for me, it was a massive learning experience playing alongside the likes of Lanard Copeland, Marcus Timmons, Warrick Giddey and Mark Bradtke.”

By playing with these stars, Crosswell gained an insight into the amount of commitment that is needed to be a prominent player in the NBL at that level. Off the court, Crosswell found it challenging to alter his bad habits when it came to dieting and the gym. But things would change for Crosswell when he left the Tigers and met the head coach of the Waverley Falcons, Vince Crivelli.

Crivelli, who still to this day remains very close to Crosswell, gave the aspiring basketballer the phone number of a Californian by the name of Brian Goorjian, the Victorian Titans coach notorious for pushing his players to their limits. After training with the Titans for what was his self-admitted hardest ever week of practice, Crosswell got the call to hang around with the squad as a reserve, which he credits most to the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Bruce Grey, for teaching him the fundamentals in taking care of his body.

“It was crazy man, we would do a spin class then go and train for two and a half hours,” Crosswell said. “At the end of training I could barely walk!”.

Following a year playing for Goorjian’s side in the NBL and signing a two-year extension, the Victoria Titans would fold as an organisation, which in turn would lead to Crosswell playing for the Victoria Giants for a couple of seasons before they too would cease operations as an organisation. This left his career in limbo following the 2003/04 season. Crosswell’s next move was decided after chats with both current Melbourne Boomers and the then-Cairns Taipans coach Guy Molloy, as well as the coach of the Hunter Pirates, Adrian ‘Doc’ Hurley, from where Crosswell decided to move up to Cairns.

The move up to North Queensland to this day is still a major highlight for both Crosswell and his wife Roslyn, because “the weather was unbelievable, and it was just an awesome lifestyle”.

After providing his services to the Taipans for two seasons, it was time to move back down to Melbourne where Nathan thought was home by that stage. Through good timing and the moving on of more senior players, Crosswell made the move in 2007 to Melbourne.

Arguably Nathan’s best stint of playing years came between the years of 2007 to 2010, where he and his Tigers side would make three consecutive grand final series. This ultimately led to Championship success in 2008 for Crosswell and a sense of accomplishment for the boy from Ballina, as his side edged out the Sydney Kings in a down to the wire five-game series.

“It’s funny,” Crosswell said. “You kinda get where you wanted to get, and it is what it is. For me it was always just a game and I played because I loved it and that was no different from those days when I was watching my dad play in Austinville to when you’re playing in front of 10,000 people at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, which was awesome to play in front of that many people, but I just wanted more.”

As well as being selected to the Boomers in that same year, Crosswell had never given much thought to possibly playing overseas in perhaps the Euro League or the States, “I’ve always been more of a home body,” Crosswell said. “I was comfortable being here and I loved playing in Australia.”

Closer to the end of Crosswell’s career, the veteran would move up to Townsville under Trevor Gleeson for just one season, then he made the move down to Adelaide where he would suffer a debilitating Achilles tendon injury in his first season at the 36ers. It marked the moment that Crosswell thought it might be time to wind down the clock on an illustrious career, but was still keen to finish a whole season on his own terms.

“I definitely wanted to do that last season (2012-13) and I probably knew that after having a conversation with Roz,” he said. “About halfway through the year I met with the Adelaide head coach and said this is what I’m thinking and didn’t really tell anybody until about the week before, but in my head, I kinda knew that this would be it.”

Crosswell would finish his 350th and final game at the NBL level on March 23, 2013 which culminated in his career being honoured at the NBL’s Gala Dinner that year standing beside another NBL great in Glen Saville.

“That was pretty special,” Crosswell said. “They had a highlights package of us on the screen and it was a really nice touch by the NBL on my career.”

Post-basketball, life has been busy for Crosswell, playing a number of seasons in the South-East Australian Basketball League (SEABL), but also in a new role within the sport.

To this day, Croswell has been coaching junior basketball for a number of years at the Southern Sabres Basketball Association, which he has always enjoyed as a way of giving back to the game that he has been in love with since being a child on the outdoor courts in Ballina.

“If I can inspire one kid to wanna play then that’s great,” Crosswell said. “I just want to make it as enjoyable as I can for these kids because at the end of the day that’s why I started playing, not because someone was forcing me too. And if you can do that, the rest will take care of itself.”

A major highlight from Crosswell’s junior coaching career, included his Under 16 boys’ team back in 2014 coming fifth in the Basketball Australia National Junior Easter Classic. It has been announced that Crosswell will head coach this year’s NBL1 South side, the Southern Sabres, for the 2020 season, for which he is very excited due to the fact it’s his first senior coaching role. He also currently holds the position of Head of Mens and Boys Basketball at the Southern Basketball Association.

Nathan Crosswell finished his playing career with 350 games in the NBL, 223 games within the SEABL and 100 games in the Big V competition.

NBL 20 Awards night: Cotton gifted second MVP award, Hopson absent from All-NBL First Team

On Sunday night, the National Basketball League hosted its annual Gala Dinner, where all the outstanding performers throughout the season were recognised for their efforts.

Ever year, the man of the hour title always falls to the winner of the season’s Most Valuable Player Award (named the Andrew Gaze Trophy). That name-tag this year fell to Perth Wildcats guard Bryce Cotton, who for the second time in his career received the honour, following his earlier success in 2018.

For Cotton, it was another remarkable campaign for the fourth-year player, who has spent his entire NBL career in the red and black. The 27-year-old led the league in scoring averaging almost 22 and a half points per game (22.48) and leading the league in steals as well with 1.74 a game, the first player in NBL history to finish the season leading in both of these categories. Furthermore, Cotton was able to muster almost four rebounds a game and over three and a half assists in what was a well-rounded season for the import guard.

Cotton finished first in the votes tally with 88 in total, whereas Scott Machado, who had widely been talked about as the major frontrunner for the award, finished second with 80 votes. Following Machado, Bullets forward in Lamar Patterson locked up 73 points of his own, while Breakers forward Scotty Hopson was a big absentee from the leaderboard.

Personally for Cotton, it was not an individual accolade as he gave major props to his teammates for a tremendous season that sees the people of Perth being in the stands for a 34th consecutive postseason appearance for the Wildcats, “I definitely want to send a special shout-out to my teammates from the love and support that they give me every single game,” Cotton said while receiving the award.

“Whether it seems like I can’t miss a shot or it’s a game when I can’t make one to save my life, they want me to go out there and be me and that goes a long way with me.”

While Machado fell short in his individual category, another figure within the Cairns Taipans organisation was able to receive some hardware on the night, as Head Coach Mike Kelly was recognised for his managerial efforts and was gifted with the Lindsay Gaze Coach of the Award.

Following his disappointing first year at the helm of the Taipans in the 2018-19, where his side finished with an abhorrent six wins and 22 losses record, Kelly made amends in convincing fashion in the NBL’s 2019/20 season as the Taipans solidified third-position and a finals birth with a 16-win season under their belt to round out their season.

With his side averaging over 92 points per game and holding an 11-3 record at home, it was hard to deny Kelly the award, given the complete turnaround in seasons that he had initiated since his debut season.

“I know it’s all about the players and that’s why our coaches in this league get to where they are,” Kelly said.

“I appreciate the team and I appreciate the CQ University Taipans and all the work we’ve done to get where we are. The community is going crazy and this is one of those effects of it.”

Kelly was the clear favourite in the votes tally for the award, taking home 65 votes compared to his peers in Will Weaver (Sydney Kings) and Trevor Gleeson (Perth Wildcats) who both finished with 39 and 32 votes respectively.

Rounding out an interesting Awards night for the NBL, the All-NBL First and Second teams were announced, with some major inclusions and exclusions taking place in both sides that should have the punters riled up for the rest of the season.

Named in the first team was Kings’ forward in Jae’sean Tate, who put up 16.4 points per game along with 5.8 rebounds as well to go along with a triumphant season. In addition to the first-team frontcourt was Wildcats big-man Nick Kay, who found consistency from Round 1 through to Round 20, as he summed up his season averaging 15 points, 7.6 rebounds, three assists and shooting over 53 per cent from the field. In the backcourt, MVP-winner Bryce Cotton paired up with fellow superstars in Machado and Patterson which was expected, given the numbers these individuals put up throughout the season.

Major talking points were the absences of Hopson and Cairns big-man Cameron Oliver, who were both named to this season’s All-NBL Second Team. In Hopson’s case, the first-season player amassed 19 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game in what was discussed as an MVP-calibre season. On the other hand, Oliver finished the season ranked second in both rebounds (9.1 per game) and blocks (1.6 per game), while putting up 17 points a game as well. Other inclusions in the side were Defensive Player of the Year winner in Dj Newbill (18.8 points, 3.2 assists and 2.96 rebounds), Casper Ware (19.68 points and 3.93 assists) and Andrew Bogut (8.24 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.16 blocks).

Rookie of the Year was awarded to young gun American import LaMelo Ball, who had his season cut short due to injury and was therefore unable to receive the award in person. Nevertheless, Ball averaged 17 points, seven assists and seven rebounds a game in a stat-stuffing season for the Hawks.

Lastly, both the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards will reside in Brisbane for the next year, as Will Magnay took home the first award and Jason Cadee snagged the latter. Magnay’s eight point, six rebound and league leading 2.15 blocks per game season was enough to earn him 53 votes in his category, four more than Phoenix forward Dane Pineau (49). Whereas Cadee collected 31 votes for his award, just edging out Sydney’s Daniel Kickert, who attained 28.