While the NBL1 West competition is the WA State Basketball League Perth Redbacks men’s NBL1 head coach CJ Jackson is always mindful that NBL1 West is part of a national competition. So every game is a chance for the club to show what it can do to the whole country and hopefully provide greater opportunities for the players as well.
Prior to the recent snap COVID-19 lockdown, the Redbacks had found some tremendous form in the NBL1 West Men’s Division having won five of their six matches throughout June to sit on a 7-5 record.
With Round 12 postponed due to said lockdown, this opens up a fascinating Round 13 as the season resumes this weekend. The Redbacks will be away to the Joondalup Wolves on Friday and at home to the Willetton Tigers on Saturday. Jackson can’t wait to see how his team stands up to these two challenges, but with a bigger picture in mind.
After a rocky start to the season where the team lost four of their opening six matches, it might be a challenge to break into the top four now given the top three teams only have one or two losses each. But Jackson knows is how good his team is capable of being.
Looking at the starting five with Louis Timms at the five spot and with captain Joel Wagner running the point, Tevin Jackson remarkably versatile and able to play all five positions and then the scoring punch of Marshall Nelson and Zac Gattorna – it could be among the best in the country.
Throw in some handy contributions from Matt Giorgi, Derek Igbenoba, Denzel Jackson, Ezra Nikora, Kyden Edman and Lachlan Bertram, and Jackson will continue to back in the Redbacks to become recognised nation-wide as the NBL1 competition unfolds.
“I feel that within the league we have to put it into context. We had a meeting as a team, and when I spoke about our goals, I said it wasn’t just a state competition anymore,” Jackson said.
“This is a national competition, and we need to start seeing ourselves in that national capacity and we need to get better at what we do each and every week.
“I know we had a hiccup against Hawks but we still played some good basketball at times and put some pressure on them to show that we are at the top end of the scale.
“I just feel like if we play at our maximum capacity, we are hard to beat. We beat ourselves a few times but we are tough to stop when we play well.”
Not only does Jackson want the Redbacks to be recognised nationwide as one of the better NBL1 teams, but he also wants it to open up opportunities for players in his team to potentially get a crack in the NBL.
Already in the Redbacks roster, Timms has been a Perth Wildcats development player, Wagner spent his time earlier in his career with the Wildcats and Sydney Kings, Tevin Jackson was with the Cairns Taipans, Nelson at the Illawarra Hawks and Gattorna spent time training at the Adelaide 36ers.
But Jackson now hopes more chances open up and certainly in the case of Timms, Nelson, Gattorna and Tevin, it’s not too late for them to still make their mark at NBL level.
“We have some talent and I think what we want to do is that we want to create that opportunity for those guys to be able to be looked at on the national stage,” Jackson said.
“We want clubs around the country to look at those guys and see the skills that they have and that they could add value to their team.
“I would put out there that I think those guys are starting to come into their own this season and there should be some opportunities for them to go and trial for some NBL clubs to show what they can do.”
After a stint in Iceland Nelson returned home to Perth with a hand injury and has thus had a slow start to the NBL1 West season. But just his presence out on the floor and his ability to create and shoot is already making a significant impact according to his coach.
“We’ve got some young kids who can come off the bench and add something to the team, and Marshall has really only just become available,” Jackson said.
“His hand and his finger aren’t quite at 100 per cent yet but he is getting better and he’s starting to get his wind and to recognise our plays, and we’re starting to become better. The biggest thing with Marshall is that he just creates that threat for us on the court because he can hit from all angles.
“He can take a shot from anywhere and knock it down and because of that threat it allows Zac, Timms and Tevin, and even Wags to have the floor open up for them and it provides more opportunities for those guys.”
The thing that always leaves Jackson assured that his team will be well run and organised out on the floor is having his captain as his point guard, and he just can’t speak more highly of Wagner who continues to move clear as the league’s all-time assists leader and the club’s games record holder.
“I say that Joel Wagner to us is what John Stockton was to the NBA and the Utah Jazz, and he will keep mounting on those assists but what’s happening now is that he is starting to find his way with his floater and he’s shooting a bit more and giving us another scoring threat,” Jackson said.
“He has really embraced that captaincy role and he is our emotional leader in the same way a Ben Purser is to the Hawks, Ryan Godfrey is to Rockingham, Gavin Field to Cockburn and guys like that. He’s just our barometer and when he’s dictating and telling everyone where to go, that’s when we are at our best.”