Monday, March 31, 2008

Final Four Is Set


North Carolina's coach Roy Williams will coach against the team that started his coaching legacy, Kansas. Williams coached in Lawrence, KS from 1988 to 2003 before he moved to UNC to win the championship in 2005.

On the other hand, Kansas coach Bill Self will have breathed a sigh of relief when Davidson's last second shot missed today. Self has finally made it to the Final Four. The people of Kansas now believe he is a coach that can bring success (championships) to Lawrence.

Now what to expect when the ball is thrown in the air? Carolina will want to play fast. This is how they have played all season so nothing will change here. Point guard Ty Lawson will steer this V8 while Tyler Hansbrough will anchor himself in the paint and be relentless one more time.

To make this game favourable for the Tar Heels, Wayne Ellington needs to hit from down town. Ellington is Carolina's best threat from deep, so they need him to find his range early. Usually a team that can get three contributors in big games like this, win.

Meanwhile, Kansas will be looking for many contributors to help ease the load. They have one of the deepest team in America which has got them this far. The only trouble with this method is, who will step up when needed.
Brandon Rush needs to be the man for KU, but sometimes he is happy to float through a game. This guy has the potential to dominate a game in so many ways (scoring, rebounding, defense), the question is, does a Carolina team get his juices flowing!

I believe the Tar Heels win this game. Hansbrough loves the big occasion and he will get enough help from his teammates.

Another pair of #1 seeds (UCLA and Memphis) that have made it through to the Final Four. Memphsis has been great all year, but this may be their best challenge all year.
The back court for the Tigers may be the best in the nation, but they are certainly going to be tested by the Bruins relentless defense.
Freshman sensation Derrick Rose maybe playing his last game in a Tigers uniform, but if his form from last weekend can continue, Memphis will find themselves playing for a national championship come Monday night.
His back court mate Chris Douglas-Roberts has been solid his whole college career so this stage will not scare him.
The Tigers will be really looking for centre Joey Dorsey to be huge for them. His match up against Kevin Love will be crucial if the Tigers are to succeed. Dorsey loves it physical so this will help in his low post match up with Love, who maybe the hottest playing in college not named Curry (Stephen of Davidson).
Darrin Collison the point guard for UCLA needs to control the tempo for the Bruins. Both the Bruins and Tigers like the tempo fast, but the Bruins can play at multiple speeds so this should help them trouble the Tigers.
Along with Collison, Russell Westbrook needs to be solid so he and Collison can match Rose and Douglas-Roberts. Westbrook is a potential NBA 1st rounder so he needs to show it against the Tigers back court who have NBA written all over them.
With many guys in this game potentially suiting up for their team for the last time, I look for Kevin Love and the Bruins to extent that thought for one more game.
Articles of interest for the Final Four.
King of the Road breaks it down. Self and Williams to square off. Scare tactics. Best team in the final four is? Bennett says no to Hoosiers.
NBL News
The Bullets players are starting to look at other avenues. Seems as though there is no "White Knight" in sight. Mika Vukona and the Breakers are no longer a team. The 100 plus gamer for the Breakers is looking to move on. The South Dragons are holding a press conference tomorrow. I wonder what it will be about? The worst keept secret in basketball! Jason Smith to remain a King?
Freshman Player of the Year - Mike Beasley

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Have Just As Much Chance As Sonny Bill

No Origin for SBW?

LAST week on the NRL Footy Show Bulldog Sonny Bill Williams commented on his desire to play State of Origin footy for New South Wales despite the fact that he technically would not qualify since his birthplace is New Zealand.

I can understand wanting to play State of Origin footy. Who wouldn't? Heck, even I would love to pull on a Maroons jersey and run out on to Lang Park, or Suncorp Stadium as it is now known.

But, unlike Sonny Bill, I am a Queenslander. I have played professional sport too. If he gets a run, why can't I?

I mean, if all you have to do is meet a few of the selection criteria, we both would qualify, wouldn't we?

OK, we all know how ridiculous it would be to see me out there with the best footballers Queenslander has to offer. I also think it would be ridiculous to bend the rules, albeit it in a slightly different way, for Sonny Bill.

So how does Sonny Bill argue his qualification for selection in a NSW State of Origin side?
Well, he was a NSW representative at the under-15 and 17 junior levels. Yep, I think it is justifiable that he was allowed to play representative footy for NSW in his junior days.

Junior sport should have looser boundaries (which could open the door for an entirely different article). This isn't juniors any more.

He is a professional athlete playing in an elite competition now and the rules are, and should be, more concrete. The primary problem I have with his inclusion in a NSW side is that he has already been given the opportunity to play for his true country of origin, New Zealand, and jumped at the chance.

I am sure he is very proud each and every time he pulls on the Kiwi jersey. Thousands of people would trade places with him in a minute.

If we begin to allow sportsmen and women to pick and choose who they would like to represent, I can't help but feel like a little of the passion and pride that comes with such an honour would become somewhat diluted.

Take the Olympic swimming trials taking place right now as an example. It just so happens that the talent pool of swimmers in Australia is currently very deep (no pun intended). There will be a plethora of talented Australian swimmers missing out on the trip to Beijing. Many of them could walk on to the pool deck in any other country in the world and breeze their way into a qualifying position and live out an Olympic dream.

Does it mean as much just to make any team when, let's face it, the Australian Olympic swimming team headed to Beijing is going to be something special?

I doubt it.

I appreciate Sonny Bill wanting to be part of arguably the best rugby league spectacle in the world. However, when he chose to represent New Zealand as his country of Origin, any chance of playing Origin in Australia went out the window.

I keep telling my kids: "You can't have it both ways!" Maybe I need to invite Sonny Bill to sit in on one of my lectures.

Fortunately for the people of Queensland, both Sonny Bill and I will be watching the Origin series from the same position, a comfortable lounge chair.

My article can be found in every Saturday's edition of the Townsville Bulletin.

TJ Ford making the Knicks look silly

Friday, March 28, 2008

Day 2 of the Sweet Sixteen

After an exciting day of play today we move over the other two brackets to see who will join Xavier, UCLA, North Carolina and Louisville in the Elite Eight. Boxscores from the four games today here.

Davidson (28-6) v Wisconsin (31-4)

This is a match up where a team in Wisconsin will be trying to slow one individual, Stephen Curry of Davidson, to really enhance their chances of winning.

The Badgers of Wisconsin are a team in every sense of the word. Their leading scorer averages 13, but they have many contributors. None will be more important than Michael Flowers. Considered by many to be the best defensive player in the nation, his job will be to simply slow a hot Curry (could not resist that one) down.

Flowers will try to be Bruce Bowen like with his defense, but if he is beaten on penetration he knows his teammates have his back.

On the flip side, Curry is red hot. He has dropped 70 points in his first two tourney games. Although Curry can create for himself, he has Jason Richards creating some easy opportunities for him to knock down. Richards leads the nation in assists at 8 per game.

My tip is Wisconsin. The Badgers will slow Curry, plus their team play and depth will wear Davidson down.

Trivia: Name an Alum from Davidson who probably become an NBL Hall of Famer? Answer below.

Villanova (22-12) v Kansas (33-3)

Villanova depends so much on point guard Scottie Reynolds. He does it all for the Wildcats. He really needs to have a super game for his team to advance any further.

As for the Kansas Jayhawks, they have one of the deepest teams in college basketball. They have five guys who score in double figures and two others just below.

No need to try and sugar coat this one.

My tip, the Jayhawks in a canter. Too much depth!

Standford (28-7) v Texas (30-6)

This is a battle between the Stanford bigs and the Texas guards.

Stanford's twin towers, the Lopez brothers (Brook and Robin), have come up huge for the Cardinals in the past two games. Brook's game winner in the previous round sees them into the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2001.

Texas' DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams make this juggernaut tick. Augustin is a streaky outside shooter but it is his penetration that causes the trouble for opposition defense. Abrams on the other hand can fill it up from down town in a hurry. Then the rest of his game follows.

Although these four guys will have an influence each team has their respective X factors.

Stanford's point guard Mitch Johnson controls the tempo for the Cardinals, so if he keeps Augustin in check the Cardinal can advance.

Meanwhile, for the Longhorns they have a double double man on the inside. Damion James kick starts many of the Longhorns fastbreaks with his defensive rebounding. At the other end, this super athlete can drain the three ball or penetrate to the basket and finish strong.

My tip here. Something is telling me Stanford, but look for a close one here. Maybe a triple overtime thriller.

Michigan St (27-8) v Memphis (35-1)

Michigan St is methodical in their approach, both on offense and defense. They love to control the tempo. The backcourt of freshman Kalin Lucas and senior Drew Neitzel really dictate much of what happens throughout the course of their games.

Lucas will have to control Memphis' freshman sensation Derrick Rose, while Neitzel needs to provide 5 to 8 threes to give his team the offensive spark they need in this contest.

Memphis, like Kansas, is deep. Rose and backcourt teammate Chris Douglas-Roberts are a nightmare for most teams to control. Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier are also two you need to watch on the interior.

Memphis like to play uptempo at both ends for forty minutes. If young buck Lucas does not get caught up in this frenzy that Memphis provides the Spartans can stay in the game and have a chance to win at the end. Memphis is a poor free throw shooting team (59%) and it will catch them out short in one of these games.

My tip is Memphis. Too much depth and Rose will have a dominating game.

Trivia Answer: Derek Rucker

In NBL news. Dragons want an answer. How Wortho beat the tribunal! Agent does not think client is a ten. CJ wants Bullets to stick. NG brothers to Slingers.

Bogut High Five's Himself!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sweet 16 MatchUps: Day1

Friday marks the tip off for the round of sixteen at the NCAA tourney. Making the Sweet Sixteen is quite an achievement for any school, but since you are there you might as well make the most of your opportunity. I will endeavour to breakdown the games for you:

Xavier (29-6) v West Virgina (26-10)

In the West bracket , the #7 seed West Virgina Mountaineers takes on the 3rd seed Xavier Musketeers. When you have a look at the team statistics there is not much that separates these teams.

Both teams score around 75pts a game, while they hold teams to about 63/game.

Guys to look out for are Joe Alexander for West Virginia and Drew Lavender of Xavier. Alexander is a big guy who can step out to the perimeter and make shoots or take his man of the dribble. He has been in a groove over the last moth and has created all kinds of match up problems for the opposition. Look for this to continue.

Lavender on the other hand is a "waterbug". He controls the tempo for Xavier. He must do this for his team to advance to the Final Eight. He averages about 4 assists/game, but he will need to manage his turnovers if the Musketeers are to continue with their season.

My tip is the Mountaineers. Coach Bob Huggins will have his troops fired up on the defensive end for this one, plus they are peaking at the right time.

Western Kentucky (29-6) v UCLA (33-3)

This is quite an intriguing game for me. No doubt the #1 seed UCLA Bruins have everything to see them win a national title, but the Hilltppoers of Western Kentucky are an explosive scoring team.

The Bruins need to get some help for centre Kevin Love and point guard Darren Collison. If they can find a third contributor, the Hilltoppers are in for a long night because the Bruins play some serious lock down defense. Their first two opponents did not crack 40 points for the game.

Meanwhile the Hilltoppers will look for Courtney Lee (20.5 pts/game) and 1st round hero Tyrone Brazelton (14pts/game) to light up the scoreboard. If both these guys can combine for 45 points, they have a legitimate chance of causing the upset.

My tip here is UCLA coach Ben Howland will not allow the NBA bound Lee to get off against his team. I look for the Bruins to be playing in the championship game.

Washington St (26-8) v North Carolina (34-2)

Talk about a contrast in style here. UNC average 90pts/game while WSU allow their opponents only 56pts/game. Something has to give here.

Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson get all the publicity for the Tar Heels, but I feel it will be Wayne Ellington who cuts loose in this one. Ellington will be the recipient off of Lawson's penetration and Hanbrough constantly getting double teamed.

For WSU to have a chance they need to get UNC in a half court offense and their "bigs" need to stay out of foul trouble. Aussie Aron Baynes will have his hands full with Hansbrough, but teams who have success against Carolina limit Hansbrough's touches. Baynes can do this. Also Baynes' can help his cause by going at Hansbrough at the other end. Get him in foul trouble and the Tar Heels are a different team.

My tip is Carolina. Although the Cougars will not let Carolina score 90 points, the Cougars will struggle to match however many points it is that UNC post.

Louisville (26-8) v Tennessee (31-4)

Rick Pitino has his Louisville Cardinals playing well in March so Tennessee will need to be on their game.

The Cardinals have been getting some great play from their big man David Padgett. When he is playing well this team could find themselves in the Final Four. The question here is, can he continue this high level of play?

The Volunteers on the other hand rely on playing uptempo and pulling the trigger as soon as they see daylight. Chris Lofton has an NBA stroke, so he if can drain 6/7 three's the Vols will be in action. Look for Tyler Smith's all round play to be a factor as well.

My tip is the Cardinal. Both teams like to get up and down, but Pitino's men allow 10pts/game less. This will be key and get them over the line in a close one.

In NBL news, will the Dragons get their man by tomorrow? Who will take over the Kings coaching position? More on Goorj and the Dragons. Ingles is exploring the NBA. Bradshaw heads to Europe. Powell still going well in the D-League.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Maric Done, Wortho Heading North?

The college career of another aussie is done. Aleks Maric the former AIS product could not get his Nebraska Cornhuskers over the line today.

The Cornhuskers lost in OT to Mississippi in the NIT, 85-75. Maric finished his career off in style though. Posting another double double of 18pts, 10rebs and 4ass to boot.

Although Maric will return to Australia to try and throw his hat in the ring for the Beijing Olympics, don't expect him to be in the NBL next season.

Look for Maric to use his European passport and sign with a "big" team in Europe. I'm sure Maric will get summer workouts and play in several summer leagues with the NBA, but I don't think he will make a roster come opening day.

I hope he proves me wrong, but I think he will have to settle for a productive career in Europe.

It is great to see Aussie talent taking themselves over to the tougher leagues of the world, but it is disappointing to lose a local guy from our own league.

Also making some noise is Mark Worthington and Cairns. It has been reported that there is interest that the far north club is pursuing the NBL 1st teamer.

I'm sure the Taipans are looking at ways of filling the hole Nathan Jawai will leave if his NBA dream becomes reality. This move has me really intrigued. Does Abney move to the five or Worthington to the three?

More importantly, if they become teammates, "Birdman" Abney will be able to teach Worthington the finer points of flapping your hands. Wortho's effort in the Grand Final series to replicate the "Birdman", was absolutely disastrous.

In other news, Paul Rogers supports Conner Henry for coach. writes about the Aussies in college. Jason Crowe is officially gone from the Blaze. Ben Hunt keen to stay in the west. Big Luke is a perfect 10. Rod Popp in NT.

I walked by a gym today and thought about doing this!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sweet Sixteen Is Set, Goorj Gooone

Goorj has officially left the Kingdome!

The first weekend of the NCAA is history, so now we are down to 16 teams to fight it out for the championship.

In the West Region (Friday our time) we will see West Virgina take on Xavier, while the second game will feature Western Kentucky and UCLA.

The East Region is where you will find the Great Aussie Hope, Aron Baynes. His Washington State Cougars take on North Carolina, while Louisville and Tennessee square off. This is also Friday our time.

On Saturday in the Midwest Region, Davidson and Wisconsin clash, while Villanova and Kansas battle to see who makes it to the Final Eight.

In the South Region, Stanford and Texas square off, while Michigan St and Memphis will play each other to be the last game of this round.

Later on in the week I will give a better breakdown of each game.

Until then, you can catch Aussie Aleks Maric and his Nebraska Cornhuskers try and win the National Invitational Tournament. Maric plays tomorrow and takes on Mississippi.

Big Aleks has had a great season and I'm actually looking forward to see how he matches up against the Aussie bigs at a Boomers camp. He may become a sleeper for Beijing if his court speed is satisfactory.

NCAA Boxscores
Day 4

In other news. Well the worst kept secret in basketball has finally hit the papers. Goorj quits the Kings! How long now until he signs with the Dragons?

A little action from the Turkish All Star Dunk Comp.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Baynes Left To Fly Aussie Flag Solo and Put Cairns On the Map

Aron Baynes, flying the flag for Cairns.

The NCAA Tourney has not even completed its first weekend, but Aron Baynes of Washington State is the only Aussie left after the first round.

The bigger names of Pat Mills and AJ Ogilvy suffered first round losses, so they will have to be happy to cheer on their fellow countryman from campus.

Baynes was instrumental in helping his Cougars defeat Winthrop in the first round of play. The final score of 71-40 does not tell the whole story. The scores were tied at the half but Baynes and his teammates lifted a few gears to run away with it by the end.

The Cairns native finished with 19pts and 8rebs to lead is team into a second round clash with high scoring Notre Dame. Boxscore vs Winthrop

Earlier today Baynes and his Cougars put the clamps on the Fighting Irish (Notre Dame) 61-41. Once again Baynes helped his team with 11rebs and 6 pts. Boxscore Highlights

This win by the Cougars puts them into the Sweet Sixteen for the first since 1941. (Can you name the last Aussie to reach the round of 16? Answer below.) This is quite an achievement and his profile will lift through the roof in the USA.

I remember talking to Baynes' parents when I was trying to convince them Gonzaga was the school for their son. Mr and Mrs Baynes did not really grasp the whole college concept but I just hope now they realize their son is living the college "dream" today.

I'm hear to tell them, their son will be "big time" right now on the other side of the Pacific. ESPN, magazines, newspapers etc will be wanting to get a piece of the big fella from Cairns. I just hope his parents get the chance to experience some of what he is. I would get on the next flight out of Cairns, and enjoy this experience with their son.

It is always great to see a fellow Aussie do well. I just felt felt Baynes would have had a few fellow countrymen joining him in the second week of the tournament.
Trivia Answer: Andrew Bogut 2005 vs Kentucky

All Boxscores from the NCAA Tourney:
Just an example of how far college fans will go!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Robertson Deserved Better

"Kelvinator" should have cracked the Boomers squad

THIS week Australia coach Brian Goorjian announced a 33-member men's basketball squad from which 12 will ultimately be selected to contend for a medal at the Beijing Olympics.

To my surprise, despite the hefty number of invitations sent, you will not see Kelvin Robertson's name on the guest list.

I am still scratching my head.

After all, we know that Kelvin has shown that he is one of the better Australian point guards in the league, particularly over the past two seasons. There is no doubt that the competition to actually gain a spot amongst the final 12 is fierce in his position.

You have veteran names like CJ Bruton and Darnell Mee, and the youngster being touted as future point guard for the Boomers, Pat Mills, to contend with.

It would be hard to argue that Kelvin has reached the same level as these guys, especially when you are talking about international competitions. However, when you look at the other point guards asked to the first camp, Kelvin's exclusion is a mystery.

Specifically, Adam Gibson of the Brisbane Bullets, Nathan Crosswell from the Melbourne Tigers, and Aaron Bruce, who is currently playing college in the US, are all guys I feel Robertson would be able to match strength for strength.

Gibson and Crosswell have been given their ticket because they have been solid contributors for good teams over the past few seasons.

So has Kelvin.

Meanwhile Bruce has fallen out of favour with his college team and has seen his playing time drop week after week and he still gets a nod.

Maybe this snub will end up being a good thing for the Crocodiles and will motivate Kelvin for the next NBL season. If he can put together a few more solid seasons, it would be tough to deny him at least a shot at a green and gold jersey in years to come.

IT is always hard to open your season on the road and I think the Cowboys can vouch for that after their opener against a tough Gold Coast Titans team last week.

Not only were they on the road, but they had to contend with a community celebrating the christening of a brand spanking new venue. Talk about the odds being stacked against you.

Well, this week the Cowboys will get that little boost that comes from playing their own home opener. Players always want to impress the home fans and this is their first opportunity in 2008 to do so.

From a fan's perspective, you always come ready for that first clash. There is an air of excitement and anticipation about whether this season could be `the season'. If you add the emotion of both players and fans together, you usually have the makings for a first-up win at home.

As a fan, here's hoping my philosophy is on the money tonight.
See you out at Dairy Farmers, North Queensland!

My article can be found in the Townsville Bulletin every Saturday.

Friday, March 21, 2008

NBL Awards Night

The winning action photo from Townsville Bulletin's Evan Morgan.

Last night saw the who's who of basketball gather at the Melbourne Aquarium to celebrate the season. The moment I walked through the front doors a rush of adrenaline hit me as the anticipation of the award winners just got too much for me to handle.

Perched on the edge of my seat as John Casey (please, some new jokes Casey) got the evening underway, I perused the room to see who I felt would take out the awards. It was not too hard to figure this out as the only players in attendance (besides Anthony Stewart, Martin Cattilini and myself) were there to receive awards.

OK, I cannot carry on with this. All the winners had been named in the media previous to the night's events. My point is why announce the winners before the occasion? Not even a word-smith of the caliber of John Casey could convince me that I did not know that Chris Anstey was going to be named MVP.

For those of you who did not happen to know the winners before last night, it went like this:
MVP: Chris Anstey
Defensive POY: Chris Anstey
6th Man: Dontaye Draper
MIP: Cameron Tragardh
ROY: Nathan Jawai
COY: Brian Goorjian

Townsville did not leave the evening empty handed. Townsville Bulletin photographer Evan Morgan won the best action shot of the season. Our always photogenic import, Corey "Homicide" Williams, was his victim (prize shot). Check out the other media winners here. (Please swap Evan Morgan and Paul Kane's names with the awards.) Thanks to Stephen Hoare I also picked up the business card prize. (Although I don't have a card, a corner of the napkin worked nicely.) The prize is a shark dive at the Melbourne Aquarium. You should have seen the sharks face when they saw me walk up and collected the envelope. They were hoping for Pero Cameron.

Enough about the awards. Let's talk about what I heard throughout the night.
- It is good to see that several CEO's take time out of their day to read my blog, much appreciated
- It was decided that Anthony Stewart has been the Crocs worst signing of all time (my poll will prove this)
- Brian Goorjian will be the new Dragons coach (not yet confirmed)
- D-Mac was trying to convince himself that he is happily retired
- Former Crocs CEO Barry Gibson is still vertically challenged
- Sean Lampley and Mark Worthington sat and stared into each others eyes all night

In other news around the basketball traps. Ken Watson is the father of Aussie hoops. Kings' boss puts gag order on troops.

Today saw two Aussies finish their respective college basketball careers. Baylor's Aaron Bruce and Arizona's Daniel Dillon could not come up with the win. They are left to ponder, 'what is next'. Tomorrow will see a handful of Aussies take to the hardwood. I can only hope to report that some remain after their games.

For all the days' boxscores look HERE.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Boomers Squad Announced

Will insurance problems keep Neilsen out of the Olympics?

Today the Boomers squad was named from which the Beijing Olympic team will be picked from. The squad consists of 33 names with players from overseas (NBA, NCAA, Europe) and the NBL making up the list.

Now I'm never going to begrudge a player from trying to make a national team (hell if my name was on the list, I'm there), but do we really need a squad of 33 people for a final twelve.

I say no and especially right now with our sport hurting financially. I can only imagine what it would cost to fly, house and feed these guys during a camp.

If I'm Brian Goorjian (coach of the national team) I already have 8 or 9 guys that are locks for the team, so we don't really need twenty guys to decide 3 or 4 remaining spots.

I feel the final team needs to spend as much time together playing against other national teams, so we can develop a team style and chemistry well and truly before we get to the Games. Australia needs to play as many games as possible just because we do not get the yearly international competition like the European teams.

It will be an interesting build up (a home series against the powerhouse IRANIAN national team) until the final team is selected and I wish all the players the best, because the Olympics is a great and unique experience.

My guys that are locks for the team: CJ Bruton, Pat Mills, Brad Newley, Jason Smith, Sam MacKinnon, Glen Saville, Matt Neilsen, Andrew Bogut, David Andersen, Chris Anstey

Guys going to camp and playing for pride: Adam Gibson, Nathan Crosswell, Russell Hinder, Peter Crawford, Ian Crosswhite, Aron Baynes, Aaron Bruce, Wade Helliwell, Jacob Holmes, Matthew Knight, Damien Ryan, Luke Schenscher, Andrew Ogilvy

These picks are made on the basis of no injury clouds and a little insight into how Goorjian thinks.

In other news, everyone (free agents) is waiting to move. CJ still hoping to be a Bullet. Goorj excited about Anstey. Mills will be important. Penney back on the Badgers.

Today in USA college basketball the other tournament started. The NIT got under way, so you can check out all the boxscores here.

Tomorrow will see Australian Alec Maric in action for Nebraska.

Rick Pitino is on crack. Go Zags!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Crocs Neighbourhood Program Launched

Colouring in this charater will make anyone get healthy, quickly!
Although it is the off season, we the players still have commitments around the place. Today the club launched its Crocs Neighbourhood Program at the Townsville Hospital.

The players are very grateful for the support we receive from within our community, so today was a good opportunity to be part of something that will give back to the people that support us.

The idea of the program is to try and make a child's stay at the hospital a little less daunting than what it is. Upon arrival the kids will be given a little Crocs gift pack that features such things as colouring in book and what services the hospital has available. (Playstation was a hit today!)

The feature of this program will be the hospital visits the players will be making during the year. It is always great to see a child "brighten up" when someone can drop by for a little chat. (Cowboys football is a hot topic in the children ward right now.)

Programs like this are not unique to the Crocs. You will find most professional sporting teams are heavily involved within their community. Players do enjoy making these visits and really do bring a smile to the children's faces.

It is just a shame that the general public can so easily forget some of the great community work professional athletes do when they get a little carried away in public sometimes.
The 2008 NCAA Tournament offically gets underway tomorrow. They have what they call a play-in game. The winner between Mount St Mary's and Coppin St gets to play North Carolina in the first round. Don't forget to fill out your bracket if you want a chance to win $5 million.
In NBL news, the Govt says no to Bullets. Foxtel sponsorship may hinder the Bullets getting sold. Dillon Boucher and Dean Vickerman on Kiwi staff. Former Hawks to hold game to help out. Wortho to phone it in.
NBA, Block of the Year?

Monday, March 17, 2008

March Madness

Today in the USA was "Selection Sunday". This is where a committee of people decide who gets to play off for the college basketball national title. There are Aussies everywhere to be found and you can catch them on ESPN in the coming weeks.

The 65 team tourney will run over the next three weeks (Friday thru Monday our time), and ends in San Antonio when the final four teams standing get the chance to be crowned champions.

Now for the Aussies that you may get a chance to see play over the coming weeks.

AJ Ogilvy: He plays for Vanderbilt which plays in the tough SEC. AJ and his team have played well all year. They have had a recent win over former #1 Tennessee. Freshman Ogilvy has been projected as a possible first round NBA draft pick, so a strong showing here will really solidify the hype. While an early exit may see him coming back to school next year.

Aron Baynes: Baynes has come on nicely for the Washington State Cougars over his first three years. He is a low post presences (and defensive anchor) with his 6'10, 270 lbs body. The Cougars season got off to a blistering start, but slowed during the tough Pac-10 play. Watch out for this team to bore teams to death with their defense and slow down offense. They are coached by former Sydney King Tony Bennett. You can see how him and Shane Heal may have had a difference of opinion with style of play.

Pat Mills: He is now on the national stage for the whole country to see him. A great opportunity to really make a name for himself. If the St Mary's Gaels can win a few games, Mills will become a household name in the USA, while he will walk the streets of his home country as a virtual unknown.

Carlin Hughes: Mills' backup at St Mary's. This kid has down well for himself since going to the US. Had some quality years at the DII level in Montana before transferring to the Gaels. If his play is quality during the tournament he will catch the eye of some NBL coaches.

Lucas Walker: A solid role playing big man for the Gaels also, who sees limited minutes. He comes in and runs the floor and flies around on the defensive end.

Daniel Dillon: Plays for the Arizona Wildcats in a back role at the guard position. Always hits the floor, but his PT is determined by what he is giving his team on the night. The Wildcats make their 23 consecutive appearance at the tourney, second only to North Carolina.

Aaron Bruce: His stock has dropped over the past two seasons, but it is the first time his Baylor Bears have made an appearance at the tourney this decade. Bruce has been coming of the bench the last part of the season, but he could be a game breaker during the tourney. Most of the games are close, so if Bruce was to come in and knock down a few threes he could really open the game up.
Sorry if I have missed anyone. Let me know and I will add them to the list.

I have set up a Tourney Pickem Bracket if anyone is interested in joining in on the fun. You have three days left to enter the $5 million competition. The group name is aussie puntas and there is no password for this public group. Feel free to invite your friends along as well.

Now changing speeds. Fellow blogger DJ Leon Smith has blogged about how he feels the NBL is travelling and relives some of his days as editor of PBT. Do you all remember that fantastic publication! It is well worth a read and if you are into Hip Hop and live in Sydney, Leon is the MAN for you.

Is anyone else with me on this one. Reminds me of Christian Laettner Vs the Kentucky Wildcats during the NCAA tournament in 1992 (I think).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Big Weekend

Winner, Winner chicken dinner
Rod Anderson and John Rillie

It all started Friday night with the Melbourne Tigers winning the NBL Championship for the second time over the last three seasons.

I then channel surfed my way over to the Cowboys who were opening up their NRL season against the Gold Coast Titans. Not a pretty site for Cowboys fans as the Titans put on a good show at their new arena, Skilled Park.

Saturday night came around fast and my wife and I headed to the Crocs Annual Ball. Expecting quite a low key night, I was fortunate enough to walk away with the Players Player Award and the MVP. I was quite shocked at the MVP Award, but I will take it while I can. The voting ended very close at the end of the day, with all ten players polling votes.

One of the other awards handed out on the night is the Club Person of the Year Award. This was won by Rod Anderson. He was very happy to win this award as both his mother and father have been previous winners of this award.

Glad to see Sunday roll around so I could relax a little and take in the footy.

In news around the basketball traps. What will the Kings and Tigers lineups be for next season? Kings owner brushed, again? Goorjian in the west! D-Mac to coach. Jason Crowe has TD in NZNBL.

Steve Nash and soccer skillz!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

JR On Saturday

Footy, family, chores rule in off-season

THIS year's NBL season has been in my rearview mirror for a few weeks now.
So when I am out and about around town I am often asked, `what do you do now?'
Like anyone else, I can find plenty of ways to fill my down- time.

First and foremost I look forward to spending some time with the family.
The hectic nature of our season means they get a little neglected over those months, especially when we leave town for up to a week at a time.

So, thanks to the people in the Mundingburra area who swerve to miss the `peleton' consisting of my two sons and me riding our bikes to and from school in the morning, which has become the norm.

Once we've returned home safely, the next order of business involves sitting down and enjoying a coffee with my wife.

I am gradually training her to make my latte with just the right amount of foam.
After a morning of coffee and quality time wraps up, it is time to attend to all those jobs I put off during the season.

Yard work, cleaning the car and general maintenance around the house are usually at the top of the list. About this time, I start thinking pre-season cannot come quickly enough.

Resting and refreshing the body and mind is paramount during this down-time. My body becomes mentally and physically fatigued by season's end. This is the time I allow myself to have a break so that I am ready to go again when we fire up for next season.

I give myself about a month's break from most types of physical activity before getting back into it. Trust me, too much time off makes everything that much harder when training for next season starts up again.

There are a few activities I look forward to during the off-season that keep me from moulding myself permanently into the couch.

Currently, I'm playing indoor cricket once a week and am quietly hoping the IPL scouts make an unexpected stop at Thuringowa in the near future.

Tennis is also a big off-season activity among the Crocs players. The Riverside Gardens Open is a must-see for all. Some of the highlights are likely to include Kelvin Robertson going to any length necessary to run around his backhand. I think Daniel Egan is hoping to become Lleyton Hewitt's training partner when Hewitt comes to town for the Davis Cup.

Last but not least, footy season takes over the house. Down come the Crocs posters and up go the Thurston and Bowen showpieces.

Much to the dismay of my wife, the transition from basketball to footy season is absolutely seamless this year. It is a sports fan's dream.

Oh, and speaking of my wife, she has just returned from the shops so I better lend a hand so that dinner can be ready just in time for the footy.

My article appears every Saturday in the Townsville Bulletin.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bullets for Sale, NBL Finishes, NRL Begins and Fighting Mascots

Just trying to get the good mail!

Although I'm not built for footy, I am a tragic at heart so I'm rather fired up for the start of the NRL season tonight. A mad Canberra Raiders supporter (Mal Meninga baby!) from their inception to the competition but I have to say, I do have developed a soft spot for the Cowboys.

Like all good Aussie males, I rate myself in tipping comps so I thought I would share the perfect round with you guys to kick off the season.

Titans/Cowboys: Whether Thurston is in or out (my opinion is he won't play) the Cowboys forwards will have to much "go forward" for the Titans. Cowboys

Roosters/Rabbitohs: I like Big Willie for his comments, so I'm rolling with the Big Fella for round one. Roosters

Eels/Bulldogs: Always a good one this clash. Eels will be looking to put the week's off field activities behind them, while the Dogs will be wanting to say, "Willie Who". Just because it is at Parramatta, the Eels for me.

Knights/Raiders: Always the realist, it is hard to tip against the Knights in Newcastle. The Raiders have pace to burn out wide, so they can put points on the board if given a chance. Knights

Sea Eagles/Sharks: At Brookie the Eagles in a canter.

Storm/Warriors: Everyone will think the Storm are a good thing here. Warriors are the last team to beat Melbourne in Melbourne. The Warriors have the flair to worry the Storm, but you cannot go past the Champs at home. Storm

Tigers/Dragons: A game that is hard to decide for me. A lot of unknown about each team. Dragons always get their fans hopes up, while the Tigers won't to bounce back from a poor year. Tigers

Broncos/Panthers: The return of Petro in Brissy will see an emotional and firey start to this game. Played in the heat of the day (1.00pm), I just feel the Broncos small guys will create too much space late in the game. Broncos

Tonight also is the final game of the NBL season. Game 5 in Sydney tonight will see the series decided. If this game follows the trend of the previous four, we are in for a ripper. We are due an overtime game, but I'm not asking for too much, am I.

I'm still sticking to my original train of thought of Chris Anstey or Dontaye Draper deciding this series. I felt Anstey was about to put the series to rest in Game 4, but he just couldn't deliver that "dagger" three.

Enter Draper and his 4th quarter spark. Although you could see that he was on one leg, he was a massive factor in the final outcome of the game. If he can give the Kings the same lift tonight, it might just be enough to get them over the line for their 4th Championship this decade.

In NBL news, the Bullets are For $ale. Goorj and the Kings have planted a seed of doubt. One not to miss at the Kingdome tonight.

Mascot Fighting

Thursday, March 13, 2008

All NBL Teams Named

Ebi was as unanimous as Manu going left!

The All NBL teams have been released and although I agree for the most part I will talk about a few selections I have a problem with.

The first team consists of Ebe Eri, Chris Anstey, Mark Worthington, Shawn Redhage and Kirk Penney. There is no doubting the season these guys had individually, they deserve to be mentioned with the best.

Take a look at the second team that is made up of CJ Bruton, Corey Williams, James Harvey, Adam Ballinger and Nathan Jawai and I feel that is a better balanced team.

If you were to have these two teams play against each other, Worthington is going to be the best option for the point guard spot for the first team. We all heard what he had to say on Fox Sports about his PG skills.

So, this is where my argument comes in. When making up a team in the NBL and most teams worldwide, you always make sure you are strong at the point guard position. Well, the best team you are putting forward from the NBL is lacking at the PG position.

Meanwhile, you have two of the best the league has to offer on the second team. That might be the most entertaining thing about this game. Bruton and Williams arguing over who brings the ball up.

As for the third team, I would argue Darnell Hinson's inclusion. Sure he got off to a flier at the start of the season, but he and his team slowed quickly.

Who would have I included? I'm trying to think how I voted on this. Yes, team captain's get to vote. I believe I had thirteen of the fifteen same names and I couldn't vote for Williams.

Other names I had included were Alex Loughton and maybe Larry Abney. I did not include Julius Hodge. He had game, just not enough played for me.

Like anything, you can find things you do not like about it. I just feel when you are selecting a team, you need someone to steer the ship and the 1st team is a little rudderless.

In news around the NBL, the Kings live to fight another day. Joey Wright has been "kicked in the groin." Ouch. Julius Hodge has been lighting up the D-League. Jason Crowe wants to rejoin his family. And some words of advice from Al Westover.

Boxscore from Game 4

A new beer commerical, just getting you ready for Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No Draper..Game, Set, Match

All Cheerleaders need to back up!
Tonight is Game 4 of the NBL Championship series between the Sydeny Kings and Melbourne Tigers. Currently the Tigers lead the series 2-1 and have the luxury of wrapping it up on their home court tonight.

The series to date has been great from a basketball point of view. It has been close in all games going into the fourth quarter, something that cannot be said from some of the previous championship match ups. Tonight though could be dangerous for the Kings.

If "super sub" Dontaye Draper is done through injury (hamstring), I just feel the Tigers are ready to wrap this thing up. No doubt Brian Goorjian will have his troops ready to go, but they need Draper's presences out there.

He is a game changer. His all court speed is something that creates so many opportunities for the Kings on both the offensive and defense ends.

All the media are saying Draper is done, but don't be surprised to see him out there. After all, it is the Finals and you can rest tomorrow.

If the braided Draper can produce some worthwhile minutes, it might just be enough to push this to five.

No Draper will see D-Mac hoist the championship trophy for the third time in his career, and what a way to go out for one of the best to ever play in the NBL.

Stories from around the NBL. Westover believes the pressure is on the Kings. D-Mac is not thinking about retirement just yet. Geelong does not need the NBL says Jarrod Leonard. Former Boomer gets King hit. Deni Hines has crack at Kings cheerleaders.

I found this in my travels today. Atlanta Hawk Josh Smith in high school. Wait until you see the last dunk!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Today was another lazy day spent watching NCAA basketball from the comfort of my Laz-E-Boy.

I must say I was very happy to turn on ESPN this morning and see that they were showing a double order of WCC (West Coast Conference) basketball. This was the conference I played in while spending time in the USA and I still have close ties, and St Mary's currently have a few Aussies on their roster. Actually there is a nice sprinkling of Aussies throughout this conference.

Back to the games. Well my Gonzaga Bulldogs managed to scrap their way past a pesky Santa Clara (Steve Nash and Kurt Rambis territory, Jason Sedlock too for those ABA fans) team. SC has and Aussie on their squad as well. Ben Dowdell, the younger brother of Perth Wildcat Jeff Dowdell.

Dowdell may be a player that people want to keep an eye on in the upcoming years. Only in his first season with the Broncos he has logged good minutes and seems like he will only get better with time. A real energy guy right now, but I can see him developing into a All-Conference player in a couple of years. Boxscore

Onto the next game and St Mary's got out of the blocks fast on San Diego, but this became a double OT thriller BABY! (If ESPN replay this game, it is worth checking out!) Patrick Mills was solid without being flashy, but could not come up with the big plays down the stretch. He has done this numerous times for his squad this year, just not tonight.

It is nervous times now for St Mary's. They should make the NCAA tourney, but if there are too many upsets during conference tourney play, they may have to settle for the NIT (Not Invited Tournament) for post season action. Boxscore

Now For A Little Fun

I came across this website the other night. You may spend hours on it or just move on as quick as you went there. What is it? You punch in a players name and the system will spit out how that player has been in touch with the inventor of the game, Dr James Naismith.

It is like a six degrees of separation deal, only I'm ten degrees away. Good luck with it and waste away those frustrating working hours.

Now to my daily dose of NBL news. Besides his driveway, Chris Anstey's mantel piece will be filling fast. Today he was announced the Defensive Player of the Year. Former Croc and now a flying high Hawk, Cam Tragardh wins the Most Improved (court time) Award. Joey may do a 180, and the Tigers want to wrap it up in Melbourne.

This You Tube clip might have the Perth Wildcats thinking they recruited the wrong Shipp! The younger Shipp plays for the UCLA Bruins currently.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Great Time To Be In The 'Ville

It doesn't seem to matter what day of the week you pick up a paper right now, NBL teams are featured for the wrong reasons.

I feel rather lucky right now that my team, the Townsville Crocs, are rather secure in all the areas that some teams are lacking in right now. Financially we are going well, as far as I know, and we have a coach in place. So what does a guy do on a tropical Sunday?

He heads to the Strand and enjoys being part of history for this wonderful area of the world. Today the One Community Relay took place from Thuringowa to Townsville.

The idea of the relay is to unite the two communities together as we prepare to become one community when we go to the polling booth next weekend.

Much the same way the Olympic torch takes a journey around the world, the "Message Stick" made its way through the streets of Thuringowa to Townsville. The Stick was carried by community personalities, politicians or whoever wanted to walk the 300m to the next handover spot.

I felt it was actually a great idea as we have seen how the Olympic torch can unite people together. Remember back to 2000 when Sydney hosted the Games, hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets to get a glimpse. Over time, this may have the same effect for the people of Townsville.

It was fantastic to receive the baton from radio personality Steve Price and the Croc, walk my 300m with my children enjoying the occasion with me, then handing it over to Mr NRL and Cowboys captain Jonathon Thurston who finally handed over to the two mayors (Tony Mooney, Les Tyrell) who finished the Relay.

Beautiful one day, perfect the next is pretty close to life right now for me. I just have to find some more functions to weasel my way into this week to fill my diary.

In news around the NBL, the Tigers go 2-1 up over the Sydney Kings. I'm loving Sean Lampley's swagger. Eddy, not Cortez, Groves says the Bullets are not for sale. It will be interesting to see where this goes! Goorj says Draper is ready for the NBA and he collects 6th man award. Joey Wright is livid about a pay cut. NBL players tearing up the NZNBL.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Jawai ROY, Sam vs Lampley

ROY, Nathan Jawai

It was no surprise to see Nathan Jawai sprint away with the Rookie of the Year Award. This year's field had depth we had not seen in quite some time, but Jawai was the "Man" amongst boys.

I will not jibber on about how great he was as we all know how dominate he could be at times, but I do have a side note on this award. Alex Loughton finished second in the voting. I have no problem with this, but when I possed the question, "Is Kirk Penney eligible?", I was always met with an emphatic NO!

The reasoning I was given is Penney had played professionally overseas before. Loughton himself spent a season in Spain playing professional, so what is the difference?

Once again we have a grey area in the system. If Loughton is not eligible for the award it just becomes even a bigger landslide to Jawai, but on the otherhand, if Penney is up for the award, it may just have been a close race for the ROY award.

Something else that has caught my eye over the last couple of days was the article Sam MacKinnon wrote.

He talks about his match up next season with Sean Lampley. This would be a good contest to see as it seems both guys like to flex their muscles a little. I say, lets get it on in the ring. Here is a chance for the NBL to get some exposure during the off season.

I can hear John Casey now, "In one corner we have former NBL MVP from the Brisbane Bullets and proudly sponsored by Crust Pizza, Sam "the Hulk" MacKinnon. And in the other corner hailing from Harvey, Illinois, Sean "Louie the Lip" Lampley.

I would pay-per-view that as long as the under card featured Paul Rees vs Brad Davidson, Ricky Grace vs Damon Lowry and Mark Worthington vs Shawn Redhage.

Back to MacKinnon's article and my point, he had no problem with Anstey's behaviour of flipping the "Bird" to the Brissy fans, while Lampley just had some friendly banter with some overzealous fans.

We must remember though, it was MacKinnon that brought the one finger solute to the crowd into vogue around NBL venues. I know Perth fans remember!

Just in case anyone is interested here is the boxscore from Game 2.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Goorjian Named COY

Sydney Kings coach Brian Goorjian was named the NBL's coach of the year. I think this award out of all of the season's awards was the easiest decision for the voters to get right.

Finishing the regular season 27-3 was quite an accomplishment, no matter what your roster looked like. I think Goorjian has done one of his best motivating jobs of all time.

Looking from the outside in on the whole Kings situation this year, Goorj would have painted a picture of being underdogs, which he is still doing right now, and using the front office troubles to gel the team even closer together.

It is hard to believe that this is Goorj's first COY as a King. Already guiding them to a threepeat (2003,2004,2005), you would have thought he would have claimed one somewhere. I for one (not the lone ranger here) didn't see this type of year happening for the Kings. Sure, I will always have a Goorjian coached team around the mark, but 27-3, Brian would not have dreamt this when sipping a coffee at Cogee.

So that is why my hat comes off to Goorj this year. He has performed a masterstroke by getting the best out of his team and he has found a way to keep his players minds on the job, while having to deal with the internal troubles.

In other news, Scott Fisher is going home. Boti gives his point of view about Hammer on the Gold Coast. Melbourne coach Al Westover is ligther in the pocket after his birds escape. Former Kings owner Mike Wrublewski (pronounced "rubber jetski") says he might dip back into his pockets, but only if Goorj stays.

Last but not least, could we see a Tigers fan take the same course of action if their team is not travelling too well. My tip, Glen Saville with the shoulder charge!