NBL Team Watch: Perth Wildcats
WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season edging closer by the day, we take a look at each team’s prospects heading into their upcoming NBL21 campaign. With an offseason full of eye-catching signings and roster improvements, teams will be looking for strong signs as the season approaches. Next up in our series is the Perth Wildcats.
Season 2020-21 saw the Wildcats fall just one hurdle short of claiming a third consecutive championship, but the side will still walk into the upcoming season with plenty of promise. In Trevor Gleeson’s last year at the helm, it took a while for the Wildcats to get their mojo, losing three of their first five games. This was unexpected, but they were soon able to right the ship and get back on the board with a five-game winning streak. This was bested later in the season when the side won nine in a row, and firmed themselves one of the championship favourites. This all changed when their star player and league MVP Bryce Cotton was ruled out of the entire postseason due to a nasty quad injury. Cotton has been their go-to man for half a decade so this proved an unforeseen and unwanted hole to fill. Given the Wildcats finished with a record of 25 wins for 11 losses, they entered the playoffs in second place. Despite the absence of Cotton, they were able to dismiss the Illawarra Hawks, winning the series two games to one to advance to the deciding series. They were bested by the strongest team of the year, as Melbourne United won the series 3-0, and the Wildcats were dealt the status of runners-up.
As mentioned earlier, Gleeson will not be coaching the side this season, having taken a coaching role in the NBA, so his replacement was named shortly after the conclusion of the season. Canadian Scott Morrison has been named as the new head coach of the side, and will be looking to maintain the culture of success built by his predecessor. Morrison joins the team after a successful tenure in the NBA as an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics.
The Wildcats will be ecstatic to regain the services of Cotton in the upcoming season, as he is contracted for 2022. Their biggest loss came in the form of star big man John Mooney, who has departed the club and taken another international opportunity. Mooney combined well with Cotton, and the pair formed a formidable duo throughout the season. Mooney leaves big shoes to fill, as does Will Magnay who has joined the league’s new expansion team, the Tasmanian Jackjumpers.
The club has been rather passive in the offseason so far, still with two roster spots to fill before the season commences next month. The team will welcome Jack Purchase from Adelaide though, who should provide plenty of spark and sharpshooting, and have elevated Luke Travers onto the primary playing list, after a stint as a development player since 2017.
The Wildcats have been at the top of the league for a number of years, and will not be planning to change this in the near future. With a new coach at the helm, the side may look a bit different, but with Cotton returning, this side will be about the mark once again.
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