“There’s no place like home.”
The pride and happiness of being back home is loudly apparent for Ben Madgen. The former Sydney Kings captain spoke with The Pick and Roll after four years in Europe, which saw him showcase his skills on the hardwood in Belgium, Lithuania and Germany.
Last year, his hunger and focus to succeed was undeniable. Fast forward to the new year and it’s that attitude that has earned him a contract with the newest franchise in the NBL, the South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Just like the mythical bird, Madgen is ready to rise with plenty left in the tank. At 34 years of age, he is back on home soil with the hopes of putting on a show for his fans and his new club.
Madgen’s career has seen him start his professional career with the Sydney Kings and spend six seasons in the NBL, before heading to Europe.
Sport has been a centrepiece for Ben Madgen and his siblings. His sister Tess plays for the WNBL defending champions Townsville Fire and is an Opal, while his brother Jack previously played basketball and has seen playing time with the Collingwood Magpies, with a return to the first grade squad imminent.
There’s no doubt that family means everything to the Madgens. Tess, when speaking with The Pick and Roll recently, beamed with pride and excitement at having her brother back home for the next stage of his career, and Ben feels the same.
“It’s great to be here with Tessy and my brother,” Ben shared. “Just being close to family again. I’ve been shooting around with Tess so its been a lot of fun.
“I also got to see Jack play a VFL game recently which was great for us, as before we left he was still playing basketball. I’ll get to see him playing AFL again very soon I think!” Madgen says with that trademark laugh.
With a second child added to his young family earlier this year, Ben placed the prospect of returning home to play in the nation’s professional league, high on the agenda.
“It was a huge family decision. My wife had given me four fantastic years overseas and I owe her so much for that – she gave up her dreams to be by my side. She was ready to come home and the stars aligned kind of thing. With the club being able to sign early, it really took a lot of pressure off us.”
In November, talks began with the NBL’s newest franchise, and Madgen knew this opportunity was arriving at the best possible time for both family and career.
“I really liked what Tommy Greer [Phoenix GM] and Simon Mitchell [head coach] were building and putting together. I am excited about being part of the foundation group and passionate about club culture – to be able to play a role and utilise my leadership to build something from the ground up, was important to me.”
Even at 34 years of age, Madgen has continued to show that he is not slowing down. During last season in the German Bundesliga –during which he saw plenty of minutes– the forward exactly how finely tuned his body is, and how adept he is at utilising it as a weapon.
“The body is really feeling great! I really don’t think it has ever felt as good as it does right now.”
It’s evident Madgen is very much looking forward to the season ahead with his new teammates.
“I have big expectations for us. Obviously I am hoping that Mitch [Creek] picks up an NBA contract, but a selfish part of me would really love to play beside him, as he would be a massive piece for us.
“The core group they have put together has been really smart, we have a good mix of veteran leadership and some really good young players with that youth which will really help push energy for us.
“From all the conversations I’ve had with everybody involved, it’s not like we are here to roll it out and see how we go – we are here to build a successful club. Realistically we understand that we have to find that gel as a lot of us have not played together before, but we are keen to do that during the preseason and early games.”
The Phoenix has presented him with an opportunity that could become an eventual curtain call to what has been a great career. Having said that, Madgen is not here to simply make up numbers, the best is yet to come.
“I have a real desire to be dominant force in my position and for my club. I still want it so badly and to prove to myself and to be one of the best players in the league.”