Category: NBL

The National Basketball League (NBL) is the highest level of male basketball in Australia. It features eight Australian teams and one New Zealand team that compete for the title each year. The season runs from October through until March with the Perth Wildcats being the most successful side in recent history.

NBL1 Young Gun Focus: Nicholas Stoddart

THE National Basketball League (NBL)1 contains some impressive talent both young and old, with veterans and rookies filling up all lists across the league. In the NBL1 North Men’s division, one young talent has caught the eye of both spectators and scouts with his impressive play on the court.

The Brisbane Capitals’ Nicholas Stoddart has been the talk of the town for a while, putting together an incredibly consistent and mature season for a player who is only just beginning to shine at this level.

Stoddart took on more responsibility at the Capitals this season, and the hard work is on display with his strong play on the court. The left-handed guard spent time with the NBL’s Brisbane Bullets development academy, and is yet to make the next leap in his career, but his 2021 campaign was as good an audition tape as you can ask for. Stoddart shouldered much of the offensive load for his side, and led them to multiple wins off his own back.

A sign of a star in the making is the unique ability to take over games for periods of time, and Stoddart possesses this. An offensive powerhouse, the 21-year-old scored over 20 points on eight occasions this season, and was a large factor in his side advancing to the postseason.

Despite the tough loss to the eventual champions in the Mackay Meteors, Stoddart never gave up, and led his side in scoring for the match, which would be an excellent sign for NBL scouts. He finished the match with 23 points, which was second-best for the match behind Mackay’s Christopher Cedar. He would be disappointed in the loss, but can hold his head high following his career-best year. His season averages ended up at an impressive 20 points per game, 3.93 rebounds and 3.73 assists per game, while he showed his defensive ability with an eye-catching 1.66 steals per game.

His strongest outings often occurred in succession, as he became a more confident player as his performances improved. A five-game stretch in May and June that saw Stoddart score over 20 points in each contest was topped off by a 31-point performance in the fifth game against Rip City. While his team lost that game, they were really alerted to the fact that they now had a young superstar in their side. His season-high points total came towards the end of the season in a loss against the Cairns Marlins, where he poured on a stunning 34 points. He was able to score both at the basket and from range, sinking six three-pointers on his way to an outstanding performance. He followed this outing up with back-to-back 20+ point games to finish off the season on a high.

After such a strong year, there is a strong chance that scouts will come knocking, as Stoddart is given the opportunity to take the next step in his career following a stellar season.

Picture credit: Kieron Place

NBL: United sign talented guard to development spot

THE Melbourne United have added another impressive offseason addition, signing National Basketball League (NBL)1 guard William ‘Davo’ Hickey to a two-year Development player contract, with the second year containing a potential elevation. Hickey joins the NBL as a development player for the second time, having already been a part of cross-town rival South-East Melbourne Phoenix as a development prospect, but will hope to take the next step in his basketball journey, joining the defending NBL champions.

The athletic shooting guard stands at 194cm (6ft 4in) and has shown his strong ability to score in explosive fashion in the past. Hickey most recently played at the Ballarat Miners in the NBL1’s South Men’s division, where he averaged 18.2 points and 8.35 rebounds per game while shooting quite efficiently too at over 42% from the field. His numbers at the Phoenix were hard to judge, given he only played three minutes for the entire 2019-20 season.

A proud Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi/Gomeroi man, Hickey joins the club consistent with the NBL Reconciliation Action Plan to Strengthen Pathways for Indigenous Players program, and looks to be an impressive young talent, with plenty of potential moving forward. He will join the team in the coming days to prepare for the 2021-22 NBL season, where United will look to defend their recent title.

Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman said Hickey has been on the side’s watch list for quite some time, and also spoke of his talent on the court.

“I’ve enjoyed watching Davo’s growth during his time in NBL1. From his time at the Melbourne Tigers through to his recent season at Ballarat, we’ve had our eyes on him.” Vickerman said.

“We see Davo as an athletic guard who excels in transition but can also attack the paint and play above the rim. Combined with his length, intensity and activity, he can really step up on the defensive end as well. He’s also a great rebounder for his size, too, which is always helpful.”

Hickey completes Melbourne United’s roster ahead of the NBL22 season, with the side settled on its roster changes so far. With plenty of talent on the roster, Hickey will be looking to make his mark on this stacked United squad.

 

Picture credit: Australian Indigenous Basketball

Phoenix take off by signing former Houston Rocket

AHEAD of the 2021-22 National Basketball League (NBL) season, the South East Melbourne Phoenix have continued to add quality talent to their list, signing Chinese star Zhou Qi for two seasons as the side look to push for a maiden NBL championship. Zhou will add some serious height to the Phoenix squad, standing at a whopping 2.16m (7ft 1in) tall.

Zhou joins the league with a wealth of experience, having been a part of the NBA’s Houston Rockets squad for two seasons, with the likes of James Harden as a teammate and Mike D’Antoni as head coach. The big man played 18 games in his first season, and will have plenty of experience at the highest level of basketball. The Phoenix will be hoping Zhou brings knowledge, skill and professionalism as they look ahead to prepare for the upcoming season.

Zhou began his professional basketball career playing for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, where he averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in a championship year. He chose to play in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) instead of the American college season, and eventually found himself selected at pick 46 in the 2016 NBA Draft. His career with the Rockets ended in 2018, but Zhou plans on using the NBL as a pathway back on to an NBA list, given his two year contract has a player option on the second season (he can opt out of year two).

“I’m excited to be joining the South East Melbourne Phoenix, I felt my best chance of getting back to the NBA was to join the Phoenix,” Zhou said. “The whole process has been one of the more professional of my career, I’m very grateful to owner Romie Chaudhari and CEO Tommy Greer for making my decision such an easy one.”

NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeglier used Zhou’s move to demonstrate the NBL’s growth in the world of international basketball.

“We are thrilled that Zhou Qi has chosen to play in the NBL with the Phoenix,” Loeglier said. “To have a player of Zhou’s calibre come to the NBL speaks volumes of the league’s standing in global basketball.”

Zhou joins fellow Chinese import Chuanxing Liu and NBA hopeful Tom Digbeu as the league’s most recent international signings.

Photo credit: AP Photo/John Locher

NBL: Bullets go global with impressive double signing

WITH the NBL season only a couple of months away, the Brisbane Bullets have made waves across the league, signing a pair of impressive international players, including one NBA hopeful. Spanish guard Tom Digbeu has joined the side as a part of the NBL’s Next Stars program, a pathway that has potential to lead to the NBA. Brisbane has also announced the addition China’s Chuanxing Liu, as the league’s relationship with FIBA’s Asian region grows. Liu will also be the tallest player in league history at 225cm (7 ft 5 in).

Digbeau joins the league from BC Prienai in the Lithuanian Basketball League, which is held in high regard. He had a strong junior career through FC Barcelona’s basketball academy, before moving to BC Preinai. His father, Alain, was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the 1997 NBA draft. Digbeu hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps, eligible for the 2023 NBA draft.

The NBL has seen multiple NBA draftees opt for the league over the USA’s collegiate system, such as LaMelo Ball, RJ Hampton and Josh Giddey. With international stars emerging across the NBA, particularly Luka Doncic, the gates are opening for international talents around the world to make the world’s biggest league, a goal firmly in Digbeu’s sights.

NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger says the league is thrilled to host NBA hopefuls, with Digbeu a welcome addition.

“The NBL has never been stronger and its status in world basketball has never been more prominent. The league has proven itself as a legitimate and consistent pathway to the NBA and it is now a prime destination for top young players from all around the world.

“Digbeu has strong basketball pedigree and possesses all the tools to be an NBA player. We look forward to watching his development at Brisbane this season as he joins a new and exciting group of Bullets.”

With the NBL 2021-22 season just over two months away, Digbeu told of his eagerness to join the Bullets for the upcoming campaign.

“The Bullets will give me a real chance to develop as a player and as a young man.

“The NBL is very well known around the world for its competitiveness, and I know that I will have to play at my maximum level of effort to deserve playing time. This is what I promise to my new club and to the fans, that I will work at my top level every single day.”

Liu should also give both Bullets and NBL fans cause for excitement, with the rebounding machine coming off a career-best season for the Qingdao Eagles, averaging 9.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, while participating as a part of China’s Olympic qualifier team.

NBL set for mid-November tip-off

AUSTRALIAN basketball fans are set to capitalise on a massive November, with the National Basketball League (NBL) first tip-off set for the month, joining the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). While the WNBL announced it would begin in the first week of November, the NBL will start a couple of weeks later, with a November 18 tip-off announced yesterday.

The 2021/22 season will feature a tenth side – the Tasmanian JackJumpers – as well as a host of new imports both returning Australians and international talents set to make it a blockbuster season. With the national men’s side the Boomers coming off a bronze medal win at the Olympics, plenty of eyes will be on the competition, which will play its first match on Thursday, November 18.

NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said he was pleased the league could announce the start date, with the later-than-usual commencement based around health advice and giving the fans the best chance of attending games.

“It is an exciting day for the league and an extremely exciting time for basketball in general,” he said. “Having a start date confirmed for November provides clarity for our clubs, players, coaches, staff, partners, broadcasters and fans, as we all prepare for what promises to be another amazing season.”

Loeliger said the start date was aimed at matching up with higher vaccination rates in Australia and New Zealand, with the health and safety of players, coaches and staff the priority in all decision making.

“Based on expert advice and based on our own experiences from last season, delaying a month gives us more flexibility and most importantly, it provides fans a much better chance of attending more games in Australia and New Zealand as the number of people vaccinated against COVID increases towards the end of the year,” he said.

“We know our fans have been eagerly awaiting this announcement and we hope they continue to get right behind the players and clubs as the NBL continues to break new ground and takes things to the next level.

“There’s so much to look forward to with the inclusion of our newest team, the Tasmania JackJumpers, an exciting new group of Next Stars set to launch their careers, and many of our Olympic bronze medal heroes will be coming back home to play.

“We can’t wait for November 18 when another extraordinary season of world-class basketball begins.”

The fixture will be announced at a later date.

Picture credit: Paul Kane

Giddey storms into the NBA after being drafted by Thunder

AUSTRALIAN teen sensation Josh Giddey is the latest young gun from Down Under set to light up the National Basketball Association (NBA) stage after being selected at Pick 6 in today’s NBA Draft. The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Giddey, who in turn became the highest Australian ever drafted directly out of the National Basketball League (NBL).

Plying his trade with Adelaide 36ers after a stellar junior career that included representing the green and gold on the international stage, Giddey averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game in the 2020/21 NBL season. He recorded back-to-back triple doubles, the only Australian in NBL history to achieve the feat, catapulting him into draft lottery contention.

Following on from the success of his NBL Rookie of the Year predecessor in LaMelo Ball (who won the subsequent NBA Rookie of the Year), Giddey said it was an unbelievable feeling to hear his name called out so early in the draft.

“It’s a dream come true so to be taken by the Thunder and to have them want me on their team it makes me feel really special and I couldn’t be happier,” Giddey said. “The Australian basketball community is really tight. So, to have those guys by my side and supporting me through this whole process has been really good for me.”

Giddey said the success of Ball and fellow NBL Next Star, R.J. Hampton allowed the Australian league to be broadcast on the international stage and show the worthiness of the competition in comparison to the NBA.

“Watching LaMelo and R.J. Hampton go through that same process and see how well their game translated from the NBL to the NBA gave me confidence going in that hopefully I can do something a little bit similar,” Giddey said.

“Lucky enough I did, I landed in a good spot and having LaMelo and R.J. with the attention they brought from America to Australia was big, and I was just lucky enough that the limelight was still on me at the time.

“They had so much attention on the league and it allowed me to go in there with lots of eyes on it so it was a good time for me to enter the league.”

NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said the league was thrilled that Giddey would take his basketball to the next level by living out his dream and entering the NBA.

“The entire NBL family congratulates Josh Giddey on being drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the sixth selection,” Loeliger said. “This is the culmination of years of hard work from Josh and it is a day he and his family will never forget. Josh is a fantastic ambassador for Australian basketball and we have no doubt he will do us proud on the NBA stage.

“It is also a landmark day for Australian basketball and the NBL, as we further validate ourselves as a league that provides strong and legitimate pathways to the NBA. ”

Picture credit: Mark Brake/Getty Images

Melbourne United season summary

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is Melbourne United who won the 2021 NBL title.

SEASON SUMMARY:

It was a season to remember for head coach Dean Vickerman and his strong Melbourne United side, who ultimately overthrew the Perth Wildcats in a thrilling Game Three of the grand final series. The win was a welcomed outcome for the side, who were determined to have another taste at glory since their last win back in the 2017-18 NBL season.

United’s monumental season was encompassed by 28 wins and eight losses, which helped to secure their position at the top by the end conclusion of the regular season. Despite the added pressures of rounding off the regular season as a result of the Victorian lockdowns, it only seemed to help United take the top spot in the competition. The reigning champions’ roster was kept pretty similar for the majority of the season, with no major injuries plaguing the team during the season.

HOW IT UNFOLDED:

Melbourne United opened their season with a win against the Adelaide 36ers, as they kicked off what would be a phenomenal season. In the aftermath of their win against the 36ers, United saw a string of wins before hitting their first loss of the season back in round six of competition. But the slight loss of momentum from Melbourne had failed to continue. Eventually, composure and form were regained in a 10-point win against the Illawarra Hawks that ignited a winning streak. As a result of this winning streak, United would be seen to dominate the scoreboard and take out the title.

United’s chances of securing their second title in four years became a lot clearer when they took down the Southeast Melbourne Phoenix in the semi-final series. The cross-town rivals were no match for Melbourne United who put on a fiery performance to defeat the Phoenix 2-0.

Finally, Melbourne’s showdown with the second-placed Perth Wildcats saw a tight contest between the two sides. United took full advantage of the final series right from the get-go. Game one saw them get over the line against Perth by three points, meanwhile, Melbourne took out game two by nine points. Melbourne capped off the grand final season at John Cain Arena 81 to 76.

WHAT WORKED WELL:

A key part of the sides’ gameplay, United’s defence had a clear presence on the scoreboard.

Yudai Baba’s performance throughout the season a small taste of how good the sides’ defence was. His 31 steals and nine blocks were not only critical for the side to secure the years’ title but also resulted in the fan-favourite picking up Melbourne United’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chris Goulding helped his side to get started and delighting United fans during the first four minutes. The star talent put on a show collecting three triple-points in the first four minutes of the game and caused chaos for Wildcats’ offense. His nine points paved the way for what was to come in the thrilling contest. Goulding continued to keep the pressure on the Wildcats with 14 points, four rebounds and two assists.

Alongside Goulding, Jock Landale whose performance also proved critical for United with 15 points, nine rebounds, two rebounds and two blocks.

WHAT WENT WRONG:

Whilst Melbourne ranked pretty strong in defence coming in first in the competition, they slipped when it came to offence coming in third just behind Phoenix and Perth. Overall, Melbourne United had a pretty good year given they had taken out the minor championship as well as the grand final series.

ROSTER NEWS:

Melbourne United are not stopping following on from their season win, immediately turning their attention to their roster for the NBL22 season.

A major disappointment for United with Mitch McCarron departing the team to join the Adelaide 36ers.

However, in an effort to fill the void left by McCarron, Melbourne has secured two-time Olympic basketballer Matthew Dellavedova for next season. The Victorian-native, who also has 450 NBA games under his belt, will bolster an already versatile United team.

Dellavedova will join Sydney Kings veteran Brad Newley next year as new signings. Meanwhile, Shea Lli, Chris Goulding, Jack White, Mason Peatling, Jo-Lual-Acuil and David Barlow all re-signed to remain contracted with the team. Zac Triplett has also signed on with Melbourne United.

LOOKING TOWARDS NEXT SEASON:

It will not be a surprise that United will be on everybody’s radar going into the 2022 season. Melbourne United will be aiming for a back-to-back win come this time next year. With Dellavedova and Newley being thrown into the mix of big names, be prepared to see Melbourne United out on the court playing for yet another championship to add to their collection.

 

Picture credit: Daniel Pockett/AAP

Perth Wildcats season summary

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is Perth Wildcats who had another outstanding season.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Another great season for the Wildcats as they made the Grand Final for the third successive season and the sixth time in Trevor Gleeson’s eight-year reign as coach. Unfortunately, for the now departing Gleeson (who is set for a coaching role in the NBA) they could not overcome Melbourne United, losing 3-0 in the Grand Final Series.

The Wildcats ended the regular season in second position recording 25 wins and 11 losses in what was another consistent season for the club. Luckily (or unluckily) they were able to maintain a healthy roster for most of the season until an end of season blow, which saw reigning MVP Bryce Cotton year prematurely ended after having surgery to relieve pressure from a haematoma in his left quadriceps.

The injury to Cotton ultimately had a big impact with the rest of the squad unable to overcome United. John Mooney and Todd Blanchfield were left to carry a much bigger load come finals, but it was a bridge too far for the pair and their fellow teammates.

HOW IT UNFOLDED:

The Wildcats started the season losing three of their first five games (twice to SEM Phoenix and once to United), before they got back into their winning rhythm with a five-game streak. After a sole loss, the Wildcats then had an even better run, winning nine straight games. In a 17-game stretch around those streaks, they only lost twice.

The semi-final series against Illawarra was going to be intriguing, a top-quality opposition without their star man, however Trevor Gleeson got his team playing some good quality basketball, and they were too strong defeating the Hawks 2-1 in the series.

When they met Melbourne in the final, unfortunately, the loss of Cotton was too big for the class of the first placed Melbourne outfit. The Wildcats lost twice in Perth, by three points in game one, and nine points in game two, before Melbourne won the final game at John Cain Arena 81-76.   

WHAT WORKED WELL:

The combination of Cotton and Mooney this season was fantastic they averaged 23.5 and 17.3 points respectively, while Cotton won the league MVP and led the league in points, it was Mooney who dominated the glass across the NBL (11.4 per game). Both players made the All NBL First Team to cap off a great season. On another individual note, Mitch Norton finished third in the league Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The defence was a strong aspect of the Perth outfit this season, conceding the least points in the league with 2900 for the season (80.6 per game), while they were also ranked fourth in steals (6.3 per game).

Offensively, the team was solid, but not a league leader. They were ranked fifth for points per game (85.3) and were fifth for three pointers made 9.2 per game. From the field they were not great, but they were the league leaders in getting to the free throw line and converting (16.1 per game on 79.7 per cent shooting). They also showed that they were able to create shots for each other with the best assist numbers (18.8 per game) and creating second chance points (11.2 offensive rebounds per game – ranked second). The Wildcats also had the least turnovers out of any team only averaging 10.3 per game.

WHAT WENT WRONG:

As mentioned, the Wildcats did not perform fantastically from the field, they were ranked eighth for field goals made (30.0 per game) and their shooting percentage of 43.4 per cent was also second worst in the NBL. Strangely, they only managed 1.9 blocks per game which was the worst by any team despite conceding the fewest points and having a strong defensive season. Apart from this, there was not a lot that went wrong with the Wildcats season, the Cotton injury was far from ideal, but it was unavoidable.

MVP CONVERSATION:

After winning his third NBL MVP, being selected in the All-NBL First Team for the fourth time and winning the Members MVP (voted by the “Red Army”) for the fourth consecutive season, it would take a brave person to back against Bryce Cotton.

Cotton had another stellar season, but unfortunately missed out on the chance to help his team win the Grand Final Series due to injury. Across 32 games Cotton averaged 23.5 points (up 0.6 compared to last season), 5.7 assists (increase of 1.7 from last season) and 1.5 steals (equal third this season), showing his class on the offensive and defensive ends.

John Mooney was a great asset to Perth this season. The big man was a double-double machine, with his averages of 17.3 points and11.4 rebounds as well as three assists. He shot 55 per cent from the field and was an important part of the teaming making the Grand Final without Cotton in the line-up.

Mooney had a great season but expect Cotton to take home the Gordon Ellis Medal for the fourth straight season.

ROSTER NEWS:

There’s been plenty happening with the team since the Grand Final defeat with Clint Steindl, Jarred Bairstow, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk all departing, alongside Will Magnay who has signed with new franchise Tasmania JackJumpers.

In a big blow for the team, John Mooney has reportedly signed with the Milwaukee Bucks on a Summer League contract after one season in the NBL.

In better news, league MVP Bryce Cotton remains contracted for next season, with Todd Blanchfield and Luke Travers also locked in. Corey Shervill (two years), Majok Majok (two years), Jesse Wagstaff (one year), and Mitch Norton (three years) have all signed new deals with the club that will see them remain in Perth.

As mentioned, Trevor Gleeson is departing the club after eight successful seasons, joining Jacob Chance as departing coaching staff.

LOOKING TOWARDS NEXT SEASON:

With Gleeson departing, the Wildcats will be on the hunt for a new head coach in the next few weeks, but don’t expect the new boss to have any troubles making the playoffs in their first season. This is a club with a rich history and with guys like Cotton, Blanchfield and Norton already on the list, a couple smart additions could make a championship calibre roster very quickly, if it isn’t already one. Expect Perth to be right up there again regardless of who is in charge.

 

Picture credit: AAP

Illawarra Hawks season summary

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is Illawarra Hawks who had a season to remember.

Season Summary:

After a disappointing 2020 campaign the Hawks came out with a point to prove and they did just that. Glued to the bottom of the ladder last year the Hawks rose up the rankings this season and did not skip a beat from the get-go. With a smattering of new players across the court it did not take long for the Hawks to find their groove and inflict some pain with their ability to attack the rim.

With Brian Goorjian at the helm the Hawks had more of a defensive-minded focus which allowed them to steadily creep their way up the ladder. Their hot form early in the season gifted them the upper hand and while they dropped a couple of crucial games here and there, their improved level of consistency gave them an edge which propelled them into finals.

How It Unfolded:

Only winning a mere five games last season the Hawks completely flipped the script this season recording 20 wins and 16 losses as they skyrocketed up the ladder. The new and improved Hawks wasted no time getting their first win on the board and kept that momentum well and truly rolling for the first four games. They suffered back-to-back loss to the two Melbourne sides before returning to their winning ways and continuing their rise up the ladder. A couple of losses midway through the season looked to derail their campaign but that was not to be as the Hawks dug deep.

Illawarra managed to secure third spot on the ladder thanks to a five-game winning streak to round out the season. Already an improved effort from the previous season the Hawks had their opportunity to play finals and gave fans plenty to cheer about when they won Game 1 of the series but eventually fell short against back-to-back reigning premiers Perth Wildcats. Although the Hawks were unable to make it to the grand final there was plenty to be happy with as they walked away from the season having discovered a couple of dynamos and a winning mentality.

What Worked Well:

There is no denying that the pick-up of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup was exactly what the doctor ordered. The two were influential for the Hawks with their ability to carve up the opposition. Harvey broke records registering the highest number of three-pointers in a season with 114 to his name, while his average of 20.4 points per game put him in good stead. Jessup was also a menace averaging 13.26 points per game to accompany his 3.69 rebounds, 1.83 assists and 1.11 steals.

The addition and work rate of Justin Simon also worked in the favour of the Hawks with the guard leading the way in defence, so much so he was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year award at the club. Simon imposed himself and his seven-foot wingspan to rack up an average of almost two steals a game with his season total of 67.

What Went Wrong:

Offensively the Hawks struggled to generate a lot of scoring power only managing 82 points per game, the fourth lowest in the competition. Although they had the likes of Harvey and Jessup at their disposal it was the lack of other scorers that came back to bite them and allowed other teams to heap on the pressure. Untimely injuries to a couple of their key cogs in Harvey and of course Cam Bairstow also put a bump in the road for the Hawks as they were unable to retain the same momentum they had at the start of the year.

MVP Conversation:

It was an impressive season for Harvey who stepped up to the plate time and time again for the Hawks. His efforts did not go unnoticed and rightly so as he took home the MVP award given his proficiency on the scoreboard. He was in just about everything for Illawarra and was a real driving force with his ability to convert from outside the arc one of the focal points in his game.

Roster News:

The Hawks have signed on a couple of up and coming players for next season but will be hoping to retain the services of a couple of key cogs in Simon and Harvey to go one step further in season 2021/22. The players who have already committed to the club are Akoldah Gak, Daniel Grida, Emmett Naar, Jessup, Max Darling and Sam Froling. Jessup has been huge since joining the club while Froling has developed at a rate of knots making him an exciting player to keep on the roster given he averages 11.53 points, 7.06 rebounds, 1.53 assists and 1.28 blocks per game.

Looking Towards Next Season:

Having retained a core group of players the Hawks are gearing up for another blockbuster season. With the right building blocks and a solid game plan as shown throughout this campaign they will be hoping to take things one step further and push for a grand final berth. So far the Hawks have a good mix of up and coming talent and experienced heads signed on for next season putting them in good stead to compete deep into finals. If they are able to equip themselves with a couple of extra more consistent points scorers then the Hawks are going to be hard to stop.

Photo credit: Anna Warr

South East Melbourne Phoenix Season Review

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is South East Melbourne Phoenix.

Season Summary:

South East Melbourne Phoenix entered their second campaign in the NBL looking to improve on their eighth placed debut season, and coach Simon Mitchell got exactly what he would have asked for. The Phoenix just managed to edge out last season’s grand finalists the Sydney Kings to claim fourth spot and ensure the club’s maiden finals berth.

A rollercoaster of a season saw the Phoenix end up with a 19-17 season record, aided by a mid-season purple patch, where the team won six out of seven games between Rounds 9 and 12. Mitch Creek was a huge part of the team’s successful season, as he continues to help build the club from its foundations.

Like most clubs, the Phoenix had their fair share of interruptions this season with star import Keifer Sykes missing time with an ankle injury, veteran Adam Gibson battling with calf issues, and Creek missing two weeks without playing or training due to a police matter. In addition, the club was without big man Dane Pineau, as the rebounding defender (who was nominated for Defensive Player of the Year last season) could only manage one game, battling numerous injuries.

Despite the dramas the team rallied, and the mid-year signing of Ryan Broekhoff from the NBA, was another good move as they fell just short of reaching the grand final.

How It Unfolded:

From the start of the season the Phoenix looked a danger, averaging 91.5 points across the first 10 games, starting the year 5-5, including a couple wins over reigning champions Perth.

The biggest problem for coach Mitchell was trying to get his guys to perform consistently, as they were quite up and down during the season, apart from their mid-year seven-win, two-loss run. A few late defeats to the Taipans (once) and the Bullets (twice) opened the door for the Sydney Kings to hunt down fourth spot, but the Phoenix managed to hold on.

A semi-final match-up against crosstown rivals Melbourne United saw the Phoenix lose the first game, before winning the second match up in the best of three series, but it was eventual champions United who got the upper hand to move on to the big dance.

What Worked Well:

As the saying goes ‘one man’s loss is another man’s gain’, unfortunately for Pineau injury disrupted his season, but it allowed teammates Ben Moore and Yannick Wetzell to step up, with both players in the team’s top three for rebounds, as well as top two for blocks.

Offensively, there was a lot to like for Phoenix fans, with the team leading the league for points scored (3217) averaging 89.4 per game. They led field goals made (32.8 per game), shooting at 46.3 per cent (ranked second), and they were equal third for three pointers made (9.4 per game), with a shooting percentage of 36.1 per cent (ranked second).

The recruitment of Sykes was a success, as the guard went on to average 14 points and five assists per game, playing second fiddle to Creek, who led the team in scoring (18 per game, 51 per cent field goals made, 41 per cent three pointers made). Kyle Adnam also had a solid year playing 36 games and averaging 12.6 points and 3.6 assists and finishing in third place for the leagues Sixth Man of the Year award. Cameron Gliddon was also an offensive weapon averaging 11.5 points (2.7 threes per game on 40 per cent shooting).

What Went Wrong:

Although Wetzell and Moore had great seasons, the Phoenix did miss the presence of big man Pineau, as they ranked second last for rebounds and blocks, which Pineau had averaged 8.6 and 1.1 respectively in the 2019/20 season. They also conceded the most points by any of the finals teams, conceding 86.8 points per game, over four points more than Melbourne United (82.1 points conceded per game).

The Phoenix had their chance to face off against Perth in the last week of finals, but they blew a 15-point lead to United in the decisive game three, going on to lose 74-84, putting an end to their season.

MVP Conversation:

Last year’s winner Mitch Creek will again be the firm favourite to take out the club’s top honour in its second season. Creek was named in the NBL All Second Team, after averaging 18 points across 31.49 minutes this season. Creek played 34 games and had a huge impact in the team’s success. He was second in rebounds (6.4 per game), and third for assists (3.6 per game) in what was a great output despite his interruptions earlier on in the season.

Sykes may have given him a run for his money had he not suffered his ankle injury which kept him out for over a month. Sykes was second in scoring and led the team’s assist numbers this year.

Creek should take out the top honour again, making it two from two.

Roster News:

Some important moves have already been made by the Phoenix, with Creek electing to trigger his player option, meaning he will be at the club next season. Broekhoff has re-signed for two years, after playing 16 games this season, since returning from a stint in the USA. Adnam and Izayah Le’Afa have both agreed to two-year deals, with Le’Afa gaining a contract after being signed as a development player in his first season.

Pineau, Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi all remain contracted for next season, while Wetzell is on the move to his home country, with the New Zealand Breakers securing the big man on a three-year deal.

Looking Towards Next Season:

It was a very positive outcome from the Phoenix this season, climbing four places on the ladder from last season. With key players like Creek and Broekhoff signed on for next season, the team looks in good shape to challenge the best again. With a good off-season, coach Mitchell will be hoping  Pineau, can make a healthy return to help sure up his side’s defence after they looked shaky in that aspect this season.

You get the feeling the Phoenix will be a must watch next season.

Photo credit: South East Melbourne Facebook