Australian Basketball Challenge Preview – Matt McQuade
This week in Brisbane the National Basketball League preseason reaches a crescendo with the Australian Basketball Challenge held between the 23rd and 26th September at the Brisbane Convention Centre.
Bringing together all eight NBL teams under the same roof – and, for the first time, two teams from the Chinese Basketball Association – the league’s official preseason tournament will provide an exquisite taste of what awaits in what figures to be one of the most hotly contested NBL seasons on record.
Some folks may scoff at preseason meaning anything. But don’t tell the eight NBL coaches that there’s nothing to be gained in a tournament like this, especially one so close to the season proper, set to tipoff in the first week of October.
Only injury will deny fans the opportunity to see the complete rosters of every NBL team go at it in Brisbane, and while the tournament will be without the likes of Perth’s Matt Knight, Sydney’s Julian Khazzouh and Cairns’ Nathan Jawai, the talent level will still be enormous and teams will be looking to fine tune their offensive and defensive systems with the 2016/17 NBL campaign fast-approaching.
The wrinkle this year comes in the form of CBA teams Tianjin and Zhejiang, who are the great unknown but will provide fans with a real insight into the CBA in this initial foray to Australia. Tianjin had a rough 2015/16 campaign, going 8-30, but are reportedly looking at bringing the likes of NBA veteran Chris Kaman to match up with the NBL’s finest; Zhejiang fared better in the CBA last year and will feature super-scorer Willie Warren, a conscience-free long range gunner with almost unlimited range.
Then there are the new imports on show. More than a few NBA scouts will be tuning into the live stream available on the NBL website to check out the exploits of high school phenom Terrance Ferguson, who eschewed the NBA’s ‘one and done’ requirement to turn professional with the Adelaide 36ers.
Ferguson has become a YouTube sensation given his otherworldly athleticism and spectacular dunking ability, and promises to bring great excitement any time he is on the floor, let alone the tournament’s dunk competition, which he would be expected to tear apart.
But he’ll have plenty of competition in the excitement stakes.
Defending NBL champs Perth have upped the ante even further with their new import duo of Jaron Johnson and Jameel McKay joining uber-athlete Casey Prather in what could be a return to the old Wildcat run, gun and have some fun days; Fuquan Edwin in Cairns is a high-flyer; Devin Williams is Melbourne’s new power forward and plays with great verve and energy; Illawarra’s Michael Holyfield has been rattling rims in preseason and then there’s Sydney’s two new Americans, Michael Bryson and Greg Whittington, both of whom have shown serious talent and serious athletic ability in the early going.
Speaking of the hometown Kings – there will be a great deal of interest in the new purple and gold under Head Coach Andrew Gaze and GM Jeff Van Groningen, who have put together a roster that – even with one import spot still potentially available – is built to win a championship.
Sydney boasts the reigning league Most Valuable Player in the magnificent Kevin Lisch, an all-time great of Australian basketball in the slashing Brad Newley, genuine size and power up front with Aleks ‘Truck’ Maric, the aforementioned two imports in Bryson and Whittington and solid returnees in Tommy Garlepp, Jeromie Hill and Jason Cadee – Cadee in particular is one to watch the season with his explosive perimeter shooting and much-improved decision-making that could take his game to another level in 2016/17.
Three games in Brisbane against teams expected to challenge for playoff spots this season – New Zealand, Brisbane and Perth – will provide a stern test for Coach Gaze and his troops before they take to the Qudos Bank Arena court in October for what promises to be one of the most memorable openers to a season in the history of the franchise.
Think of the Australian Basketball Challenge as a wonderful entrée. An entrée to what will surely be an incredible main course – the 2016/2017 National Basketball League season.
And for those who can’t make it to Brisbane and witness the NBL elite in action, there’s great news with the NBL streaming all 15 games live and free at www.nbl.com.au, with the added bonus of the three point shootout and dunk contest on Sunday.
This is a basketball extravaganza not to be missed!
AUSTRALIAN BASKETBALL CHALLENGE SCHEDULE
SESSION 1 – FRIDAY 23 SEPTEMBER
2:30pm-4:30pm Game 1: Perth Wildcats vs Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions
5:00pm-7:00pm Game 2: Sydney Kings vs New Zealand Breakers
7:30pm-9:30pm Game 3: Brisbane Bullets vs Zhejiang Golden Bulls
SESSION 2 – SATURDAY 24 SEPTEMBER
11:00am-1:00pm Game 4: Cairns Taipans vs Adelaide 36ers
1:30pm-3:30pm Game 5: Illawarra Hawks vs Zhejiang Golden Bulls
SESSION 3 – SATURDAY 24 SEPTEMBER
5:00pm – 7:00pm Game 6: Melbourne United vs Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions
7:30pm – 9:30pm Game 7: Sydney Kings vs Brisbane Bullets
SESSION 4 – SUN 25 SEPTEMBER
11:00am-1:00pm Game 8: New Zealand Breakers vs Cairns Taipans
1:30pm–3:30pm Game 9: Illawarra Hawks vs Perth Wildcats
SESSION 5 – SUNDAY 25 SEPTEMBER
5:00pm-7:00pm Game 10: Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions vs Zhejiang Golden Bulls
7:00pm-8:00pm Dunk Contest and Three-Point Shootout
8:00pm-10:00pm Game 11: Adelaide 36ers vs Melbourne United
SESSION 6 – MONDAY 26 SEPTEMBER
10:30am-12:30pm Game 12: Perth Wildcats vs Sydney Kings
1:00pm-3:00pm Game 13: Adelaide 36ers vs New Zealand Breakers
SESSION 7 – MONDAY 26 SEPTEMBER
5:00pm-7:00pm Game 14: Brisbane Bullets vs Cairns Taipans
7:30pm-9:30pm Game 15: Illawarra Hawks vs Melbourne United