Mountaineer duo have QBL finals in their sights

The Toowoomba Mountaineers are a team looking to the future. The 2018 season has seen a new coach and the injection of fresh talent, who are now starting to show what the Mountaineers are truly capable of. The Pick and Roll caught up with two of their stars to discuss all things QBL in the Garden City.

Last season the Mountaineers finished 14th with just a solitary win. In 2018 they currently sit ninth (four wins, five losses) with seven rounds remaining, and with the finals firmly within their sights.

Their new captain is highly skilled point guard Damon Bozeman. His partner in crime is Chicago native Harold Ridgeway. This is the first season in the QBL for both players and combined they are making a big impact on the court.

Bozeman loves to score and has clearly demonstrated that capability so far in 2018. He played American football as an outside line-backer before taking on the game of hoops proactively as a career, including a pre-season with Melbourne United in the NBL.

"I started at a young age, probably about five years old, just playing in the neighbourhood, but didn’t get into organised basketball until I was older," explained Bozeman on his start in basketball.

"I played football and made Varsity and then went to college. My college coach knew someone in Australia which is how I ended up over here playing basketball in Melbourne. Danny [Morseau] called my agent and got me to come to join the QBL."

The point guard enthused about what he thought he brought to the team.

"I feel I bring attitude and effort to the team," Bozeman added. "I think it is important to come to every game and training session with a positive attitude – because that’s all you can really control at the end of the day."

Harold Ridgeway | Credit: Fan Fair

The second half of this potent duo, Ridgeway, is an extremely mobile power forward. After watching him play, it was hard not to think that he is one of the most talented players to have graced the QBL. Having crafted his game around rebounding, he loves to get the crowd excited with his trademark plays and post-score celebrations, fast becoming a cult figure within the Toowoomba community.

“I bring a lot of energy and try to get every offensive rebound, and don’t see anybody boxing me out for the entire forty minutes as a result,” Ridgeway stated proudly.

Last season he played for the West Adelaide Bearcats, with the journeyman now having played in three countries so far. It was refreshing to see first hand just how humble he is, with Ridgeway incredibly proud of being able to play basketball professionally.

“It’s a blessing to play," enthused Ridgeway. "A lot of people don’t get the chance to play where I am from. So for as long as I have, I will be playing at the highest level possible."

The Mountaineers have undergone a transformation this season, and the architect behind that is three-time NBL champion and dual Olympian, Danny Morseau . The NBL Hall of Fame inductee (2002) who won a championship with the Mountaineers in 1991 should be credited with the program returning to relevance in 2018. Both Bozeman and Ridgeway spoke glowingly of their coach, attributing his personality and coaching style for their pride to play in the QBL for Toowoomba this season.

“Coach brings a positive change of mindset to the table along with a winning attitude,” Bozeman willingly shared.

“When you have a coach like Danny who lets us play the way he does, it helps out and makes me want to play hard," added Ridgeway. "He is always asking about my family and life off the court and a lot of coaches simply don’t do that."

With a squad that is getting stronger as they progress through the season, we spoke of the strengths shining through from their side this season.

“As a squad we bring toughness," Bozeman shared. "We know we won’t be the most talented team every game, so we fight hard to come out victorious. We will always be hoping and working towards coming out with the first punch which has helped us take those wins."

In meeting these two stars of the future, their motivation to succeed is apparent. Both the captain and his star forward offered some advice for those looking to get involved in basketball.

“Hard work pays off," Bozeman explained. "Go hard for the time you train and play and you will see the benefits."

“Never let anybody tell you what you cannot do," said Ridgeway. "When I have proved people wrong, it has always motivated me to go further."

The Toowoomba Mountaineers host the USC Rip City at Clive Berghofer Recreation Centre on Saturday, 23 June, with tipoff at 8:00pm.

Watch #QBL18 Live Online

You can watch 2018 QBL action live and free online: check the schedule for dates and times.