A Tale of Two Lands - Sibling Rivalry at its Best!

This Saturday at the Mike Barnett Sports Complex sees traditional rivals Rockingham Flames and the Mandurah Magic lock horns in the local Peel Derby. There is more to this game than meets the eye!

In a sport that is saturated with statistics, Saturday night will see two sets of brothers play against one another in what would almost certainly be an SBL first (other than earlier this season). ‘The Pride of Coogee’ – brothers, Brendan “The Axe” Della and former Flame Rhett “Junkyard Dog” Della will match each other and go toe to toe if needed in order for their respective teams to win. Turning a game on its head and making it a scrap would suit these two men to a tee whose unique/awkward playing styles make them an opposition player’s nightmare at times.

The other brotherly matchup sees the Flames do-it-all forward Cooper Land take on his ‘big’ brother and Magic enforcer/floor general, Taylor Land. Both men play pivotal roles in their team’s fortunes and will add even more spice to an already heated rivalry. Additionally, Saturday night will enable the Derby to be a family affair in more ways than one, as the boy’s parents Bill and Gayle arrived last week from the US and I caught up with the Land family earlier this week;

“Firstly welcome to WA again! Did you ever think that the backyard hoop battles between your sons would equate to both of you flying across the globe to watch both of them play against each other?”

Gayle

“No I never thought it would happen. To play professionally overseas would be a dream for our boys and to see them do it is amazing. They both work hard and appreciate the opportunities they have been given.”

Bill

“If your family is into sports you don’t want to diminish your kids dreams and we didn’t think they would ever play overseas but here we are. We’re glad that they both have challenged themselves to play at the highest level regardless of where it is and are proud of what they have achieved to date.”

Being both from sporting backgrounds, (Gayle was an accomplished high school sporting coach and Bill a former college basketball shooting guard and current play-by-play commentator for the San Antonio Spurs) were the boys exposed to sport from the day they were born and how beneficial was this for them growing up?

Gayle

“It (exposure to sport) was great. It kept them out of trouble, kept them exhausted [laughing]. The spare time they had they didn’t get into too much trouble. The boys were a good influence on each other and always being kept busy through sports.”

The boys are well travelled basketballers, having played in countries such as Australia, Germany and Norway. Did you encourage the boys to travel from an early age, or has it just panned out this way?

Gayle

“Taylor first started this through his want to travel and play overseas. Taylor wanted to seek opportunities and made the most of it regardless of the location.

Cooper naturally followed suit after hearing of the opportunities around the world involving basketball.”

Bill

“Taylor we thought would have found it tough but if he got the opportunity we knew they (any team that chose him) wouldn’t be disappointed with the intangibles he brings to any team. Leadership, controlling the floor, leading at the defensive end and toughness sometimes doesn’t equate to All-Star statistics, however if you talk ‘glue guys’ and winners then he is it.”

[NOTE: we spoke in depth of the Lakers of the 80s and the roleplayers such as AC Green and Kurt Rambis who did the dirty work for that dynasty era and what they didn’t get in individual accolades they got rewarded by being winners].

Cooper

“We owe a lot to Taylor Mullineaux whom my brother (Taylor) has known for years and played here prior to us coming. It is through him that we met all of our current WA basketball contacts and now here we are!”

From an outsider looking in, the brothers seem very close. Is it no surprise that you find them 30 minutes away from each other even thought they are on the opposite side of the planet?

Gayle

“Didn’t surprise me one bit as they have always been very close. Even from when they were really young.”

Bill

“To put it in perspective, even when they played in Denmark and Germany they always found a way to meet up and keep in touch with the cheap airline tickets making it a bonus for them to be traveling and playing basketball and most importantly doing it together.”

Boys I read recently that when you boys were playing college basketball your parents would drive as often as possible from a Spurs game (where your Dad works) to wherever Wright State would play and then return again for the next Spurs broadcast clocking up some serious mileage.

Or they would watch Taylor’s St Edwards college basketball game, but at the same time they would have a laptop streaming Cooper’s game online. How great a feeling was it knowing that you always had that level of parent support behind you?

Taylor

“It was great except for every once in a while I would come in for a timeout really pumped from a great passage of play and look up and see my Mom [sic] and Dad glued to a laptop watching Wright State versus Butler or another big game in the background [he laughs]. They are wonderful and really dedicated parents. Who knows some day it will hopefully rub off on us. It was really nice to know that they often knew the score and how you went before you even saw them, which to me is pretty special.”

Cooper

“It was huge to have that support system there to be part of big wins and great games you play. Even after a bad game or loss you always had someone there for advice or Mom’s honest feedback telling us how it is!”[NOTE: even proud mother Gayle laughed at that quip]

In regards to the game on Saturday night, who are you going to support in the big clash and why? [NOTE: we know it is an impossible question]!

Bill & Gayle

“As long as they both contribute and play well we’re happy.”

Gayle, as a mother and well credentialled high school sporting coach – what do you think each of the boys strengths are?

Taylor

“Aggressiveness, smarts and leadership.”

Cooper

“Outside shot and versatility for his size.”

Bill, as a respected NBA broadcaster/analyst with the San Antonio Spurs, which current NBA player would you liken each of your son’s playing style to and why?

Bill, on son Taylor

“He is the on court coach type like a Jacque Vaughn [former longtime NBA point guard] with his leadership and basketball IQ, but I would liken him to more of a Jason Kidd type player earlier in his career. His 3-point range is still evolving but four guys on the floor are better for him being out there. Also, like Kidd his 3 is improving to match his current skill set.”

Bill, on son Cooper

“He has become a more well rounded player than he was in college. He has evolved from just being a great shooting forward. I would originally have said he was bigger version of Kyle Korver or Spurs roleplayer Matt Bonner. Now I would have to say he is more comparable to Dirk Nowitzki because he now mixes it up inside, has the long range to the NBA ‘3’ and has more dimensions to his game now that his team [Flames] demand more from him and he has matured as a player.”

Bill adds;

“Both guys seem to have that game sense necessary to be effective basketballers.”

Boys, how much impact did your parents have on your career choice as professional basketballers?

Taylor

“Huge, we grew up in a sports environment with Mum coaching and Dad announcing/commentating. We picked up team sports and loved and the fact that both our parents did what they really enjoyed. They preached it to us so got taught to work hard at what you love and it impacted us immensely. We went through obstacles but always had their blueprint for success as our basis to succeed.”

Cooper

“It something I always wanted to do and played all those years growing up thinking I could get paid to do this (play). They always supported us and had their approval to chase our dreams and so this is where we are both at right now and I’m enjoying it, which I can’t say I always did. I had a bad experience playing in Germany but now I love it here in Australia.”

How difficult has it been being so far away from your parents and number one supporters?

Taylor

“It’s been really tough at times. I don’t think they think it is from when we don’t call them for a while but seriously, I think there are things that happen that we speak about over the phone but it isn’t the same as when they are there to share it with you in person.”

Cooper

“I was really far away from them at college (D1 – Wright State) so it was tough to adjust to at first but I always miss them a lot. Family and friends I think about all the time too but you can’t dwell on it. I have met some great people being here and other places so that eases things too. There is no language barrier here so that’s a bonus. The people here are great and it has been fun being here.”

Cooper, you are playing your brother one and one – how are you going to stop him on D (legal basketball rules not Land backyard rules)?

“Whenever I play him one on one I sag off. If he takes the shots from deep I hope he misses, if he hits them I’ll probably lose.”

Taylor

[Laughs] “Call for a double team!! No in all seriousness he plays similar to Nowitzki, so I don’t want him getting open looks so I need to rely on my defensive smarts and quickness to get on top in a contest because of the ‘Freaks’ height advantage.”

With the season coming to an end soon, what are your basketball goals for 2014 and beyond? Will Mum and Dad have to move to Australia?

Taylor

“I love Australia and could live here for a long period of time. The culture is great and I would love to be back and will have to re-evaluate things but it would be a blessing to be back here in 2014.”

Cooper

“I want to win a championship somewhere!!! I haven’t won anything at all since I was really young. To experience that would be unbelievable to win it with my brother and best friend would cap it off.”

The Minute of Glory

3 Words Maximum with the Land’s

The Flames team song?

Cooper

Raunchy, inappropriate, hilarious!”

Taylor Mullenax?

Taylor

Tough, Competitor, Friend!”

SBL in 2014?

Taylor

Including me hopefully!”

Cooper

“Including me hopefully!”

Craziest Teammate?

Taylor

Aaron Trahair”

Cooper

Manager Jason Welch”

Why are they the chosen crazy ones boys?

Taylor

“Aaron he is one of the funniest guy I’ve ever met, a ton of stories, a one liner for every occasion and crazy takes on many forms in regards to him.”

Cooper

Jase is just a great club guy who has a really dry, mysterious personality. You have to be part of the team to see it type of thing. Great guy!”

Australian Lifestyle?

Taylor

“Barefoot, warm, laidback.”

Cooper

“Relaxing, fun, ratstails.” [NOTE: last part added in by Taylor]!

Gayle

“Easygoing.”

Bill

“Passionate, friendliness, humour.”

AFL?

Cooper

Tough, brutal endurance.”

Taylor

Freo Docker Fan.” [NOTE: we won’t hold that against him].

Gayle Land?

Taylor on Mother Gayle - “Mother, Biggest Supporter”

Cooper Land?

Bill on son Cooper - “Caring, Talented, Honest”

Taylor Land?

Gayle on son Taylor - “Hardworking, Biggest Fan.”

Bill Land?

[Gayle argues just write “Smart A***” at this point]

Cooper on father Bill “Humourous, Outgoing, Character”

Finally as a proud father of two ‘energetic’ young boys are there any words of wisdom you can pass on to young parents in regards to parenting in todays times?

Gayle

Know their friends and their parents and keep tabs on what it is that they are doing together. At the same time don’t be too over the top. Take an interest in what they do regardless of what it is and help support the decisions they make.

Bill

Be engaged with what they want to do and show a genuine interest in supporting whatever it is they choose to do with their lives

Bill, Gayle and sons it has been a pleasure to speak with you all and enjoy your time here in the might that is Western Australia. Thank you Land family for the invitation and insights into ‘Land’ Land!

[NOTE: Insert tumbleweed here! Nobody laughed at my wordplay mastery………I mean none of the Land Family even smirked]!

So the scene is set for Saturday, two close brothers will sever ties to add sting to the contest for 48 minutes and two proud parents will neutrally support both teams in what should be a season defining game for the Flames and a finals intensity clash for the playoff bound Magic. With the Land brothers involved, expect nothing but uncompromising basketball at its physical best. Anyone wishing to see two class acts and two hard fighting teams play get down to Mike Barnett Sports complex Saturday 13th July at 2030 (that is 8:30 for those unsure) and see for yourself!

The Hothouse of Pain will rumble so be part of the action and don’t miss out on the game of the season and be sure to welcome Gayle and Bill Land to our wonderful state. 

Article by Darren ‘Whopper’ Russell




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