SBL season preview – Willetton Tigers

LAST year wasn’t a season to remember for the Willetton Tigers for either the women's or men's teams but they have reacted swiftly and now are looking to be serious contenders in each competition in 2015.

Coming off being the minor women's SBL premiers in 2013 but losing in the quarter finals, the Willetton women just managed to sneak into the top eight last year but came up short in the quarters again this time against the eventual champion Rockingham Flames.

Meanwhile, the Tigers' men had two imports putting up good numbers in Quinn McDowell and John Dickson, but it didn’t lead to any team success with them missing the playoffs for a third straight season.

The men's team at Willetton has now recruited strongly with that charge led by new coach Alan Black while the Lady Tigers have also recruited well and will feature a team including at least six past or current WNBL players, so they should be a serious championship contender in 2015.

It was a season to forget for Willetton's women in 2014 with coach Brad Spicer not seeing out the year and Simon Parker finishing off the season that saw the Tigers end the regular season in eighth position before losing to Rockingham in the quarter finals.

Now Parker has been appointed to continue on his role where he did oversee improvement from the Willetton team, and he appears to have an improved squad at his disposal as well.

Ebony Antonio, Lisa Wallbutton and Melissa Marsh remain to form the core of the team and to provide plenty of production and leadership, but they will also have plenty of help.

Kate Malpass returns after time interstate and brings plenty of past WNBL and WSBL experience with her while Zoe Harper is also back into the SBL and Louella Tomlinson has signed fresh off a strong season with the West Coast Waves in the WNBL.

With the retention of Antonio, Wallbutton and Marsh, and the additions of Harper, Tomlinson and Malpass, that on its own is a core of a team that should compete for one of the top positions and they also should avoid some of pitfalls they fell into during the first half of the 2014 season.

The signs in fact are so impressive that the loss of Antonia Edmondson to the Joondalup Wolves might not be felt too deep, but it certainly will create for some fascinating battles between the two teams throughout 2015.

The Willetton men's team looks to be equally impressive and imposing heading into the 2015 SBL season and one would expect nothing less considering the quality of their new head coach.

Black takes over as the men's head coach needing no introduction on the West Australian basketball scene having previously been a two-time NBL Coach of the Year, a championship winning coach with the Perth Wildcats and also doing a terrific job during his time with the Cairns Taipans.

He now returns to the head coaching chair in 2015 and he has been able to pull together a terrific squad for the Tigers to try and return after a rare playoff spell over the past three seasons.

Kyle Armour was a major factor as a point guard in the East Perth Eagles winning the 2014 SBL championship and it remains a mystery to many why he has not received a significant opportunity in the NBL, but now he has the chance to shine further under Black with the Tigers.

Perth Wildcats development player Damien Scott, also an SBL championship winner with the Cockburn Cougars in 2012, is also on board with Willetton bringing with him his 22.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game from the Cougars in 2014.

Imports Corey Easley and Ephrem Davis have also signed with Willetton after playing with the Perry Lakes Hawks and Joondalup Wolves respectively in 2014, and showed plenty to suggest they can help a good team be a championship contender.

That playing group, with the experienced coaching of Black, could very well be a formula tough to beat for the rest of the competition in 2015.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
MEN

STEPHEN CHARLTON
Will be massively improved, and should be. Recruited brilliantly with Armour and Scott coming on board. Plus veterans imports in Easley and Davis to go with locals Cody, Clarke and Co. With Alan Black in charge these guys have been everyone's early top 4 pick, so maybe I'm as dumb as everyone says. I wouldn't be surprised if they finish much higher than this, but there is a lot of work to be done with a new group. Will be much improved though.

My Prediction: 9th

MATT CECINS
All the new signings that include Kyle Armour, Damien Scott, Corey Easley and Ephrem Davis were the talk of the basketball community in the SBL off-season. The backcourt of the Tigers will be one of the most talented and deepest in the league with Armour and Scott starting, but also young prospects to back them up with Clarke, Black and Noordhoek. I believe the small forward position is a concern for the Tigers as there is very little depth on the bench. There is no better coach to develop and combine the talent and potential of this roster than two-time NBL Coach of the Year Alan Black, and having a man of his experience is a big bonus for the SBL this year.

My Prediction: 5th

CHRIS PIKE
Former Perth Wildcats championship-winning coach Alan Black has done some serious off season recruiting gaining Kyle Armour, Damien Scott, Corey Easley and Ephrem Davis from around the league. This team looks outstanding on paper and I’m sure they will be a contender come August.

My Prediction: 4th

WOMEN

CRAIG MANSFIELD
The last member of the preseason big three. Lose Edmondson but gain Harper and Tomlinson. Impressive post talent, but not balanced with many quality guards. Wouldn’t surprise me if they aren’t as dominant as people expect, but Simon Parker is a strong coach and will benefit from a full preseason after some time with the team last year. Scoring inside against this team will be difficult for all opposition.

My Prediction: 3rd

MATT CECINS
Simon Parker has a full season to work with the Tigers after finishing 6-2 after taking over last year. The Tigers have lost Toni Edmondson, but gain one of the best rim protectors in WNBL talent Louella Tomlinson, who will put up big blocked shot numbers in 2015.

My Prediction: 2nd

CHRIS PIKE
Ebony Antonio, Lisa Wallbutton, Zoe Harper, Melissa Marsh, Kate Malpass and Louella Tomlinson – All past and present WNBL players. Scary to think what this team is capable of, especially if Tomlinson continues with the form she showed for the West Coast Waves this year.

My Prediction: 3rd




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