Boomers coach Brown delighted with Redbacks' Wagstaff
Boomers coach Brett Brown has heaped praise on Perth Redbacks star Jesse Wagstaff following his side's 67-65 overtime win against China.
Wagstaff spent 12 minutes on the court in Australia's thrilling win in game one of the two-match YouYi Games international basketball series at Challenge Stadium on Friday night, finishing with six points, three rebounds and a steal.
And Brown said he was thrilled with the intensity and energy the 25-year-old brought to Australia's inexperienced line-up, which featured just three members of the team which competed in last year's World Championships.
"I especially like Jesse. I thought Jesse was one of the key difference makers," Brown said.
"You look at these guys and it's beyond the fact that we haven't practiced a lot. When we first put on that uniform, that's a daunting experience for a lot of people, and fair enough. And I thought nerves played a role with some of those guys.
"That was a hard environment for even senior players. You just sort of have a gut feel on who seems to embrace that environment better than others, and I was looking forward to seeing that young and new group for who could emerge as somebody who you felt could handle that stage ... but Jesse stood out for his entire minutes."
Wagstaff wasn't the only player with a Western Australian connection to feature in the game. Total Connections Perry Lakes Hawks swingman Peter Crawford was kept scoreless but provided a much-needed veteran presence, Perth Wildcats and former Australian Central East Perth Eagles star Damian Martin had 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists and WA-born Luke Nevill had 20 points and 13 boards.
The coach was particularly pleased with Martin, saying his leadership was vital in the absence of the likes of Andrew Bogut and Patrick Mills.
Martin said although he felt rusty, it was good to be back in live game action for the first time since the end of the NBL season.
"I felt a bit raw at times, a bit underdone," he said.
"I felt we let ourselves down in patches, particularly in the fourth quarter.
"We had guys step up and handle the physicality and give it right back. If you win the rebound count you usually win the game."
And Martin received high praise from China coach Bob Donewald, who said Australia looked a much better side when the point guard was on the floor.
"There was a big difference defensively and with how we get on our offense when he's on the court," Donewald said.
"And on top of that, he ends up with eight rebounds. I told him after the game 'I love you, man, you're an animal'. He's physical, he gets after it, he leads. I like that boy."
Article by Jacob Kagi at Challenge Stadium
Photo by Marg Prior