IN light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the National Basketball League (NBL)1 South Conference has been cancelled this year. As such, while Draft Central intended to do a preview on all teams leading up to the delayed start, it will instead be a team summary from last season and what they might look to improve on for 2021. Today’s edition looks at Eltham Wildcats women’s side that marginally missed out on finals.
2019 in Review:
What went right:
- Four starters averaging double-figure points
- Started strongly with a 7-4 win-loss record
- Three-point accuracy (35.6 per cent per game, ranked second overall)
- Free-throw accuracy (77.6 per cent per game, ranked fifth overall)
- Only had five losses of double-digit points
It was a heart-breaking year for the Wildcats in more ways than one, but the reason it was heart-breaking was because of all the positives that were not quite enough. They only recorded five double-digit losses to show how competitive they were, but turn that around so the five single-digit losses are wins, and suddenly they have a double chance in the playoffs. They were accurate with their shooting, ranking in the top five from the free-throw line and second overall from long-range. The Wildcats started the season strongly, winning seven of the first 11, and that could have been more with back-to-back two-point, and then a three-point loss to tip off June. The fact Eltham had four of its starters averaging double-figure points – and five when Alice Kunek came into the fold – showed just how deadly they could be.
What went wrong:
- Alice Kunek only managing five games
- Five losses in six games in winter
- Rebounding (34.9 total per game, ranked 17th overall)
- Steals (6.6 per game, ranked 16th overall)
Obviously Eltham would have loved to have had Kunek for more than five games, because when she returned, the results followed suit. The Wildcats won three of their last four games of the season, and if they had Kunek all season, then they could be staring at a really fruitful year. The five losses in June ultimately killed the playoff chances, even though the Wildcats were in it until the final day. The tough three losses of a combined seven points were heart-breakers, and a four-point loss to Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence was the final nail in the coffin for the Wildcats – who also struggled in the rebounding and steals areas – but had plenty of other positives from the season.
Playing 34 minutes per game, Schweers averaged 23.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals in a promising season for the experience guard. Five years older than any other player on the side starting the season – and 15 years older than the 14-year-old Dyani Ananiev – Schweers led by her actions, with an accurate 57.1 per cent from the field, 40.8 per cent from long-range and 84.2 per cent from the free-throw line. It would be fair to say Schweers was one of, if not the best three-point shooter in the competition, sinking 84 of 206 attempts and being a player opposition defences could not leave open.
The talented 20-year-old could well have been in the Young Gun category, but had such a terrific season she earned her place as one of the clear standouts across the season. She averaged 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game to pad the stats across the board, but crucially led the way in steals and offensive rebounds, the two areas that the team really struggled. She has shown at WNBL level what she is capable of, and has a big future in the sport.
The leading rebounds in the team, Mulligan managed 18 games in the season and put up 13.6 points to go with her 8.2 rebounds. Mulligan was able to get close to the basket and sink 46.9 per cent of her shots to the field, and then went to the foul line for a 74.4 per cent success rate. She was not an outside shooter like her teammates, but was another standout player off the offensive boards, ranking in rebounds and helping her side to second chance opportunities.
The talented teenager managed 13 games and was a huge Sixth Player in the side when she did get out on court, averaging a high 28 minutes per game coming off the bench. She finished the season with 8.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and an equal team-high 1.5 steals, which helped her add a point of difference on the court. With 21 of her 23 free-throws going down, she was a player opposition teams could not afford to foul, and has the ability to shot from either inside or outside the arc.
Christmas list for 2021:
Height. The Wildcats were one of the shorter sides when it came to the top-end stars, with the tallest player being Mulligan measuring in at 188cm. If they could find a 190-plus big who could share the load, or develop one of their teenagers who are almost that height already, then that would provide even great support off the boards and help with that area of improvement.
The Eltham Wildcats had a season of what could have been, with plenty of positives, and then plenty of almost-there moments which could have changed the course of their season. With a bit of luck and a few adjustments here or there, the Wildcats are another team who could be a contender in 2021 with an abundance of talented youth coming through the ranks to support the experienced players.