THE Perth Redbacks only narrowly missed taking part in the West Coast Classic finals but really what CJ Jackson wanted to get out of the competition was to build for 2021 and he couldn’t be happier with the way that panned out.
Jackson returned to the Redbacks in 2020 to take over the helm as Men’s head coach and while the SBL season didn’t eventuate thanks to COVID-19, the West Coast Classic took place instead and turned out to be a great success.
The season ran over nine weeks in the end before a finals weekend and ultimately the Redbacks were desperately unlucky not to be part of that finals weekend, but for Jackson it was all about more than just wins and losses right now in the West Coast Classic.
It came down to just one basket that denied the Redbacks an opportunity of playing finals, but the benefits out of the whole West Coast Classic were far greater than that with an eye being ready to go for either the SBL/NBL1 West season in 2021.
All-time league assists leader Joel Wagner still led the way averaged 6.5 points and 6.4 assists while backcourt partner Marshall Nelson was brilliant putting up 21.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game.
Tevin Jackson thrived as well with his dad as coach and at a new club with 12.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists with import Caleb White impressing with 18.0 points and 3.7 rebounds while Denis Tawhiti fought valiantly as the centre for 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Then there were the next group of players including Ezra Nikora, Bang Majok, Michael Riley, Derek Igbenoba, Ethan Vlahov, Kyden Edman, Neema Kazemi, Dylan Vilardi, Jordan Herbert and Lachlan Bertram who all received opportunities and showed encouraging signs.
If that group would return under Jackson as coach again for 2021 there’s no doubt it would be a competitive group and that’s exactly what the approach was he took coming into the West Coast Classic.
Jackson’s focus coming into the West Coast Classic in his first season back with the Redbacks was to use it as preparation for 2021 so now he feels the group is well placed heading forward.
“We just wanted them to play and see what we have, and we can build on that for next year. I know this is a great comp and I think the competition was fantastic, and it allowed players and teams to actually see where they were at with their local talent,” Jackson said.
“That’s what I feel. Now some of the local talent did well and some of the local talent still needs to learn where they’re at as far as understanding where they sit in the context of the league. But that’s what this was for.”
While every time you step onto the basketball court you want to win and the Redbacks would have loved the chance to take part in the West Coast Classic finals weekend having got so close, it was always with a bigger picture in mind.
Had the Redbacks made it to the finals, they would have just needed to win twice in the one weekend to come away with the championship but it wasn’t to be and now attention has already turned to getting ready for 2021.
The best part about the season for Jackson was that he got a look in a competitive environment at which players he can now bank on for 2021, and potentially the areas that he needs to look to add to in terms of the recruiting front.
The absence of a player with size up front was one noticeable area that he will look to bolster particularly after Brian Carlwell didn’t end up playing in the West Coast Classic after signing for the SBL season in 2020 initially.
That will all be sorted in the coming months, but overall Jackson was proud of the way the playing group conducted themselves and represented the Redbacks in what was a challenging 2020 for everyone.
“As we have said to the guys after the season, we have to put things into perspective about what this season was and we have a good foundation,” Jackson said.
“We don’t have any guys who are going to be difficult to work with, they’ve all bought into what we need to do. Now all we need to do is get everybody better for next year, add a couple of pieces to the puzzle and the foundation is there.
“I think they did the Redbacks brand really, really good. I thought they really represented the Redbacks the way we want them to represent the Redbacks. Unfortunately for our Redbacks faithful we weren’t able to get into the finals, but it was a good season for us overall.”