The Logan Thunder men’s side entered the season with little expectation and as $52 long shots to have any influence on the 2018 QBL playoffs – how wrong could this early prediction have been?
With squad personnel changes – along with a new coach – not many could see what they would go on to deliver throughout this season. They now sit third on the ladder with 12 wins and four losses with just two games remaining in the regular season. The squad has clicked into gear, developed structured combinations, and found the ability to win against any opposition they play.
The squad is bursting with talent and experience, including cult figures such as Mitch Young, Mick Cedar and Tommy Ammar. The Logan fan base (or ‘Family’) is well-known among basketball circles and their home base is a fortress.
Season previews said the recruitment of a young gun forward would help this Thunder side tilt for their maiden QBL championship. The Pick and Roll spoke with Obi Kyei to talk more about the season so far and what it meant to be a member of this squad.
Kyei started playing the sport while growing up in the Blue Mountains and progressed through rep and college levels, attending Metro State for two years of US college basketball before playing in Europe. So what lured him to Logan?
“I was playing in Germany when Luke [Cann, Thunder head coach] hit me up,” explained Kyei. “I had re-fractured my foot and spoke to him during my recovery. Coming off surgery this was the perfect landing spot for me to give me that full season of play.”
Having played in various locations across the world, Kyei detailed what made playing with this side so unique, advising that the array of talent really stood out, with guys like Young and Cedar who have played in the NBL setting the standard week in and week out.
“Having those boys on the squad makes it so much easier to do my role,” Kyei further added. “Having that leadership adds real stability, especially for a team like us chasing that championship.”
Kyei’s chemistry with import Rayshawn Simmons, has delivered a the Thunder a structured and extremely potent pairing that has resulted in creating a true dynamic duo.
“Ray is unbelievably talented, and you know what’s going to happen before it happens! It’s so much fun to play with him and being roomies. I guess that chemistry we have does show on the court. As a squad all of the boys are mates and I think that really shows.”
The squad did have a coaching change this season, with former Thunder women’s head coach and one of Logan’s favourite sons, Luke Cann now at the helm. He is everything you look for in a coach, and his players have shown true respect for him. His basketball IQ and the way he instills confidence in his players is optimal. Stalking the court side from buzzer-to-buzzer, brimming with passion and pride that he holds for this role is clear to see. As a fan of the sport, it is great to witness such an advocate like Cann promote the game and grow the community supporting it.
Cann also spoke with The Pick and Roll to provide his view of the Thunder team he has assembled and their performances on court to date. Having been involved with Logan Thunder from its infancy in the QBL, as a player and coach, it was hard to overlook his enthusiasm and passion about the club’s success and the strong fan community that rivals any other in the league.
“It was a massive process,” Cann said on his transition from player to coach. “Becoming a coach straight after retiring from playing meant so much to me. After the success with the women’s team, once I knew I had the role as men’s coach, I focused completely on recruitment and building on the strong squad that was already there.
“Since coming on board, Obi has brought more to Logan then was expected. Ray and himself are huge parts of our success. The goal for us this season was obviously to take the competition, but second to that was to secure a home quarter final – which we are getting closer and closer to.”
Kyei had nothing but endorsement for his coach.
“It’s so refreshing to have a coach like Luke – even from the initial stages through until now,” added Kyei. “I knew exactly what I was getting from him and what he expected from me. He is that kind of coach who lets you play your game and explore, build, grow and hoop while keeping it fun. He provides the framework and just lets you roll with it.”
Kyei is proud of the opportunities that he and his fellow players get to be involved in throughout the community; from running clinics for the kids through to game day promotion.
“It’s awesome to be able to get out in the community and get kids involved. That’s what basketball really is all about – community. Getting more people involved in the game we love to play.”
In their last start, the Thunder registered back-to-back wins against Toowoomba and Cairns which helped with their ladder standing. They now come enter their final home game looking to solidify a top-two finish and potential home final advantage. Kyei was extremely confident of what was possible over the next month.
“We all know what this group is capable of. If we continue to tighten it up, build each game and stick together as a squad then we can really give the playoffs a real shake.”
Their recent win against Toowoomba was not without controversy, with the Mountaineers star point-guard Damon Bozeman being ejected in the first quarter following a contentious call. Later in the game, their captain Josh Derkson was also ejected after a string of questionable decisions. Even with these events occurring, Cann commented that his squad had a team meeting post game to review their performance.
“We spoke about the fact that even though we got the win, we were disappointed with not reaching our full potential against Toowoomba,” Cann said. “We will be ready come Sunday to redeem ourselves.”
The rematch will be huge, and with Toowoomba still chasing a playoff spot and the Thunder wanting to solidify a top two position, it will be a contest not to be missed at Cornubia Park Sports Complex on Sunday, 29 July (tip-off at 4pm).
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