Season Preview - Southlands Boulevarde Willetton Tigers
Leading up to the start of the SBL season, SBL.asn.au will be analysing the off-season movements for each of the 14 clubs. We get things started by looking at Willetton, who have undergone some significant changes over the summer on both the men's and women's sides.
Southlands Boulevarde Willetton Tigers 2012 Season Preview
2011 Recap: In many ways 2011 was a disappointing season for Willetton's men, but in the end they overcame plenty of adversity to get as far as they did. The Tigers had lost Daniel Johnson and Ty Shaw from their 2010 championship-winning side, Alex Prince missed the bulk of the year, Cam Tovey never played due to injury and fellow Wildcat Matt Knight was restricted to just nine games. Yet Shayne Hampel's side made it to the quarter-finals and nearly caused a huge upset by knocking out eventual champions Wanneroo. They shocked the Wolves by winning game two and had a huge lead going into the second half of the decider, only to throw it away and be eliminated. Robert Kampman (27.7 points and nine rebounds per game) was their best performer.
Off-Season Grade: B+
Off-Season Summary: The most important change is the man with the whiteboard, with Matt Foster taking over from Hampel. Foster has extensive experience as a WABL coach and is a former SBL MVP who played 280 games for Willetton, so he should be a good choice. There have also been major moves within the playing group. Tovey and Knight have departed, which is a huge loss of talent but will give the team more certainty. Kampman has been retained and he is joined by a new import, big man Ephrem Davis. Davis is mostly noted for his athleticism and shot blocking but will also provide a reliable low-post presence, which was lacking last year. Veteran point guard Shamus Ballantyne, a cancer survivor who was an assistant coach for the Tigers last season, is also returning to the court. Experienced trio Mark Jones, Travis Moore and Adam Nener have been retained, as has young swingman Robert Cassir.
2012 Fixtures: Four of Willetton's first five games are against 2011 finalists, with the exception being a round two trip to Geraldton. A round three doubleheader against Grand Finalists Perry Lakes and Wanneroo should give a strong indication of how good this Tigers team is.
2011 Recap - The Willetton dynasty continued in 2011, sneaking past East Perth in the Grand Final to win their third straight championship. They dominated the early part of the season and recovered from a slump late in the campaign in time to get back on track for the decider. Kate Malpass and Melissa Marsh were at their dominant best throughout the campaign, while Zoe Harper was a reliable inside presence and Jasmine Hooper (14.5 points and nine rebounds per game) improved tremendously.
Off-Season Grade: D+
Off-Season Summary: Much like the men, the Tigers' women have gone through some drastic changes through the summer. Glenn Clarke, the man who built Willetton's dynasty, stepped down soon after the Grand Final and that was a massive loss. His place has been taken by Brad Spicer, a former coach of Cockburn and Stirling who was in charge when the Senators made it to the decider in 2007. There have also been significant departures from the playing group. Kate Malpass has ventured to the SEABL, Zoe Harper signed for the Slammers and key youngster Ebony Antonio will continue her basketball career in the eastern states. Those losses have been partially offset by the addition of Courtney Hargreaves, who averaged 14 points and seven rebounds per game in 2011 with the Cougars, while Sophie Doyle from Kalamunda is also a useful pickup.
2012 Fixtures: The round three doubleheader against perennial challengers Perry Lakes and an improving Wanneroo team will be their most difficult early season test. They finish the campaign with games against Perth and Southwest, who both missed the finals in 2011.
What the Grades Mean: The grades are a subjective way of analysing whether each team has improved over the off-season. A grade of C- or better indicates they are well positioned to improve on their 2011 performance, while a grade of D+ or below indicates they're expected to be weaker. They are not intended to predict each team's ladder position.
Article by Jacob Kagi
Photo by Helen Theoharakis (Hoop Shots)