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Monday, 15 September 2008

NBL 2008/09 Season Previews : Part 3

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Here is Part 3 of the ...a stern warning NBL 2008/09 Season Preview. This was to be the final part in the series, however in a frustrating turn of events, the blogger software decided to delete half of the Spirit and the entire Townsville Crocs and Wollongong Hawks posts before publishing. So the final two teams will come tomorrow! Frustrating actually isn't a strong enough word...


The Dragons have burst from the flames of last season's disappointment to clean the slate for a new and exciting beginning behind the signings of all-time great coach Brian Goorjian, Boomers star Mark Worthington and a host of other pieces. After a 5-25 finish to 2007-08, the Dragons will be looking for a complete turnaround of fortunes with the new team put together this season. There is no reason that this team should not be pushing for a title claim.


Cortez Groves has spent enough time in the league to know the lie of the land. A solid scorer who enjoys gambling on defence, Goorjian will be looking to transform him into the player he was in Wollongong, rather than the one he was in the Dragons' season to forget. If he can return to his 22ppg 5apg 3rpg form, the fans have an exciting backcourt to rely upon this season.

Joe Ingles is still in South Dragons colours, which makes for a happy ball club. Whilst there has been talk that the super-versatile 6'9" swingman could be Europe-bound this season, there has been nothing concrete on that front as yet and it appears that he will play in the NBL this season before making his big shot at the NBA in 2009. His size allows him to do almost anything he wants on the court and he demonstrated during the Olympics that he is not afraid of playing in big games or taking on quality opponents, despite his slight frame. The coaching of Goorjian will only continue to develop his game to the level required for that next step.

Adam Gibson was one of the most prized youngsters to become available during this off-season. Viewed as a future Boomer, he has improved in all of his three seasons with the Brisbane Bullets until the team's collapse meant that he needed a new home. A good ball distributor, last season he averaged 11.5ppg, 4.0apg and shot well from all over the court.

Nathan Herbert and Rhys Carter were two of the best-performed players in pre-season games this year. The two youngsters shot the lights out for the Dragons whilst two of their teammates were playing on Boomers duty and their imports were not in town. They are unlikely to get the same sort of chance to shine with the full compliment of talent on board, but Goorjian-led teams always get the green light to shoot the three, which should suit these two just fine.


Tremmell Darden comes into this league as a relative unknown. However the 6'5" swingman will no doubt be moulded into the Goorjian defensive mould, or else he wouldn't be in town in the first place. He is known as a strong athlete, with a good ability to penetrate. In short, a very similar player to teammate Cortez Groves. He will likely spend most of his time at small forward, whilst also playing off guard at times.

Mark Worthington has proven himself to be one of the premier players in this league and he will only improve this season after a solid Boomers campaign in Beijing. This guy does not back down at either end of the court (just ask Shawn Redhage) and will be many teams' nightmare this season. Capable of putting up 20+ points on a nightly basis, whilst also shutting down opposing forwards of all sizes, he'll likely be required to start at power forward.

Mika Vukona is the type of glue player that Brian Goorjian loves and was no doubt targeted by Goorj early in the recruitment process. He's not a big time scorer but will pull down double figure rebounds in a short number of minutes and plays solid defence. He is the perfect player to bring off the bench for energy down the stretch.


Nick Horvath is looking for a reawakening. Another player that appears to have been trapped in a South Dragons "Heal era" induced lull, he started his NBL career as an extremely dominant big man. Already in the pre-season and first up game against the Taipans he has proven that he is back on track for regular 20-10 nights and the Dragons will expect no less of him if they want to meet the lofty title expectations of their fans.

Matt Burston is as good as they get in terms of backup centres in this league. His early career in Perth promised much and it has only been injuries which have held him back from being a serious shot at the Boomers squad. The tutelage of the Boomers coach will definitely help his cause though. Look for a very strong resurgence from Burston this season.


End of regular season prediction: 3rd

There is a recurring theme in the above analysis, Brian Goorjian. The arrival of the most highly regarded coach in Australian basketball history has set expectations high for this squad immediately. Goorjian's winning mentality and track record have made for his "homecoming" being the revival of Melbourne's basketball cross-town rivalry. The fact that be attracted Worthington, Gibson and Vukona into the fold helps as well. It is not often that a team that finished last is expected to challenge for the title, but I can't see them falling behind more teams than Perth and Melbourne this season.


The name West Sydney Razorbacks may no longer exist, but the reputation as a hustling, never-say-die team that coach Rod Beveridge established last season will still be there. At least, it better be if the Spirit hope to avoid a wooden spoon finish in 2009. "Bevo" has put together a solid squad of youngsters that rely on defence and team work to win games. The two new imports this season will have their work cut out for them to save this team from the bottom of the heap.


Derrick Low has already stated in the media that he enjoys playing for an underdog, as he did in college, and the Hawaiian may get the chance to surprise some teams. Low seems to be the type of player who was born to lead a team from the front. He has a great outside shot which he put down in bunches during the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and he'll have to bring that to step into the ample shoes of the departed Darnell Hinson. The Spirit could have done a lot worse than bringing in this guy to lead the team.

Jason Smith was a publicity signing, if nothing else. After the finalisation of the Sydney Kings collapse and the Razorbacks' decision to become the Spirit, the approaching of Smith was the best marketing ploy the team could make to try and bring the basketball fans of Sydney together. Unfortunately for the team the Boomers defensive stalwart will be injured for the first half of the season, but his leadership from the bench will be a boost in the meantime. When healthy, there is no better defender at the two position and his outside shot is a constant threat.

Damian Martin's injury ten games into last season killed the momentum of this team, proving how valuable the terrier is to this club. His defensive intensity gnaws at opposing offences from baseline to baseline and he forms the core of Beveridge's plans to take teams by surprise. He is not much of an offensive threat, but knows how to get on the boards and is the type of player who will help out a team by his very presence.

Drew Williamson was a solid addition to the club from Townsville and will likely get a chance to show off his outside shot whilst Smith is still out injured.


Matthew Knight is the standout of this team and had a spectacular rookie campaign, averaging close to a double-double. He will definitely follow that up with improvement this season as he tries to stamp his authority as the commander of the boards.

David Gruber is not the most heralded import signing that this league has seen, but he is a solid blue collar worker in the paint who will use his undersized frame to get on the boards and put in his share of dunks, as he has shown in his time in the SEABL.

Liam Rush at the three position is a player on the verge of making the Boomers and just needs to take an extra step in his development to become that player that teams key on defensively. An athletic player who can get to the basket, his outside shot has become reliable enough and he helps out on defence -- a must on this team.

Graeme Dann has been described by many as one of the most frustrating players in the league due to his outstanding potential and talent which he never seems to capitalise on. His big body and ball handling ability allow him to play anything from point guard to small forward and he shows flashes of brilliance intermittently but has not shown the consistency to be a regular contributor in this league.

Clint Reed can fill up the hole, however he will not get the minutes he needs to do that on this squad.


Julian Khazzouh is a young centre with a scoring touch inside, who probably doesn't rebound as much as he should. However with the presence of Knight and Gruber down low, he can afford to do his thing on offence and at the other end is a good enough shot blocker to cause some problems.

Tony Rampton has proven himself in many seasons of Australian and New Zealand basketball as a quality rebounder and interior scorer. He is the perfect big body to have coming off the bench.


End of regular season prediction: 9th

This team lacks a quality scorer and thus, despite the defensive and teamwork principles that Bevo preaches, it will be hard for them to move out of the lower estuaries of the ladder. They will cause their share of upsets over the course of the season, but will not be the winning team that Sydney requires for the fans to get involved.

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