As we begin the final stretch of the Basketball SA Premier League 2019 season, Benito Carbone tasks himself with the unenviable: picking out players in line for honours on Halls Woollacott Night.
We’ve been treated to an all-star showcase of South Australian basketball this season. With the quality of the league at a level rarely seen before, both international and local stars have been making themselves feel welcome in stadiums across the state.
ALL STAR FIVE: C: Majok Deng (Forestville) PF: CJ Turnage (Southern) SF: Kentrell Barkley (Mt Gambier) SG: Jack McVeigh (North Adelaide) PG: Tom Daly (Mt Gambier)
This is an unapologetically imposing starting five. Cairns Taipans recruit Majok Deng has shone for the Eagles, averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds for a fired-up Forestville. Fellow bigs CJ Turnage and Kentrell Barkley have both shown the credentials of a Woollacott medallist. Turnage, with 28 points (league-high) and 11 boards per game, is currently carrying the reigning champions in the absence of Anthony Drmic, while Barkley is doing it all at the Icehouse. Ticking along at an average of 24 points, 16 rebounds and four assists per game, Barkley’s biggest hindrance to claiming the league’s most revered award is perhaps his teammate, Tom Daly. Returning to a league that the point guard has dominated in years past with Sturt, Daly is running the show in Mount Gambier, averaging 23 points and five dimes a match. Sixers star Jack McVeigh rounds out the line-up, as you do when you put up 23 points a game, having scored at least 16 points in every encounter.
ALL STAR 2NDTEAM: C: Zachary Allmon (South Adelaide) PF: Brandon Morris (Eastern) SF: Alex Starling (North) SG: Jordan Riewer (Centrals) PG: Kane de Wit (Forestville)
Big men have left their mark on the league this season. Zachary Allmon has proved an immovable object for South Adelaide, pulling down scary numbers (25 points, 11 rebounds per game) against the toughest sides this season. Brandon Morris cuts a similar figure, playing what is often a lone hand for Jason Warhurst’s Mavericks. The 203cm American is also averaging 25 points with 10 boards a game, highlighted by his 42-point epic against the Lions earlier in the season.Reigning Woollacott medallist Alex Starling led his team to a season-defining victory against the Eagles in Round 13 and the North star continues to accumulate, leading the league in steals (39), averaging 20 points and ranking second in boards (11.6). Jordan Riewer is a smoky for the All Star Five come season’s end, leading the Lions in the fight for a surprise finals berth with impeccable handles and unbelievable accuracy from the three-point stripe. Hitting them at 55% for the season, his eight-from-eight from downtown against Norwood led to a shock upset of the Flames at the ARC. With 10 dimes a match, Kane de Wit’s claim for the elusive All Star Five #1 spot will have to wait until Halls Woollacott night.
ALL STAR 3RD TEAM: C: Greg Mays (Forestville) PF: Brandon Brine (Norwood) SF: Bryan Jefferson (West Adelaide) SG: James Legan (Norwood) PG: Patrick Thomas (West Adelaide)
Brandon Brine and James Legan both elected for fresh starts at Norwood this season, and the pair have put up numbers to suit their choice. Legan, who featured in the 2018 All Star Five, has made up for a drop in three-point accuracy (34.7%) by increasing his points per game (21.3) and assists per game (2.9), while Brandon Brine leads the league in blocks (24) and is averaging a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) for the Championship dark horses. Another award recipient from 2018, Defensive Player of the Year Greg Mays is another who’s season has been difficult to ignore since switching clubs. Mays has bumped up his output to 23 points and 10 rebounds per game, and his claim for higher honours may only be thwarted by the influx of high-quality ballers in 2019. In a dark season for the Bearcats, Bryan Jefferson and Patrick Thomas have carried the torch. Averaging 13 points, nine boards and six assists per game, Thomas has led his boyhood club valiantly, while Jefferson’s recent form (averaging 28.4 points in past five matches) is impossible to ignore.
NEXT IN LINE: C: De’Vaughn Jones (Centrals) PF: Tobias Dowdell (North Adelaide) SG: Brendan Teys/Michael Harris (both Forestville) PG: Andrew Webber (Norwood)
COACH OF THE YEAR
The Central Districts Lions have been the surprise packet of the season and sitting behind the steering wheel has been coach Ricky Simpson. The former NBL star has guided the side to a 7-7 record, just two wins away from the 2018 champions, Southern Tigers, in fifth. Upset wins against Norwood and West Adelaide has Lions fans chirpy, riding success on the likes of Riewer, Lual Diing, Chol Luk and Apiok Dau. Although a difficult run home remains, if Centrals can secure a trip to the postseason, this gong will surely find a home on Simpson’s mantlepiece. If not, then the likes of Nathan Hawkes (North Adelaide), Andy Simons (Forestville), Richard Hill (Mt Gambier)and Michael Rogers (Norwood) will be in with a shot. The quartet have been difficult to split this season, as each of their records suggest. With all four sides possessing NBL-calibre players across the floor, finishing first at the end of the regular season could reward the coach with morethan just a minor premiership.