The concept of Champions League Basketball (CLB) was announced in June last year, promising to revolutionise Australian basketball and attempt to reconnect fans with basketball at the elite level. That vision took a small step forward last weekend, with a mini-tournament held at Nunawading Basketball Stadium as they road-tested a host of modified rules.
Comprised of U18 men's and women's representative sides from Nunawading, Waverley, Ringwood, Blackburn, Kilsyth and Knox, the test event saw each team playing two games with quarters lasting 8 minutes. The twist was that each period would count down from 6 minutes, and when finished, the coloured money ball would be inserted with play recommencing at half court with a jump ball to play out the final 2 minutes. Games were also streamed live via You Tube.
What resulted was more opportunities for a buzzer-beating play, and chances to turn a three-pointer into 4 points and a dunk into 3 points during the money ball period. While the CLB team are planning 12 minutes quarters for their competition, the mini-tournament proved that the pace of the game picked up when the money ball was introduced.
With shortened timeouts and breaks, the clock was also not stopped for any whistle in what appeared to be a return to domestic timing regulations. Even taking into account the 8-minute quarters, one of the games was completed in a quick-fire 43 minutes. This is something the CLB team may wish to explore further as teams may look to take advantage of the fact the clock did not stop.
In revisiting the past, the competition saw the return of the one-and-one free throws and the removal of the possession arrow. Both changes are ones that many would be willing to embrace.
With school holidays winding down, the players were obviously rusty. While the games watched in this instance did not result in a four-pointer or three-point dunk, the tempo was certainly raised and the players took every opportunity to capitalise on the new rules. In some of the later games as players became more familiar and confident, four-pointers were landed, with Nunawading's Thomas Graham flushing the competition's first three-point dunk.
Competition founder and general manager Matt Hollard was both excited and relieved to finally be able to see their concept hit the court for the first time after years of planning.
"It is exciting to finally get a chance to test out what we have planning and finally see some on court action," shared Hollard. "Today's vibe blew me away."
Nunawading's U18 Girls
It was hard not to notice the enthusiasm and excitement exhibited by the players who clearly enjoyed the new rules and format. This was a sentiment shared by former Australian Boomers captain and CLB executive team member Jason Smith.
"It has been satisfying to hear such positive feedback from the players and coaches today in regard to bringing back some of the traditional rules such as jump ball in place of the arrows. The winner of today though has definitely been the money ball," added Smith.
While the tournament was but a small step towards their goal of delivering a new competition in 2017 to complement the NBL, another CLB executive team member in former Australian Opal and WNBL Life Member Tracey Browning, reminded me that this was also an opportunity to connect with potential fans at grassroots level.
"It has been such a good opportunity for not only the kids to have their first run of 2016 but it was also fantastic to see how competitive they were and more importantly how much fun they were having!" shared Browning.
The CLB competition format for May 2017 remains a work in progress. Despite no confusion among players or officials being evident, there are sure to be more changes made as the CLB fine tunes the rules and timing regulations. It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement sitting alongside spectators consisting of family and friends.
Hollard and his team have taken a small step, and he assured that this would be the first of many more to come throughout 2016.