Samuelson backing in young Flames for the long haul
BRAD Samuelson felt ready to be a head coach in the SBL and is looking forward to undertaking that journey at the Rockingham Flames with a group he has helped grow up into senior players.
Samuelson thought he was ready to coach the Flames several years ago after stepping into the caretaker role to replace Jason Smith, but hindsight tells him that the work he has undertaken since has him primed and ready to take over in Rockingham.
He has been assistant to Ryan Petrik in the women's team for four years and most recently in the men's side under Mark Utley on top of his WABL duties and work with the WA under-20s team. His credentials are sound and Samuelson feels as ready as he'll ever be heading into 2017.
That's not to say he doesn’t expect there to be challenges with the Flames having lost Taylor Land, Cooper Land and Chudier Pal from last year who could lay claim to have been their three most important players in a team that finished fifth at the end of the regular season.
Samuelson has committed to putting his faith in the Flames young and local talent while also signing two imports in their first stints out of college, Vinnie Zollo and Donovan Jack.
"Cooper and Taylor are almost irreplaceable and not just on the court, but for what they did off the court and for the club in general. They are fantastic young men and provided a lot of inspiration for a lot of people down here," Samuelson said.
"So when we went looking for imports this year we had to decide if we went for boys who could go out and dominate if we could afford them, or do we go for two gentlemen who come in and be a role player within our team and mix with our young group to help start our building process.
"That's basically the decision we decided upon and our two import boys are only 24 years of age, basically straight out of college and haven’t played for a good 12-month period in their transition to professional.
"We are extremely happy with both of them. We think they are fine young men and have fitted into relationships with the current team extremely well. They are working hard with the club on development as well so they look like they'll be a good fit."
While Samuelson wouldn't say no to having more local players available, he is proud to have at least half his squad coming into 2017 full of emerging talent that he has helped from juniors into senior ranks.
"I would like to have more numbers and unfortunately that's just not the case with the Pal brothers leaving us to go their personal direction, and we've had a few other boys who have gone overseas this year in relation to some commitments that they wish to pursue," he said.
"We are probably down five local players who would have been regulars that would have been with the group, but I couldn’t be more proud to have a group full of local players. Most of these boys I've coached since they were nine years of old bar probably Jarryd Griffin and Ryan Godfrey.
"All the other boys have been under my banner for quite a long time and we've had quite a lot of success in WABL and the state program. We're looking forward to all being together and seeing what we can do."
The Flames have been around the mark in recent seasons with a team that went close to contending, but just coming up short in the playoffs. The Land brothers were a massive part of that and in terms of helping develop the culture on and off the court along with coach Utley.
Now Samuelson is looking to put his own stamp on it with a young group who he is not afraid to put his faith in.
"It is really unknown how we will go this year but our average age will be turning 21. We'll have Jarryd who is turning 30, Ryan is 27 or 28 and then I have my son Beau, Matt Honey and Dylan Jeffery who are 23 this year," he said.
"The basics of my group is 20 years of age so we are babies but we have a lot of experience within that group. They've all had their opportunities with AIS programs, state representation, schoolboys and obviously Ryan Godfrey and Beau have been to college and will be our guards.
"We are quietly confident that we will perform extremely well but if it's our time to put our hand up to make a run at it we won't know until we're near the end of the season and see how we've developed, and coped with the turmoil that happens during a season."
After working under Utley at the Flames the last two years, Samuelson feels it has got him ready to take over as head coach on top of all the other work he was doing beneath and away from the SBL.
He felt it was virtually now or never in terms of being able to put together a squad made up of young, local players he knew well and could grow with.
Samuelson is proud of the work he's put in to get himself ready to be head coach in the SBL and is now looking forward to getting things underway at home to Shawn Redhage and the Perth Redbacks on Friday night.
"I definitely had the grounding for this position and I feel I'm ready to go. I'm not scared about it at all, I'm just trying to do things my way from what I've learned over the years and put in place what I like to see on a basketball court and see where we travel with it," Samuelson said.
"I actually applied for the position when Jason Smith had his personal issues with his son and had to leave the club, and I was caretaker coach for a while.
"But the club told me that in three or four years' time they would like to offer me the position, but they wanted me to go out and do my homework, get more educated and involved in programs because they liked the idea of me taking over the helm one day.
"That's pretty much how it transpired into my position this year and the time seems right, and I felt it was my time to take over to see what we could do especially in relation to development into the WABL arena.
"We need to work really hard with our development programs in the boys because it's happening well with the girls. It's all about building again and making sure you have that catalyst to be successful."
Photo by Vikki Hile