Nelson's confidence soaring with Redbacks

IT is only understandable for anyone's confidence to take a hit if they don't get many minutes even while playing professionally, but Marshall Nelson wanted to play with that self-belief with the Perth Redbacks in the SBL and he's doing that aplenty while chasing another NBL chance.

Nelson became one of the brightest emerging prospects in the country back in the second half of the 2017 season with the Redbacks in the SBL and ironically it came after one of the toughest periods of his life.

Nelson's college dream at Wayland Baptist University in Texas turned into a nightmare leading to his return to the Redbacks but it's turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to the prolific shooting guard.

He quickly became a key part of the Redbacks' run to the SBL championship in 2017 and while there were standout veterans around him like Shawn Redhage, Lee Roberts, Joel Wagner, Ben Smith and Michael Vigor, Nelson's ability to put up rapid-fire points and shoot the ball was instrumental.

That led to Nelson earning a spot with the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL as a development player for the 2017/18 season and then he continued his development to earn a full contracted spot for the Wollongong-based club in 2018/19.

Nelson did have his moments this past NBL season at the Hawks appearing in 15 games including a career-best night with eight points against Melbourne United.

But ultimately Nelson was riding the pine and needed a shot in the arm again for his confidence when he committed to return to the Redbacks for the 2019 SBL season.

Redbacks coach Nik Lackovic put the faith in Nelson to go out there and be aggressive, and show everyone what he's capable of to try and earn another crack at the NBL while helping the club perform at the same time.

The result has seen Nelson right up in the MVP running for the league now with seven games of the season remaining and he's proven himself one of the best not only scorers in the country, but also best athletes and all-round talents.

Nelson's numbers for the season are terrific at 29.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists a game but then the past four games have gone to a whole other level again.

In these past four matches against Lakeside, East Perth, Willetton and Cockburn, Nelson has been simply unstoppable putting up 38.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists but it's more than that, he's shooting at a tremendously efficient clip as well despite the opposition focusing their defence on him.

It's the type of form that should be impossible to ignore by any of the NBL clubs still with roster spots to fill for the 2019/20 season, but for now Nelson has just enjoyed the chance to go out there on the court again with the Redbacks and fully show what he's capable of.

"My main focus this season was just to play with confidence. I feel like I lost a bit of confidence when I wasn’t playing over at Illawarra and with the restricted minutes I was playing. When I came back here, I just told myself to be confident and back myself all the way," Nelson said on SBL Slam.

"I took on that leadership role to come in and be one of the key guys right away when last time I was here in 2017, I came off the bench and we had a lot of really good, experienced guys in the team. So I knew it was going to be a different role this time and I was pretty excited about that."

While Nelson has been informed he won't be returning to the Hawks for the upcoming NBL season, there are eight other clubs in the league that could use his services.

He recently spent a week in Queensland working out both with the Brisbane Bullets and Cairns Taipans, and he feels like his outstanding form at the Redbacks is being noticed.

"I went for workouts with Cairns and Brisbane last week so I was in Queensland the whole week and I think I did pretty well," he said.

"I hope that teams are still interested in me but I haven’t heard too much just yet, but I think people are noticing some of the things that I'm doing and they are keeping an eye on me."

Looking back on last season at the Hawks which was Nelson's first as a fully contracted player, he was glad to have that opportunity but ultimately learned a lot about what he still needs to improve.

"It was really challenging definitely, going from playing in the state league and then some time at college, it's a completely different world," Nelson said.

"I had a lot of growing to do to be honest so when I first got there, I didn’t know what to expect really. Then straight away, I realised that there were things in my game and in my life off the court that I needed to adjust and get better at.

"It took me a good couple of months to work my way into it especially on the court. It's just little things that become big things at that level which took some time to get my head around."

The Redbacks currently sit in ninth position at 8-11 following losing the past three games, but it has been a changing of the guard this season with Nelson and fellow young players Zac Gattorna and Majier Garang becoming the focal points with captain Joel Wagner still leading the way.

Nelson feels that defensively is where the Redbacks still need to improve and with a young group, it's getting better at communicating where the growth needs to come the most.

"I think that everyone's got their roles on the team and we're such a young team so everyone's trying to understand what's being asked of them and contributing the best they can," he said.

"I feel like we are getting the right shots and doing the right things, we just have to get better at communicating. We have a lot of lapses in games that ends up costing us down the stretch. But hopefully Lee coming back can help with that.

"I think the biggest thing is our communication especially on the defensive end. We just lose our mismatches sometimes and then miscommunicated.

"With having such a young team, nobody really talks and I think that hurts us with switches, rotations and stuff like that. Usually it's defensively where we have been struggling a little bit."

Coming off losing the past three games, the Redbacks are still in the playoff hunt heading into a clash this Saturday night against the league-leading Joondalup Wolves at HBF Arena.

Nelson is confident things can begin to click better for the Redbacks particularly if Grand Final MVP Lee Roberts is cleared to play.

"We just have to stay positive and hopefully we have Lee coming back this week so that will help out a lot, especially going on towards playoffs. He has been here for about two weeks and we can't wait for him to be able to play," Nelson said.

"Obviously he will be a really good asset for our team and we're kind of missing that inside presence right now. He'll be the perfect guy for us to bring in at the offensive and defensive end right now.

"I don’t think he can play the nine games to qualify for the playoffs now so we won't have him for that, but we definitely want him for up until then."




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Acknowledgement

Perth Redbacks Basketball Association acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which the Association is located, the Wadjuk people of the Noongar Boodja, we pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. We respectfully acknowledge the continuing connection of the Noongar people to the lands and sea on Noongar Boodja.