NBL Season 15/16 Preview pt 1: This will not be the Summer of our discontent

The NBL Season is almost upon us and the league is making some big moves in maintaining a sustainable future moving forward, including a new chairman in Larry Kestleman, many new sponsors including Fox Sports, Virgin Airlines, Chemist Warehouse and many more.

NBL Season 15-16 Preview

In part one of this season review, we’ll be covering the current eight teams in depth including playing rosters, what we know about the club already, whispers about the future, their stability rating, what factors are in play and the key areas for the club to focus on in the development of their future.



* – Denotes Import

# – Denotes rookie listed

+ – Denotes injury replacement


Adelaide 36ers


Is Hodgson the difference between this season’s 36ers and last? Photo by news.com


2015/16 Roster: Gibson, Kenyon McNeail*, Creek, Petrie, Johnson, Teys, Nathan Sobey (Taipans), Lucas Walker (United), Ebi Ere* (Bullets/Europe), Matt Hodgson (United), Daniel Carlin # , Nelson Larkins # , Sam Johns # , Atem Atem #


Coaching Staff: Joey Wright, Kevin Brooks, Tracy York


What we know: SA Clubs have Gibson, Petrie and Peter Crawford signed, SA based head of Titanium Security Bruce Spangler and his consortium own the club, Titanium Security are major sponsors and own naming rights for the next five years of the venue through Guy Hedderwick and SA Church Basketball Association and Scouts Australia own the venue.


Whispers: Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz will return to play for the 36ers and live in Adelaide with newly married wife Netball Thunderbirds star Renae Hallinan once NBA career has concluded.


Stability rating: Reasonable with a constant crowd of 3500 on average, Adelaide has always been a basketball focused town and recent success in results have driven the numbers up after an eight year drought.


Factors: No other state basketball organisation runs either national team in their state therefore the 36ers in order to remain a strong club need to establish a long-term ownership and sponsorship agreements otherwise Basketball SA will be propping them up for years to come.


The club have no doubt saved on their cash-flow by recruiting one major import and minor import or skilled Australian player in recent years, but poor form, the wrong fit through early season matches and injury seem to have taken their toll on their recent import selections including Daequon MontrealCraig Winder, Chris Warren and Jarrid Frye.


They have had a history however of recruiting lesser known solid imports that have been more than serviceable including Willie Farley, Matthew Garrison, Dusty Rychart and Adam Ballinger.


Key areas of focus: Recruitment with two solid imports that complement the strong Australian contingent that the 36ers seem to keep rolling out season after season and long term financial support in the form of a major SA based sponsor or NBA franchise that will provide finances for the 36ers to be a feeder club for NBA draftees.


A local flavour with a focus on recruiting home-grown talent to help increase pathways to basketball excellence so the club keeps players of the ilk of Ingles, Brad Newley and Ben Madgen.



Perth Wildcats


Will James Ennis still be a Wildcat this season? Photo by TheTrojanHotelandTapRoom.com


2015/16 Roster: D Martin, Beal*, Casey Prather* (College), Knight, Nathan Jawai (Europe), Jarrod Kenny (NZ Tall Blacks), Hire, Wagstaff, Redhage, Jervis, Rhys Vague #, Corban Wroe #, Ben Dixon #


Coaching Staff: Trevor Gleeson. Matthew Nielsen, Jamie O’Loughlin, Adam Forde.


What we know: Nick Marvin is the general manager of the club and Jack Bendat is owner of the club, Perth Arena is owned and run by the WA government and pulls a consistent crowd of 9000 plus after moving from Challenge Stadium and assistant coach Adam Tatalovich has left to pick up an NBA assistants role.


Whispers: Beal may opt out of his current contract during the first half of the season if the NBA comes knocking and if the Miami Heat cut James Ennis during the season, he would return to his NBL club to replace Prather on the Wildcats roster.


Stability rating: Excellent as one of the only clubs that can guarantee longevity with 29 finals appearances and a club that owns its WNBL equivalent.


Factors: The recent flurry of NBA draft picks has become the Wildcats marketing weapon which has caused them to dominate the majority of the television coverage and the league happenings seem to centre around their operations.


They’ve lifted the standard at home but due to so many summer events happening at Perth Arena such as the Hopman Cup, the Wildcats do spend a patch of their season on the road where traditionally their form can waver.


The Wildcats seem to have a way of getting the player everyone missed, they pull out all the stops to claim instant talent that’s naturalised including Drake U’U, Earnest Ross and Redhage or on the Australian Boomers radar like Hugh Greenwood.


In that case though he became an AFL Adelaide Crows rookie listed player a short time into his three year contract with the club.


Key areas of focus: Continuing to establish connections with the NBA with former imports like Ennis returning to run training clinics which helps raise the profile of the club overseas.


Keeping the intimidation factor as the reality is they have always been one of the toughest teams to play at home and are now armed with a 14000 seat arena with which they bring their “Wild Wild West” trademark fans into the game.


The culture on and off the court also continues to be impressive, they have are one of the most well-run organisations not just in sport but in Australia.



Melbourne United


Is this NBA Veteran the final piece of a Championship puzzle? Photo by news.com


2015/16 Roster: Stephen Holt* (College), Chris Goulding (Europe), Todd Blanchfield (Crocodiles), Kickert, Hakim Warrick* (NBA), Tomlinson, Igor Hadziomerovic (College/VIC), Barlow, Majok Majok (College), Patton, Kyle Adnam+ (Hawks), Brad Hill+ (Hawks), Emmanuel Golong #


Coaching Staff: Dean Demopoulos, Mike Kelly, Simon Mitchell



What we know: Larry Kestelman is the owner of the club and Vince Crivelli is the CEO, Margaret Court Arena, Hisense Arena and the State Netball and Hockey Centre is owned and run by the Melbourne Olympic Parks and Melbourne Sports Hub, Consistent crowds over last season have grown since the club went through its rebrand and veteran Darryl Corletto has left Australia to play in the England Basketball League.


Whispers: The club constantly have its eye on the performances of league leading scoring import of 2014/15 Jordan McRae and if enough crowds turn up and spark the interest of Basketball Victoria it could pave the way for a second Melbourne team as early as next season but more likely in 2017/18.


The Opals/Boomers qualifiers against the Tall Blacks/Ferns was a measuring stick of crowd numbers at MCA, the attendance was about 15000 for the double header.


Stability rating: Reasonable as there seems to be a consensus amongst the basketball public that as long as the league exists, Melbourne will have a team and with crowds of 3500 to 7000 the above subscribes to this theory.


Factors: Larry Kestelman is an owner who is now in charge of bringing basketball back into the Australian public’s eye and what he delivers for Melbourne United marketing as a product could determine the fate of the league.


That championship a Melbourne franchise has craved since the Tigers in the late 2000s has again been marred by a history of Victorian NBL teams putting the best looking squads in Australia together but not delivering with the silverware, this being the case its one of the few competitions where a championship for this club maybe one of the best things that can happen to the league.


The AFL has a number of untapped basketball supporters but its hard winning over a majority of Victorian sports fans hearts that belong to the AFL, United have a tough task with such a loyal and traditional following in financially harder times.


Key areas of focus:The younger core need to be on board early and no doubt United should target the younger fans base along with the usual basketball purists.


Winning over the purists is a task in itself as the Victorian Basketball community don’t seem quite won over by the United franchise but this season could see many of them come out of the wood-works for the good of basketball.


Trying to be “the” United came with its jokes which flew thick and fast when it was unveiled often confused for a soccer type label and the criticism from former Melbourne Tigers rolled out and the team was anything but on court last season.


A sacked coach one game into the season and constant team chemistry issues were a major issue with the label but the personalities have changed along with much of the personnel, I expect we’ll see a different “United” this season.



Sydney Kings

Can the King stay fit through the whole season and entertain the idea of a play-offs return? Photo by TheNorthernDailyLeader

2015/16 Roster: Steve Markovic (Crocodiles), Marcus Thornton* (College/NBA Draft), Childress*, Garlepp, Julian Khazzouh (Europe), Cadee, Rhys Carter (Breakers), Dion Prewster (Saints NZNBL), Jeromie Hill (College), Brandt, Jarrad Weeks #, Deng Majok # , Indiana Faithfull #


Coaching Staff: Damian Cotter, Jacob Jackomas


What we know: The head of the Kings Consortium is the chairman of the Sydney Kings, the Qantas Credit Union Arena is owned by the Sydney Foreshore Authority but will be knocked down mid-season where the club will relocate to the Sydney Sports Centre at Homebush owned by the Sydney Olympic Park Authority for the remainder of the season.


Ben Madgen has headed to Europe to pursue further opportunities internationally.


Whispers: Former NBA players Al Harrington and Allen Iverson have been mentioned as possible import options for the future for the big franchise.


Andrew Bogut has been mentioned multiple times in future homecoming news and could be the next star player in the franchise.


Stability rating: At risk even though its the major basketball club of a capital city but the Kings financial history hasn’t been good and a consortium still has ownership and like any could disband if it starts to get tough.


A struggle to attract as much interest as the golden period of the 00s contributes to club’s woes.


Factors: The “Star” power is needed in this franchise to constantly draw crowds and a player like Childress has single handedly dragged Sydney out of the barely mentioned column to at least the sports back page column, the Kings are back on the lips of the NSW sporting public.


The hype of how good the Kings are in the tabloid media has them often believing they are better than they really are, headlines like Cadee to become a superstar and Brandt is the next big thing seem to distract the franchise playing in a big city.


If they can cope with the hype and settle into their roles they have a chance of seeing more consistent play-off basketball.


The stadium swaps of moving from one venue to another historically drives the fans up the wall and that plays a factor in attendances and engagement with the NSW sporting public.


Key areas of focus: Financial security via an NBA connection would be a win for the franchise and allow focus on other areas in the development of the club.


This club should always focus on signing a well-known international superstar of basketball as they’ll always be able to build the list around these signings.


The Kings should always aim to play an entertaining brand first but winning a close second as the first rules in the Harbour City so a flashy, spectacle is a must.



Illawarra (formerly Wollongong) Hawks

Is this change in head coach going to change the future of the newly re-formed club? Photo by Illawarra Mercury


2015/16 Roster: Rhys Martin, Kevin Lisch* (Europe/Wildcats), Kirk Penney (NZ Tall Blacks), Forman, AJ Ogilvy (Europe/Kings), Demos, Kevin White (Kings), Coenraad, Cody Ellis (Kings), Larry Davidson, Tony Tolovae #


Coaching Staff: Rob Beveridge, Eric Cooks, Matt Flinn


What we know: Former player Mat Campbell is chairman of the club which is owned by James Spenceley, The WIN Entertainment Centre is owned by Wollongong Sportsground Trust and ownership of the venue is by the WIN corporation.


Former coach Gordie McLeod has finished coaching with the Hawks after six seasons and headed north to an assistant role at the Taipans.


Whispers: Former league MVP champion import Gary Ervin is considering naturalising in order to increase his chances of an NBL club signing.


Stability rating: At risk but they always find a way to stay alive as a club, there is quite a community focus on basketball and there are no other competing town teams in major leagues whilst the transition back to Illawarra is a clear strategy to reconnect with the region.


Factors: Campbell is the key to keeping the club alive as his “Save the Hawks” campaign prevented the club from folding for the first time in its rich history, if you lose the people that played, ran and helped any club it’d be hard to find other people in a small region to take over and would most certainly see the end of the franchise.


Beveridge is a coach that has not just been signed for a few years but to try and rebuild a fledgling battler of a team from the ground up, it’s a good move as McLeod whilst a serviceable coach to the Hawks for many years has moved on and its time for that breath of fresh air to renew the franchise.


Loyalty is a reason the Hawks tend to keep core players and have a history of maintaining them, the current core includes Forman, Davidson, Coenraad, Demos and Martin, fan engagement tends to be much easier with some long time servants though the club made a big error axing the hard-working naturalised forward David Gruber, one strike on an otherwise clean sheet.


Key areas of focus: Engaging with the local community by going back to the “Illawarra” name is going to draw some fans from all around the hay plains to watch them play some great basketball.


Losing the “trying” tag is something this club must do, most people feel the Hawks always year after year perform way above their list on paper but to gain real respect need to knock off the bigger teams on a consistent basis


A coaching change and list management including some gun recruits means any lower than fourth this season should not be accepted and fans should rightly expect more.


The rivalry between the Hawks and Kings is basketballs equivalent of “City vs Country” and has a huge marketing opportunity to create another Adelaide vs Perth style rivalry, its Basketball NSW’s Darby and it should be promoted.



Townsville Crocodiles


Can this young Australian college prospect help the Crocodiles protect the “Swamp”? Photo by NCAA


2015/16 Roster: Norton, Jordair Jett* (College), Steindl, Conklin*, Luke Schenscher (36ers), Corey Maynard (Taipans), Djeric, Henry, Nicholas Kay (College), Mitch Young (Taipans), Harry Frolling # , Matt Adeponya # , Tom Howard #, Brent Wallace # , Chris Kann #


Coaching staff: Shawn Dennis, Sam Gruggen, Greg Vanderjagt


What we know: Andrew Gisinger is the chairman of the club and after being at Townsville RSL Stadium last season, the club will return to the Townsville Entertainment Centre to play its home games which is owned by the QLD Government.


Whispers: With a few QLD born players coming out of their contracts, the Crocodiles if they make significant financial gains this season will look to recruit more aggresively its home grown talent.


Stability rating: At risk much like the Hawks in a small community town, long term financial options are hard to find and it seems each year the club goes into receivership and then is bailed out by community businesses.


The difference for the Crocodiles is they compete with other franchises in town including the Queensland Cowboys NRL and their fellow Women’s WNBL team and that makes it difficult to compete in a smaller market with fewer numbers.


They were forced to move to a smaller stadium last season and it is a wise choice by the administration of the NBL and the club to move back to the larger TEC, the only ways is up for the club to relive its glory days of the early 2000s.


Factors: Player talent has been hard to retain in recent years because of financial constraints and the remoteness of the area.


They’ve lost lots of talent in recent seasons such as Blanchfield, Markovic and a host of others and struggled to attract stars to upcoming rookies because of the quiet nature of the regional centre, the highest profile in recent seasons was last seasons NBA veteran Mickell Gladness.


Lack of funds no doubt caused the club to move to the RSL stadium last year but it was a bad look for a struggling league, they needed to secure a facility that didn’t have the OHS issues such as fans so close to the court it could’ve caused serious injuries, they have done that but now have to get 3000-4000 through the door on a regular basis.


Key personnel needs to be locked in and kept in order for this franchise to survive, survival is the first priority but once the profits increase then the key players, coaching staff and facilities they need can move the club forward.


Key areas of focus: Building the membership has to be the main area by winning all their home games at all costs, to do this you build membership by making your home-town a fortress to play in.


North Queensland should be an uncomfortable place to play condition and crowd wise and a return to the “swamp” days would ensure this.


The QLD rivalry with the Taipans has to be emphasised and publicised more than any other games throughout the season, its a marketing boom for these two and it needs to mean something to the Queensland public.


The ability to win bragging rights keep franchises alive such as when in the AFL the Fremantle Dockers were going ordinary compared to the West Coast Eagles.



Cairns Taipans


Is this former Boomer the key to ending the Taipans’ championship drought? Photo by SMH


2015/16 RosterMarkel Starks* (College), Gliddon, Mark Worthington (United), Loughton, Burston, S Bruce, Damon Heuir, Weigh, Craig*, Tragradh, Ash Constable #, Anthony Fisher #, Matt Andronicus #, William Sinclair #


Coaching Staff: Aaron Fearne, Jamie Pearlman, Gordie McLeod (Hawks)


What we know: Mark Beercroft is chairman of the club, the Cairns Convention Centre is owned by AEG Ogden on behalf of the QLD Government and last seasons import Scottie Wilbekin has been released to play with the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA.


Whispers: Wilbekin if the 76ers release him would be back in the club’s sights and the recruitment of Worthington and assistant coach McLeod is for the specific purpose of the club aiming to win its first championship.


A free agency boom involving the Taipans is likely to occur with other clubs particularly another QLD club just announced having their players in sights.


Stability rating: Reasonable as the most stable of the QLD franchises moving forward, a town with one professional supporting team which has a dedicated supporter base and a key university sponsor for longevity in CQU.


Factors: Recent success means that the Taipans have one of the deepest squads in the league but they must win a championship in the next few seasons otherwise they’ll find their bench players seeking more minutes at the new franchises or other existing clubs in the cities.


The Cairns weather conditions make the CCC a difficult place to play but some clubs have managed to steal a large amount of wins in recent seasons that need to be denied in the coming seasons, they’ve done a bulk of their damage away from home but need to make their venue impregnable.


The Taipans are leading the way in marketing and promotion just behind United and the Wildcats which has made them one of the more successful franchises in QLD sport, a huge pat on the back for such a remote town on a peninsula.


Key areas of focus: Its pretty simple pull out all the stops and win the championship this season.


Getting the rotations of the roster right and no doubt the calm nature of McLeod will assist Fearne and Pearlman to make the right choices.


Despite a huge amount of focus on fan engagement already, this needs to continue as other clubs catch-up with the Taipans in their off-court proceedings and they’ll need to step it up a level starting with getting the fans connected with new import Starks after everyone fell in ball love with Wilbekin.



New Zealand Breakers


Is this dread-locked centre (pictured right to Nate Jawai) a dead-lock for this crucial position? Photo by SMH


2015/16 Roster: Jackson*, Webster**, Abercrombie, Vukona, Pledger, Shane McDonald (Spectres SEABL), TeRangi, Bailey, Wesley, Charles Jackson* (College), Everard Bartlett (Miners SEABL), Shane Ili #, Tai Wynyard #


**- Webster has been signed by the NBA New Orleans Pelicans but may still return to the club, Bartlett has been signed as a temporary placement but could become full-time if Webster departs.


Coaching Staff: Dean Vickermann, Paul Henare, Judd Flavell


What we know: Richard Clarke is the chairman, the club is jointly owned by Liz and Paul Blackwell and the North Shore Events Centre and Vector Arena are owned by the NSEC Trust board and Auckland Council/QPAM.


Whispers: Reportedly the club is searching for the right fit for the centre/back-up centre position and whilst in the short term Charles Jackson is the choice, the club is looking at multiple options including championship winning basket shooting winner Ekene Ibekwe who has currently signed to play in Germany.


Similar with Webster’s NBA prospects sky-rocketing after the World Championships, Bartlett is a temporary replacement but the hunt for an ideal fit is challenging with potential candidates Jarrod Kenny and Kirk Penney currently signed with other NBL clubs


Therefore it is rumoured they will start with Reuben TeRangi with his Olympic qualifier performances the catalyst.    


Stability rating: Excellent unlike other championship teams there is no chance financially and playing wise that the Breakers will fold, NZ’s sole franchise has added an interesting element to Australia’s league and is pulling in crowds of between 4000-10000 people on a regular basis.


Factors: The hunter has become the hunted and no doubt the other clubs have responded to the dominance of the Breakers game-play by recruiting to counteract the different playing weapons they have.


The back-up centre/centre position has traditionally been one of the Breaker’s weaknesses playing wise and they must get this right if they are going to go back-to-back.


Cedric “Action” Jackson single-handedly has pulled this club together on court and off court and his presence as the key player was severely missed two seasons ago when the Breakers missed the play-offs by a long way, locking him in long-term is key as he does seem to be a player who sits somewhere between the higher echelon of the NBL and a fringe NBA prospect.


Key areas of focus: Preparing for the “Auckland” name needs to start now if the rumours are true that a second NZ franchise will be joining the NBL in the future.


Keeping their home venues a hospitable but still a tough place to play is also a key, especially if the NBL is looking at more franchises in the future, the club wants particularly more rival fans to cross the Tasman to see their team in action.


Did I mention about getting that back-up centre/centre position choice right, they need to otherwise they won’t challenge for the championship.


Coming up in part two, we’ll also look at some potential expansion teams to join an expanding league and whether they have the means to become a successful sustainable NBL franchise, fixtures and much more.


Written by Tristan Prentice             

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