Big V 2015: Rising star Waldren leading Magic success

A year ago, Ben Waldren burst onto the Big V State Championship scene on the back of some impressive showings in the Molten Victorian Youth Championship Men.

His Youth Championship numbers were as good as anyone else in the league in 2013, averaging 22.8ppg and 13.2rpg whilst shooting at 52.2% from the field in 23 games to earn himself a spot in the seniors for the start of the 2014 season.

Almost instantly, the Hawthorn young gun had everyone talking, stuffing the stat sheet with the big boys as he had done with the under 23’s, not that it is as easy as Waldren has made it look.

“The jump is big, it’s a completely different game.

“The major difference is Champ is far more tactical and requires a lot more intelligence.”

Waldren adjusted to the rigours of the big time immediately and made the rest of the league take notice, averaging 18.7ppg, 9.7rpg and 2.3apg whilst shooting at 50% over the course of the 2014 season despite coming off the bench in the early stages of the campaign.

A year on, and the level-headed Waldren has continued to excel each week in a tough league, outshining a number of bigger names at other clubs, including some highly touted imports.

Under the guidance of NBL legend and Hawthorn head coach Marcus Timmons, the 23-year-old has led his Magic to a 4-3 record after five rounds, averaging 21ppg, 6.6rpg and 2.6apg along the way.

“I just make sure I go out there and give it my all to try and win, and if the numbers are a by product of that, great.

“I have great teammates who trust me and that goes a long way in building your confidence as a player.”

Waldren’s style, by his own admission, is unorthodox, making him hard to guard for opposition players.

His ability to hit off-balance jumpers and keep defenders guessing has drawn comparisons to Big V veteran and Waverley Falcons superstar Ivan Platenik, and so far his numbers reflect a fair comparison.

With the off-season departure of club stalwart Jay Allen, he has well and truly assumed the mantle of the Magic’s go-to guy, and so far seems to be taking it in his stride.

“To a degree, I think defences are a little more aggressive with me this year but I think we’ve proven that we don’t just have one guy.

“On any given night any one of our players can put up big numbers.

“We are a true team, and that’s the best part.”

Credit: Big V Media

Astonishingly, Waldren’s meteoric rise to prominence has come in a very short frame of time, with basketball only becoming a true focus after finishing high school and his game developing at a very fast rate since.

“I really only started playing serious basketball after high school when I joined the Magic in Youth League.

“I had some great coaches in my first few years in Darryl McDonald and Charlie Fyffe, and I learnt so much from both of them.

“The last few years I’ve concentrated on eliminating weaknesses rather than building on my strengths, and that’s helped me compete at this level.”

The Magic have a young and talented squad full of ambition and Waldren has led his charges to some big wins over the likes of Waverley and Bulleen already in 2015, with their enthusiasm and willingness to compete as a team on full show.

“We are a dangerous squad and we’ve already proven that.

“My teammates are great, everyone plays for each other and we all have a good time doing it.”

The influence of Timmons on the young group has sped up their development and enabled them to enjoy a relatively successful start to their campaign.

“Marcus been amazing – he has showed us that we can win in this league if we play the right way.

“He is a great coach and a great teacher, and we’ve already learnt so much from him.”

Of course, with three-quarters of the season remaining, the Magic are far from satisfied with a handful of solid performances.

A last-start thumping at the hands of the Boomers – whom the Magic had knocked off just two weeks earlier – is not something that you are likely to see too often for the remainder of the season, according to Waldren.

“It was a reminder that if we don’t come to play each night, we will lose.

“We weren’t ourselves on Sunday, and that’s something we have all decided won’t happen again.

“We are looking forward to getting back on track this weekend.”

The Magic will host Whittlesea on Sunday as they look to rebound in the best possible way – with a win – and you can all but guarantee it will be Ben Waldren leading the way.

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