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2014/15 NBL Season Preview: Cairns Taipans
Photo Credit: NBL The Cairns Taipans finished second at the recent NBL Blitz, with the team looking the goods and playing with a hunger to improve on last season's disappointment. Let's take a look at what's ahead for the Snakes.
After what some might call a slightly disappointing 2013/14 campaign, the Taipans will look to put Queensland basketball back on the map. The boys in orange were locked in a battle with both the Sydney Kings and Wollongong Hawks for the fourth and final playoffs spot at the end of last season. They couldn’t quite get it done but will look to improve on their 12-16 win-loss record from last year in season 2014/15. This season is a whole new ball game and the solid additions made over the off-season should help the Snakes reach their goal. The boys from up north will look to make a push for that elusive playoff spot this year after two straight years of falling agonisingly short of their goal.
Key Additions: Scottie Wilbekin (Florida), Torrey Craig (USC Upstate), Corey Maynard (Bryant University) Returning Players: Matt Burston, Alex Loughton, Cameron Tragardh, Cameron Gliddon, Mitchell Young, Shaun Bruce, Stephen Weigh Key Subtractions: Clint Steindl (Townsville Crocodiles), Jamar Wilson (Adelaide 36ers) The Cairns Taipans were late players to the off-season free agency, but they made a big splash signing Scottie Wilbekin. The former Florida Gator is fresh off leading his team deep into the NCAA tournament. They followed that up by signing Torrey Craig from USC Upstate, whose 6’6 wing-span will provide the highlight reel athleticism missing from the club last year. The team also signed Corey Maynard out of Bryant University, a local who has played junior basketball in both South Australia and Victoria and will bring a defensive toughness to the squad and help fill a hole left by Jamar Wilson at the point. As well as this, centre Matt Burston is returning and should provide a solid rebounding presence for the team, with Alex Loughton and Cameron Tragardh returning as well to provide plenty of scoring for the Taipans. Cameron Gliddon will continue to be the ‘do it all’ wing for the team and look to build on his stint with the Australian Boomers at the Sino Challenge.
The new look CQ University Cairns Taipans
Photo Credit: Cairns Taipans Clint Steindl departed for Townsville after missing out on a contract in Europe and Jamar Wilson, last season’s club MVP, signed on with the 36ers, which would have hurt this team if not for Wilbekin’s arrival.
Key Player Scottie Wilbekin
Photo Credit: NBL Without a doubt the key player to watch for the Taipans has to be Scottie Wilbekin. The import point guard out of the University of Florida put on a show at the recent NBL Blitz in Brisbane. Lighting the Kings up for 24 points (4/6 from 3) and 7 assists, he showed the league just how good he could be this season. After leading the Gators deep into the NCAA tourney, he went undrafted in the 2014 NBA draft. This was good news for fans in Cairns, as the 6’2 guard decided to sign on for the current NBL season. His physical style of play and super athleticism should are key attributes to his game and will be on full display this season.
Verdict If the Blitz was any indication of what we can expect, Gliddon and Weigh will line up on the wings, while it will be Wilbekin running the show. Those two should provide solid targets for the American point guard to pile up the assists. Alex Loughton and Cameron Tragardh should provide the big man presence for the club and continue their inside/outside work. The Snakes could be in for a big improvement this year if Wilbekin plays to the level he is capable of. Besides Wilbekin, their second import Torrey Craig should prove to be an athletic wing player off the bench for the side, with the possibility to slide into the starting spot by seasons end. With the game changing off-season acquisition of Scottie Wilbekin, the Taipans expectations have jumped significantly. Look for them to make a run for the playoffs and continue to build on the team’s foundation from last year. NBL Championship Odds: $11