Season Preview - Cockburn Cougars

Cockburn were among the most pleasant surprises in 2011 in both the men's and women's leagues. Can they back it up in 2012? Find out by checking out the moves they've made over the off-season in the next of our season previews.

Cockburn Cougars Season Preview -

Men:

2011 Recap: The Cougars were the big surprise packets of the 2011 season, improving from an 8-18 record and 12th place in 2010 to be semi finalists a year later. Despite fading later in the year, the Cougars still finished third at 18-8 after the regular season and cruised past an injury-depleted Perth in the quarter-finals but were swept by eventual champions Wanneroo in the final four. The biggest reasons for their huge improvements were imports Stanley Ocitti and Ty Harrelson, both of whom were outstanding. Ocitti was one of the league's premier big men, averaging 22.3 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, while Harrelson (22.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and six assists per game) was close to the complete player. Young guard Damien Scott also enjoyed a meteoric rise to play a big role for Stephen Charlton's side.

Off-Season Grade: C-

Off-Season Summary: So much of what the Cougars achieved in 2011 was centred around their two imports, so the departure of both Ocitti and Harrelson is obviously a massive blow. They have been replaced by a pair of restricted players though, with 211cm centre Brian Carlwell and 23-year-old power forward Jeremiah Wilson coming into the side. Carlwell, who started his American collegiate career at Illinois before transferring to San Diego State, is an interesting story as a car crash nearly took his life in 2007 but he recovered and became a solid NCAA player. Wilson doesn't have the same high profile but was a good scorer and rebounder in college and, along with Carlwell, should give Cockburn a strong front court. Wilson, however, won't arrive until the beginning of April. The Cougars will expect big improvement from Scott, who has been working with the Perth Wildcats, while several other young players should continue to get better with another year of development under their belts.

2012 Fixtures: The first six rounds involve trips to Wanneroo and Goldfields and home fixtures against Lakeside, Willetton and Perth, so there are plenty of early tests for the Cougars. A round 15 doubleheader against the Lightning and Tigers will also be a massive challenge.

Women:

2011 Recap: Not much was expected of the Lady Cougars going into 2011, given their 6-16 record and 10th place finish a year earlier, but they provided plenty of surprises. Fleur McIntyre's side made a quick start to the season and, despite fading later on, still finished seventh with 11 wins. It was always going to be a tough ask for them to upset second seed Perry Lakes in the quarter-finals and they couldn't do it, falling in straight sets to the Hawks. Still, their 2011 campaign was a big step forward. Hargreaves sisters Courtney and Kara both enjoyed strong campaigns, as did import Emma Pass.

Off-Season Grade: D-

Off-Season Recap: To say there have been drastic changes in the Cockburn women's program over the off-season would be one massive understatement. McIntyre stepped down soon after the end of the 2011 campaign and her place will be taken by Daniel Nelson, who has extensive coaching experience in Ireland. On the playing side of things, both Hargreaves sisters have departed, with Kara going to the Slammers and Courtney to the Tigers. Pass has also gone, as has Nicole Johnson. The most notable acquisition is new import Stephanie Jones, a 188cm power forward who has playing experience across Europe. Former Senators youngster Lauren Berryman is also a useful pick-up, but the Cougars have seen a huge amount of talent leave during the off-season and will struggle to replicate the production they've lost.

2012 Fixtures: Cockburn will have to start strongly to make the finals, because their run home is scary. Over the final six rounds they face Lakeside, Stirling and Kalamunda away - none of which are overly intimidating - but home fixtures against Willetton, East Perth, Perry Lakes and Wanneroo in that time will make wins hard to come by.

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.

Note: We will conclude the series of season previews after the Pre-Season Blitz.

Article by Jacob Kagi
Photo by Mick Cronin

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