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GAME PREVIEW It remains the longest active drought in the NBL with the Brisbane Bullets having one more chance this season to get that elusive win against the Illawarra Hawks on Thursday February 8 at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Remarkably Brisbane’s last win against Illawarra still came way back on February 16, 2008. That’s obviously not quite as bad as it looks as it has only included seven games straight the Hawks have beaten the Bullets with four of them coming last season and three so far in 2017/18. Prior to their hiatus from the NBL, the Bullets had actually won seven straight matches over the Hawks. But now it’s Illawarra on a seven-game winning streak over Brisbane heading into Thursday night’s contest that opens Round 18 of the season. While both the Bullets and Hawks are out of finals contention coming into the last two rounds of the season, there remains plenty of reasons to come out and play well, and it shapes another fascinating contest.
Not only have the Bullets not beaten the Hawks since returning to the NBL, but without doubt they are the side they have struggled the most against as well. Brisbane’s two biggest losses this season have come at the hands of Illawarra – by nine and 22 points in the two games in Wollongong and then by 31 back on their home floor on November 3. Bullets centre Tom Jervis will reach his 150th game in the NBL when he steps onto the floor against the Hawks as well. Having to bide his time for his NBL opportunity, Jervis has turned himself into a valuable big man firstly with the Perth Wildcats where he was the oldest winner of the Rookie of the Year Award while winning two championships before joining the Bullets for the start of the 2016/17 season. The Bullets will come into Thursday’s game without released small forward Perrin Buford and with guard Matt Kenyon sidelined with a knee injury. But star point guard Travis Trice will return having missed last Saturday’s game in Melbourne due to an elbow infection that landed him in hospital. Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis will be glad to have Trice back to tackle the Hawks and being able to play at a greater pace with the ball in his hands will be a great boost against one of the league’s more up-tempo teams that Brisbane have failed to slow down so far in 2017/18.
“It will be great to have Trav back but as expected after being in hospital for six days and doing not much, his gas is a little short. Hopefully he’ll have his wind back by the game but we’ll manage him intelligently on Thursday night and play him in short spurts,” Lemanis said. “I think it was evident in the Melbourne game that we certainly missed his pace and his ability to just get us into offence quickly and generate opportunity by getting the ball quickly. “We certainly missed that and that was evident in the lowscoring affair against Melbourne. We were good defensively but offensively a little clunky.” Speaking of Lemanis, the game will also continue his long coaching rivalry with Rob Beveridge from the Illawarra Hawks. The two men have coached against one another in 35 NBL games previously with Lemanis winning 16 of them and Beveridge 19. But Lemanis did coach the New Zealand Breakers to wins in the 2011 semi finals and Grand Finals of 2012 and 2013 against Beveridge’s Perth Wildcats teams. The pair deserve to be considered two of the finest NBL coaches in history. Lemanis has now coached 310 games overall for 168 wins including the titles of 2011, 2012 and 2013 and two Coach of the Year honours.
Beveridge has coached 278 games for 150 wins including the 2010 championships.
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SNAPPING THE STREAK
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SLOW DOWN THE DYNAMIC DUO
The Brisbane Bullets have beaten every team in the National Basketball League since their return to the competition except for the Illawarra Hawks. Brisbane have lost seven consecutive games to the Hawks in the past two seasons with Illawarra scoring a total of 701 points in those meetings for an average of just over 100 points per contest. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bullets struggled to score last week, recording just five points in the first quarter, which was the lowest for a first period in NBL history. Brisbane will need to slow down the high-powered offense from Illawarra and pick up their production on the offensive end to snap their long lasting losing streak to the Hawks.
Brisbane have won five of 12 games at home this season and are trying to record back-to-back home victories for the first time this season after a win over the Adelaide 36ers a fortnight ago. Illawarra on the other hand have not won a road game since they beat the 36ers on November 11. But the Hawks do have bragging rights over the Bullets, who have only lost two games by more than 11 points and one of them being a 34-point defeat at home at the hands of the Hawks and the other coming in Wollongong against the same team. The teams have played 39 games in total in Brisbane with the Bullets claiming 25 and Illawarra taking 14 wins.
The Illawarra Hawks feature two of the league’s best scorers with shooting guard and former MVP Rotnei Clarke (17.9 points) and Demetrius Conger (19.1 points) contributing over 36 points of the team’s 88.2 points per game. Both players have also performed well against the Bullets in their three meetings this season and with so much of Illawarra’s offense created by Clarke and Conger, if Brisbane can limit the impact of this dynamic duo, it will go a long way towards a sixth home win this season.
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THE retirement announcement of Anthony Petrie, Travis Trice spending six days in hospital, a nasty knee injury to Matt Kenyon and the release of Perrin Buford have ensured the Brisbane Bullets preparations to host the Illawarra Hawks certainly haven’t been boring.
Then to top it off, import small forward Buford has also been released from his contract and won’t be playing with the Bullets for the final four games of the season against the Hawks, then two against the Sydney Kings and lastly against the Adelaide 36ers.
Leading into last Saturday’s clash with the league-leading Melbourne United at Hisense Arena, the Bullets made the trip without Trice who was back in Brisbane nursing an elbow infection while Petrie had made public his decision to retire at season’s end.
For Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis, it became an easy decision to release Buford ahead of the last four games and final two rounds of the season.
The Bullets did stand up well against the championship favourites and in a low-scoring affair only ended up losing by eight points and had a genuine chance down the stretch of getting much closer than that. It was yet another competitive showing to add to the collection for the Bullets this season. Now with two rounds remaining, they prepare for the first of two double-headers to finish with on Thursday February 8 against the Illawarra Hawks at Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. But it certainly has been anything but a quiet time with the Bullets leading into the second last home game of the 2017/18 season. Not only did Petrie announce his retirement ahead of the Melbourne game and now Trice has returned to training after dealing with his elbow infection, the dramatic week has continued with Kenyon dislocating his knee at training. It continues a horror injury run this season for Kenyon who has only recently returned from a nagging ankle injury, but now he will be sidelined for a further four months.
“It’s one of those things where we are obviously out of the playoff mix and it became pretty evident over the past couple of weeks that he had already started to turn his attention to his next job,” Lemanis said. “He came to me and told me that he had some opportunities to go to Europe and that he’d like to take up those opportunities. Obviously from a team perspective if anyone is not 100 per cent committed to the vision and values of the club, then they shouldn’t be here. “It’s not fair on the teammates, it’s not fair on the club, it’s not fair on the fans and it’s not fair on the sponsors. He was released at that point.” As for last Saturday’s performance against Melbourne, there’s no question the Bullets missed the presence of Trice and that certainly was a factor in them only scoring 61 points. But Lemanis was pleased with the fight his team again showed but will be glad to have his star point guard back to take on Illawarra and Sydney in Round 18.
The other major news out of the Bullets over the past week has been the decision by veteran forward Petrie to retire come season’s end. He has now made it back for the past four games following knee surgery and while he certainly is showing he can still play the game, his knee is telling him there’s only four games left in an NBL career that has so far spanned 264 matches. One of the proudest moments of Lemanis’ coaching career was picking Petrie for his Boomers debut back in 2013 and he couldn’t speak more highly of ‘Peach’ as he approaches retirement. “I selected him into an Oceania team and that was the first time he represented the national team at senior level,” Lemanis said. “Just to see the sheer pride and joy that it brought to him and what it meant to him, the significance of that selection reflects who he is as a person and how dearly he holds the sport of basketball and how proud he is to play the game. It has just been a real privilege to be around him.”
Travis Trice Guard Springfield, Ohio
Matt Kenyon Guard Gosford, NSW
Daniel Kickert Forward Melbourne, VIC
Perrin Buford Forward Decatur, Alabama
Shaun Bruce Guard Horsham, VIC
Reuben Te Rangi Forward Auckland, NZ
Adam Gibson Guard Launceston, TAS
Stephen Holt Guard Portland, Oregon
Anthony Petrie Forward Tenterfield, NSW
Mitch Young Forward Brisbane, QLD
Tom Jervis Centre Kalgoorlie, WA
Andrej Lemanis Coach Melbourne, VIC
Demitrious Conger Forward Brooklyn, New York
Mitch Norton Guard Townsville, QLD
Delvon Johnson Forward Chicago, Illinois
Kevin White Guard Manly, NSW
Nick Kay Forward Tamworth, NSW
Tim Coenraad Forward Brisbane, QLD
AJ Ogilvy Centre Sydney, NSW
Rhys Martin Guard Brisbane, QLD
Cody Ellis Forward Perth, WA
Oscar Forman Forward Adelaide, SA
Rotnei Clarke Guard Claremore, Oklahoma
Rob Beveridge Coach Canberra, ACT
MITCH YOUNG This season has been one of Mitch Young’s toughest in his five seasons in the National Basketball League. After an impressive offseason in the QBL with his junior club, the Logan Thunder, Young was ready for a strong second season with his hometown team the Brisbane Bullets. But then glandular fever struck late in the preseason. The 27-year-old energetic forward missed several games but even upon his return has struggled with energy levels and playing at full capacity due to the illness. However, that hasn’t stopped Young from continuing to work away and regain full fitness and form to finish the current season the way he would like to. “It has been a tough season for me battling glandular fever and the post fatigue. I have not been myself for much of the season and have been fighting to try and get back to where I was before I got sick,” Young said. “It has been a process to get back to 100 percent, trying to build a fitness base in season and still feel fresh on game night has been an ongoing balancing act. The travel and recovery from training and games has caused me to go through to patches. “I feel like the game against Adelaide a couple of weeks ago was what I bring to the table when I am fully fit. I have been building that over the past few weeks with improved energy levels and continued work.
“I have just tried to bring energy off the bench when I come in. I have tried to be vocal on the floor and bring a physical presence. Through defending, rebounding, setting screens and finishing around the rim.” Despite the struggles this season and 2017/18 being Young’s second year with the Bullets, he said he was still pinching himself that he was playing for the team he grew up cheering for. “It is still a dream come true to me. To be in Brisbane where I grew up and to be paid to play basketball, it doesn’t get much better. Obviously the adversity of being sick and results not going our way is tough, but every day I still feel fortunate to be able to pull on Bullets jersey,” he said. “The best thing for me about being part of the Bullets has been being able to be a part of bringing the club back to life. A club that I used to attend games as a kid and now go full circle to play in front of friends and family and represent Brisbane. “And even though results haven’t gone our way this season, the team attitude has not wavered. Through the disappointment of our record, we have continued to show up and give our best going to work day in day out. Everyone has continued to work hard and put ourselves in a position to win the next game regardless of any previous result.” And during the pressures and stress of a professional basketball season, how does Mitch Young relax?
“I love to go fishing. Whenever I have time I get out on the water and enjoy the sun and thrill of chasing the next big one,” he said. But don’t think he and the Bullets have taken their minds off finishing the season off with some wins as Young said they want to give the fans something to cheer about to end their campaign. “I think we owe it to ourselves as players, to the club and to the people of Brisbane to finish this season off strong. We have all worked too hard and given to much to not be able to be proud of the second season back for the Brisbane Bullets,” he said. You can catch Young and the Bullets in action on Thursday night against the Illawarra Hawks at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 6.30pm (AEST).
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DANIEL KICKERT Brisbane Bullets big man Daniel Kickert has enjoyed being part of the club’s return to the NBL the past two seasons, is continuing to revel in whatever Boomers honours come his way and the 34-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down physically or with his production on the floor. Kickert has been a key component of the Bullets the past two seasons on the club’s return to the NBL having arrived in Brisbane after starting his career in the league with Melbourne United following stints right throughout Europe on the back of his college career at Saint Mary’s. He put together a strong 2016/17 with the Bullets averaging 12.8 points and 4.0 rebounds a game while averaging over 50 per cent from the field, 40 per cent from long range and 90 per cent from the foul line to join the 50-40-90 club. That led into a strong off-season for Kickert with the Australian Boomers culminating in the triumphant Asian Cup winning team. And his form has continued again with the Bullets in 2017/18 with him averaging 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds a game. He is also on target to achieve the 50-40-90 feat again currently shooting 50.5 per cent from the field, 45.2 per cent from beyond the arc and 91.3 per cent at the free-throw line. But for Kickert, he has just enjoyed the challenge over the past 18 months of coming to Brisbane and being part of the Bullets basically starting up again from scratch on return to the NBL. He is proud to have been part of it so far and wants to make sure he
helps the team finish off the season as strongly as possible now. “Every year we keep getting new people on board, new sponsors and the community keeps getting more involved. It’s only going to keep going from strength to strength, and the league is only going to continue to grow too so that will only filter down more interest on Brisbane. “It’s only going to pay more dividends for us in the end. Brisbane is trying to build something great and something for the future, and nobody is pretending they can fix all the problems and have everything perfect in 12 or 24 months. Kickert might be 34 years of age, but his body has been particularly durable minus a recent calf complaint and that’s despite him playing big NBL minutes and then spending plenty of time with the Boomers as well. “I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing the last 15 years and staying on top of the little niggles, and being proactive with some things. Kickert had a tremendous time this off-season playing with the Boomers and especially to be part of the winning Asian Cup team. He also was proud to play in the recent series against Japan and to be named in the squad for the upcoming FIBA World Cup qualifiers with the Philippines. His time with the Boomers without question will always be one of his great career highlights. “Again you just can’t get hung up on age or numbers and things like that, and the Boomers situation
is the Boomers situation and I’m not looking at it from any other perspective than it being enjoyable to still be part of,” he said. “I’ve been in and out of the squad for about 13 years now and just being part of it is enjoyable. It’s good to go through so many different squads over the years with a variety of different players, and to share those experiences through basketball generations. It has been enjoyable and it’s enjoyable to still be part of it today to play alongside guys who will still be there in 10 years’ time. “It’s fun to span some sort of familiarity over a group for potentially a 20-year period when you think of guys like Mitch Creek and those young guys who could still be around in 10 years. “I started 10 or 13 years ago with some of the vets who were running around then and Matty Nielsen was obviously in his prime and there were guys like Tony Ronaldson and Shane Heal still involved. As for what his future holds, Kickert’s not sure where he sees himself playing in 2018/19 just yet, but there’s no reason remaining in Brisbane isn’t a distinct possibility. But he feels he would be cheating himself if he didn’t give full focus to this last period of the season with the Bullets before looking too far ahead. “For now I’m just focused on finishing this season strongly and when that’s all said and done, I’ll take my mind off the present and look to the future a little.”
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TOM JERVIS He is averaging a career high in points with the Bullets this season and has impressed in his fifth year in the NBL but Tom Jervis is striving for more.
“My role at the Bullets is a lot different to when I was playing at Perth but I think that’s a natural development of having more seasons under your belt. I’m loving it though, it’s a fun system to play in and the club has been awesome since the first second my family and I arrived.
Not only does he want to earn that coveted Boomers jersey that every basketball player aims for but he wants to help the Bullets achieve the same success he was a part of at the Perth Wildcats.
“I think the Bullets have done a fantastic job in building a club that will be successful for years to come. Basketball wise they have set up a development program which will give the opportunity for young basketball players to get into the Bullets system and hopefully one day put on the jersey. The club has been doing an awesome job about getting us out into the community and engagement has been great.
Jervis won two championships with the Wildcats and the NBL’s Rookie of the Year in 2013/14 and said the experience of playing with Perth has helped him move into a bigger role since he joined the Bullets. “I think getting to play in those championship games while I was in Perth early in my career has helped a lot, but you grow every year you’re playing professionally,” Jervis said.
“It’s always tough starting up a club but they have really got the right people around and are doing an amazing job. I’m really excited to see what the future brings.” Despite missing out on the recent national squads, Jervis still saw the Boomers as one of his main goals in the near future. “I think everyone playing would love to put on the Boomers jersey. It would be a great thing if it happened but there are a lot of really good players at the moment so that makes it even harder to break in,” he said. “All you can do is just work hard and see what happens from there and if the opportunity comes along do your best to bring something to the table that the team needs at point.”
The Bullets as a team are not where they want to be, Jervis and his teammates believe they are a playoff calibre team so losing several games by such little margins has been frustrating for the group. But the big man said the group were not letting it get them down, especially with the personalities and humour coming from the group, in particular Jervis himself and the team clown in Reuben Te Rangi. “This year has been an interesting one. It’s always tough when your losing games by such a small margin but we are still playing good basketball and it’s been fun. “I think it’s very important to be yourself and have a joke and laugh when the time is right. It’s always hard with the pressure and stress the sport can put on you, so having time to laugh and have a joke is always good to reset and get your mind right again. “These last games we have left will be focusing on doing the right things to get the win. We’re not trying to reinvent who we are as a team because we are a few points away from being a winning team. It’s about doing the little things and being more consistent and finishing the season off the right way.” And a little note to sign off, here’s something most people don’t know about Jervis. “Growing up I had a pet duck and lamb for a while,” he said. Make sure you catch Jervis and the Bullets in action against Melbourne on Saturday from 4.30pm (AEST) on Fox Sports 3.
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For all your on and off court GAME DAY information featuring: match previews, player profiles, coaches corner, partner offers and much more!
Published on Feb 8, 2018
For all your on and off court GAME DAY information featuring: match previews, player profiles, coaches corner, partner offers and much more!