SBL season preview – Kalamunda Eastern Suns

THE Kalamunda Eastern Suns are certainly going to be competitive in both SBL competitions in 2015 but whether they can cover the big losses to the women's team and whether the men have enough depth for them to be playoff units remains to be seen.

The Suns' women were again a strong unit in 2015 making the semi finals while the men struggled for the most part again finishing near the foot of the table.

Kalamunda's women were coming off a grand final appearance in 2013 and again put together a strong year in 2014 finishing the regular season in fourth position with a 14-8 record, and then going on to beat the Cockburn Cougars in a hard fought quarter-final series.

The Eastern Suns then came up short against the eventual champion Rockingham Flames in the semi finals, but it was still without question a good year for the team.

However, it was always going to be coach Craig Mansfield's last year in charge and now along with his departure, a host of key players won't be at the Suns in 2015 either.

Adrienne Jones heads the list of departures after averaging 11.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals a game in 2015 while Chelsea Armstrong, Lizel Buckley, Sarah-Jane Knox, Jennie Rintala and Alison Schwagmeyer are other players who have also moved on.

That is a remarkable group of players to all leave at once particularly when you consider Schwagmeyer averaged 19.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.4 steals a game in 2014, Knox delivered 6.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, Rintala 15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, and Armstrong 8.6 points, 3.6 boards and 2.4 assists.

That's no easy task for anyone to try to come in and replace, but the job of new coach Brett Kranz-Little is to try and get that to happen.

The good news is that some of their seasoned campaigners remain from the playoff campaigns of the last two years headed up by Jessie Edwards and Melissa Moyle, and even more will be asked of them in 2015 if the Suns want to see post-season action again.

Kalamunda's men have only been able to put together a combined 10-42 record over the past two seasons and the Suns have only made the playoffs once in the last five years, and only twice since entering the SBL in 2008.

And new coach John Triscari has great experience behind him but he does appear to have a big job ahead of him if he hopes for the Eastern Suns to be playoff contenders in 2014.

It already was a struggling team in 2014, but from that group Ben Smith and his 21.6 points a game along with Louis Timms and his 20.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks are gone too. Captain Joel Questel has also departed to join the Joondalup Wolves after leading the league in steals last season.

However, the news isn’t all bad with Seva Chan and Jaarod Holmes both on board from the Cockburn Cougars.

Last season, Chan averaged 9.6 points and 3.7 assists while Holmes contributed 9.1 points and 5.4 rebounds so they are certainly handy pick ups.

And the Suns' two imports Lien Phillip and Kevin Anthony showed good signs in the Pre-Season Blitz and arrive with good wraps about them. So despite it appearing an uphill battle on paper, the Suns might have actually be more competitive than many are predicting in 2015.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
MEN

STEPHEN CHARLTON
New coach Triscari walked into a mine field after accepting the role. With the core Aussie contingent being lured away (or shopped) before he'd even looked around the place. This was always going to be a hard gig. But with the inclusion of 2 new imports and Chan and Holmes from Cockburn they proved competitive at the Blitz. Depth will be the issue, and thus the ability to run out full length games. Unfortunately it's back to the drawing board again for the Suns men's program.

My Prediction: 13th

MATT CECINS
Experienced coach John Triscari returns to the SBL with the Suns and will have his work cut out, as there is a serious lack of depth across all positions on the floor. The Suns will rely heavily on their imports and Kerrod Horn will have to have a substantial breakout season for the Suns to challenge in 2015.

My Prediction: 13th

CHRIS PIKE
Losing Ben Smith and Louis Timms is going to hurt and there is no sign that Luke Nevill will be suiting up with them at all. Nice addition of Seva Chan and Jarrod Holmes, with their two imports looking very handy at the Blitz (Lien Phillip and Kevin Anthony) so they may surprise a few teams this year.

My Prediction: 13th

WOMEN

CRAIG MANSFIELD
Have a new coach in Brett Kranz-Little who has done a solid apprenticeship and will be a nice addition. Player changes include the losses of Jones, Armstrong, Buckley, Knox, Rintala and Schwagmeyer but they will still be competitive. Look for Edwards to continue her development and Moyle to have a strong year after completing a healthy preseason. A lot will hinge on the strength of imports and the availability of Soliai and Dennis, but they will still be very competitive especially at home.

My Prediction: 9th

MATT CECINS
The Suns have had a massive turnover of players and the loss of their experienced coach in Craig Mansfield will not bode well for the Suns. If the two imports do arrive they will be carrying a very heavy scoring load. Jessie Edwards needs a breakout season and consistent output from Mel Moyle is essential.

My Prediction: 11th

CHRIS PIKE
With Ajay Jones having a year off and the loss of head coach Craig Mansfield along with Armstrong, Buckley, Knox, Rintala and Schwagmeyer, I think the Eastern Suns will find themselves in a tough battle for the eight this year. Edwards and Moyle will be solid, however not sure there is enough depth this year.

My Prediction: 9th




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