In the first of his weekly columns for Basketball Australia, Roy Ward takes a look at the highs and lows of SEABL season 2015.
In one breath CJ Bruton talks about his Brisbane Spartans’ as a family, in the next breath he refers to processes and everyone buying in.
The veteran Boomer and six-time NBL championship player’s coaching debut with the Spartans resulted in an 80-77 win over Frankston Blues in Brisbane on Saturday night.
Bruton’s coaching already appears a mix of Andrej Lemanis-Brian Goorjian-style organisation and process combined his dad Cal Bruton’s knack for inspiring diverse player groups to come together as one.
His side includes past or present NBL players Brendan Teys, Scott Kenny, Dean Brebner, Luke Martin, Martin Iti and Yusuf Qaafow along with proven SEABL performer Isiah Tuerta and import James Silvie.
On Saturday night the Spartans, playing without injured NBL signing Teys, gave their new coach a rollercoaster opening night struggling in the early going then bursting back into control of the game taking a 13-point lead into the final few minutes of the match.
Then a mix of bad shots and defensive breakdowns allowed the Blues to come back with Greg Page’s three-pointer with three seconds to play bringing them within three-points before time ran out.
“When you are up double figures with under three minutes to go, unless your opponent are very smart and good at situations, then you should come away with the win,” Bruton said.
“We have done a lot of three-minute scrimmages at training where different combinations had to come back from six or eight points down to win and other combination had to hold on.
“It was interesting to see different groups play together and I thought I had a group who could close games but they tried to give the game to Frankston at the end there.
“It’s more of a process and we have to get better at it.”
Bruton said Teys sat out because his ankle wasn’t 100 per cent but he expected the Adelaide 36ers star to suit up in round two.
Despite having 14 players on his roster, Bruton hinted he may bring a player in later this season but for now he is working to turn his team into a family.
Part of that building involved taking the team on a seven-hour bus ride to the Taree for a weekend of trainings, clinics and a fundraiser for the local association last month.
“Basketball is about family and we are one big family,” Bruton said.
“My players gave their hearts and time to those kids, we helped generate some money for the local club and the players had as much fun as the kids.
“That was a seven-hour bus ride and the guys were still coming back telling me how awesome it was.”
As for how good the Spartans might be this season, Bruton said it was too early to tell.
“Being the only SEABL team in this area, you can’t judge where you are at until we are five or six games into the season.”
Eric Hayes win big on debut
At Ballarat Miners, Eric Hayes is synonymous with the SEABL program.
The 438-game veteran and all-time SEABL great took his head-coaching debut in his stride on Friday night as he coached the Miners to an 85-75 win over Bendigo Braves at the Minerdome.
He added to it with an equalling impressive 89-87 win over Geelong Supercats in Geelong on Saturday night.
Hayes said his side fired early then let the Braves back into the game before moving back in front late on.
“The hard work of the preseason paid off I suppose,” Hayes said.
“We led for the majority of the game then made a couple of silly mistakes at the end but the guys kept their composure then Roy [Booker] made a big shot to put us back ahead and we kept them out at the end.”
As for how being a head coach differed from assistant coaching and playing, Hayes wasn’t sure how to describe the difference.
“In the end of it was enjoyable because we had a win,” Hayes said.
“It’s certainly very different but for me it’s about the work you do preparing your team, then when the games come you let them play it out.”
Star guard Anthony Fisher surprisingly pulled down 12 rebounds to add to his 14 points against the Braves, Hayes said the thinly built guard simply went after the ball.
“Anthony is a little bigger than he was last year but that’s not why he was grabbing rebounds – it’s just about desire and wanting the ball,” Hayes said.
SEABL Live Stats reverted to an old setting for Ballarat on Friday night listing Guy Molloy as coach and Hayes as assistant coach – it didn’t bother Hayes despite having several people tell him about it.
“I don’t care what they do,” Hayes said.
“That’s their thing, I’m sure people will call them and tell them to change it.”
*Ballarat Miners star Roy Booker is back to full fitness and it showed through the weekend with 24 points, 10 rebounds against Bendigo on Friday night then 25 points, six assists against Geelong.
*Dandenong Rangers forward Daequon Montreal showed he will again be a force with 27 points, 10 rebounds in just 29 minutes against Kilsyth.
*Sandringham Sabres big man Ray Goins was all over North-West Tasmania with 27 points and 17 rebounds in his club’s road win on Saturday night.
*Albury Border Bandits’ imports Cory Dixon (27 points, 10 rebounds) and Donte Nicholas (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists) both dominated in the Border Bandits 97-57 thumping of Canberra.
SEABL media links
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*Bendigo Advertiser’s Luke West (@Lukewestaddy) reports Braves’ coach Ben Harvey was disappointed in his team’s shooting on Friday night. Story: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/3004684/harvey-disappointed-in-braves-rusty-seabl-start/?cs=81
*Ballarat Courier’s Melania Whelan (@Melanie_Whelan) filed this match report on the Miners’ first up win plus a photo gallery from Friday night. Story: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3004477/win-marks-hayes-debut-as-head-coach/?cs=63
*Mt Gambier Border Watch’s Ashley Earl profiles Pioneers’ imports Tyrone Lee and Damien “DJ” Johnson (no he is no NBL gun Daniel Johnson). Story: http://www.borderwatch.com.au/story/2942141/imports-arrive-ready-for-defence/?cs=1644
*Canberra Times’s Jon Tuxworth (@Tuxy81) reports the Gunners’ big loss in Albury was not the fault of their preseason. Story: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/sport/act-sport/canberra-gunners-coach-urges-team-to-lift-after-lacklustre-loss-in-seabl-opener-20150412-1mj8fg.html
*Here’s a fun gallery from the Manning River Times of the Brisbane Spartans hosting a clinic at Purfleet during their preseason visit to Taree. Gallery: http://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/2976447/cj-bruton-basketball-clinic-at-purfleet-photos/?cs=1467&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=RoamMedia&utm_source=NSWGreatLakes#slide=1
*Albury Border Mail’s Steve Smith (@SteveSmithffx) pumps up the Border Bandits opening round win. Story: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3006515/hows-that-for-starters/?cs=10
*Ballarat Courier’s Melanie Whelan reports on Ballarat’s win over Geelong. Story: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3006506/basketball-miners-perfect-start/?cs=63
– Roy Ward (@rpjward) is a freelance sports writer who has covered the NBA, NBL, WNBL, SEABL and Big V during his career. He will be filing weekly columns on the SEABL men’s and women’s competitions this season. For feedback or suggestions send Roy a tweet or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org