Men's SBL Season Preview – Perth Redbacks
AT the end of 2014 the Perth Redbacks looked on the right path to being a genuine Men's SBL contender but things didn’t go to plan in 2015 despite having the league's MVP and now they are aiming to bounce back strongly.
The Redbacks finished the regular season in third position back in 2014 and then only went down in the semi finals to the eventual champion East Perth Eagles.
They were then able to add Ray Turner for 2015 who went on to win the league's MVP award after averaging 31.2 points and 16.1 rebounds a game while shooting a phenomenal 59.4 per cent from the field.
Raphiael Putney came in to make an impact in nine games, but the Redbacks didn’t have enough depth and ended up finishing the season in 11th position with a 10-16 record.
Coach Nik Lackovic will again rely on the leadership of point guard Joel Wagner for good reason while Ben Smith will look to have an improved shooting season after hitting just 37.0 per cent from the floor in 2015 and 35.5 from beyond the arc.
The fortunes of the Redbacks will likely depend on what they get out of their four big signings – Jourdan DeMuynck, Reed McConnell, Lewis Thomas and Michael Vigor.
DeMuynck is a 25-year-old who since leaving Prairie View A & M has played in Cyprus and Macedonia, most recently averaging 7.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists in eight games with MZT Skopje in Macedonia.
McConnell finished his college career at UC Irvine and now will be looking to make an impact as an athletic two-three man with the Redbacks.
Vigor returns to the Redbacks after spending last season in the SEABL with the Bendigo Braves and the most recently playing in England with the Plymouth Raiders.
Thomas returns to Perth from his college career at Western Oregon. Having long been earmarked as a star of the future and even training with the Perth Wildcats before attending college, the 203cm youngster will look to show what he can do at SBL level.
The Redbacks have suffered some losses on top of the swap of two imports with Marshall Nelson heading for college, Jarrad Prior heading to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Ezra Nikora signing with the Goldfields Giants.
During the SBL Blitz at Warwick Stadium, Perth defeated the South West Slammers and East Perth Eagles while falling to the Rockingham Flames and Lakeside Lightning.
The Redbacks' season begins on Friday March 18 against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
Perth's opening home game at Belmont Oasis Leisure Centre will be on Saturday March 19 against the Cockburn Cougars.
Ben Smith, Reed McConnell (restricted), Jack Wagner, Jamieson Lewis, Joel Wagner, Michael Vigor, Lewis Thomas, Logan Viskovich, Kyle Bowen, Tyler Viskovich, Sean Jakens, Jourdan DeMuynck (restricted)
Coach – Nik Lackovic
Championship winning coach – ADAM FORDE
PREDICTION – 9th
Some big in’s with Michael Vigor and Lewis Thomas have Redbacks going in the right direction. But if the offensive production revolves around the imports like previous years then the Redbacks could miss out. While McConnell and DeMuynck look impressive, they’re don’t have the same ‘wow’ factor that Redbacks have produced in previous seasons with the likes of Turner, Roberts and Okoye. They definitely have the line-up and depth to prove me wrong.
SBL Slam Radio Host - MATT CECINS
PREDICTION – 6th
The Redbacks will have a dynamic and mobile roster in 2016. Jourdan DeMuynck is a flat out scorer and fellow American Reed McConnell has a solid all round game. Michael Vigor makes a much anticipated return to the league and along with the promising Lewis Thomas, the two will make for a tricky matchup, as they both possess skills that will stretch the floor against taller opponents. Look for Ben Smith to have a better season shooting the ball and Joel Wagner will be at his consistent best.
PREDICTION – 11th
The Redbacks had a disappointing 2015 despite having the MVP in Ray Turner. Vigor's return and signing of Thomas provide a nice athletic big man combo while Joel Wagner remains one of the best point guards in the league and Ben Smith should get back to his shooting best. If the SBL had a rookie draft, Kyle Bowen would have gone No. 1, the WABL Player of the Year will be an absolute superstar. Again their fortunes could rest on how good imports DeMuynck and McConnell end up being.
Article by Chris Pike
Photo by Grant Lauterbach Photography