LEAN, LONG, CRAFTY; with that respected Euro flair is evidence when once watches Christian Jurlina showcasing his talent for the Cairns Marlins in the Queensland Basketball League (QBL).
The Pick and Roll spoke with the young player that has aspirations of make it to the NBL very soon.
Playing soccer as a child, he developed asthma and his parents suggested he take up basketball to limit its effects.
“Being a young developer at 7, I was really tall so they [my parents] thought basketball was a better way to go, and I loved it from there and continued to build,” Jurlina explained.
In a sport that shared little crossover with soccer, Jurlina was able to quickly adapt. He outgrew the childhood asthma but did not outgrow his love for hoops, and this allowed him to go to college in the States, where he played in Washington for the Whitworth Pirates over four seasons.
“I was 18 when I first went there, but I always wanted to go to college and compete on that level,” he added.
Following his junior season at college, he asked Luke Kendall [assistant coach for the Sydney Kings] if he could train and play on his Waratah League team in the off-season during his college break. He was offered a development spot on the Kings’ roster too – an opportunity that he grasped with both hands, playing two games with the Kings.
“It is every kid’s dream to train and play in the NBL. I understand it wasn’t for a long period but it was surreal even stepping onto the court.”
Now lining up in his first season in the QBL, he takes great pride that he’s been given an opportunity with the Marlins.
“I had a chat with new Marlins coach [Jamie O’Loughlin]. From everything I heard and I have experienced so far, it is an amazing program here in Cairns. I really felt welcomed when I got here. I feel it is one of a few teams that I have played for that bonds socially off the court also, which is a key reason we are doing so well on the court.”
This season the squad has been overhauled, with fresh talent and a coach known for his vision and how to get the best from his players. They opened the season with a southern Queensland triple-header against Toowoomba, Ipswich and South West Metro, winning all three games. Finishing fourth last season, they have goals to finish in that end of the ladder again in 2018 and are currently sitting sixth after seven games.
Marlins Head Coach Jamie O’Loughlin explained that on bringing Jurlina in as a key member of the team, he had to do a fair amount of due diligence, but ultimately liked what he saw.
“Leading into the season, I had to do some research as there wasn’t much known about him,” explained O’Loughlin. “As the new coach, I was looking to recruit based on character and strong work ethic, which Christian definitely brings to the squad. He is a great person and lots of fun for me to coach.”
Jurlina has backed up the faith O’Loughlin placed in his young recruit, playing a key role in bringing the team together while executing on the court.
“As a squad, we have bonded off the court which allows us to become a tighter group; we are seeing the fruits of that early on in the season,” said Jurilina. “This is by design, and we are seeing success as a result.
“We aim to apply full court pressure which allows our team to stay tight,” said Jurlina. “We pride ourselves on great conditioning and our goal is to always force other teams to crack, force errors and capitalise on those mistakes while we are still fresh. Playing with a fast pace on both the offense and defense.”
Currently averaging over 17 points per game for the Marlins this season, in building his game and mastering his skill-set, we also spoke about role models throughout his career.
“My favourite player of all time would have to be Steve Nash, but a player I have always looked up to is Dražen Petrović – a great Croatian player who I have great respect for. Both players had massive heart in their games and worked hard every minute.”
From his performances on the court for the Marlins he hopes to show what he can offer any NBL roster.
“I love playing all parts of the court, but I really think the mid-range is the most versatile for me, as it allows me to change it up and gives me greater scoring ability. My goal is to crack any roster in the NBL and after getting that taste as a DP [developmental player with Sydney], I really think I have what it take to be able to help any team as a contracted player.”
His tip to anybody wanting to succeed in the game was to always be marketable to recruiters and coaches who are looking for the right fit for their squad.
“You never know who is watching, so train just as hard as you play.”
Jurlina and the Cairns Marlins host the Southern District Spartans on Friday June 8th at Early Settler Stadium, with tip-off at 8:30 PM.
Watch #QBL18 Live Online
You can watch 2018 QBL action live and free online: check the schedule for dates and times.