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Nick Kay takes pride in the Wildcats jungle
Nick Kay is a player who continues to only improve with each season.
His outfit began their season with three straight wins as the only undefeated side, before an upset from the Bullets in Brisbane. In his role at power forward, through his durability and an insatiable hunger to improve his game, Kay is showcasing what he provides as a spark plug for any team out there.
At 26 years of age he still has plenty left in the tank, and The Pick and Roll had the opportunity to speak with the Tamworth product recently about his basketball journey so far.
With experience at two NBL teams prior to joining the Perth Wildcats, Townsville Crocodiles and Illawarra Hawks, Kay expressed what being a part of this squad really means.
“You really don’t understand or know what you’re up against, until you move to a club like Perth," Kay explained.
"One of the advantages from being at a few different clubs is being able to experience a range of coaching styles and learn from that. That has been a big reason why I feel I have been able to get better each year, and show that on the court.
“My experience in Perth so far has been really enjoyable. Obviously, there is a lot of talent on the team, and it is great to be able to work together to find ways to exploit it all, and use everybody in the best possible way.
“We have such great firepower in guys like Bryce [Cotton] and Terrico [White]. However, we don't just want to outscore teams. We want to come in and work defensively to be able to balance that out."
Along with growing experience in the NBL, the power forward also has been given the opportunity to represent his country as a member of the Boomers squad.
With the national team, he has won gold at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup and has added a Commonwealth Games title to his resume. He was also recently named in the extended squad for the next window of the World Cu qualifiers, and was bursting with pride when explaining what it meant to be able to represent his country.
"It is a huge confidence booster. Heading into that first Boomers camp, I was trying to fit in and see where my role would be.
"I was able to find a niche where I could come in defensively but also bring that energy. My role has gotten bigger as I have grown more confident, playing as part of this team. It's great to play with these guys and pick stuff up to add to my own game. I have learnt a lot offensively, playing against Kickert and [Angus Brandt] and added something to my game every time."
Off the back of this experience with the Boomers, we also spoke about how he thought Australia was perceived on an international stage, when it came to the court.
“We are definitely improving every time. Being in the Asian region you don't have as many eyes on you as you would in Europe. You don't get many opportunities to represent your country, so every time we step onto the floor is another chance to put on the green and gold and play harder and better for our country.
"Once the NBA guys come back, that team can build from what we have achieved, and it will hopefully give us a couple of cracks to make that World Cup team.
"It all comes down to what we do now."
Earlier this year during a World Cup qualifying game against the Philippines, a now-infamous brawl broke out that resulted in thirteen players and two coaches from both teams being sanctioned by FIBA. Kay candidly outlined what it was like at the time as a player when the chaos erupted.
“It was a bit weird.
"Nothing like that had really ever happened before in basketball on an international stage. Everybody took a backward step trying to figure out how to approach it, but at the same time there was a lot of emotion flying around.
"You want to be there to support your team in the moment, but at the same time you have got to do what's right. The next day, we looked at it to reflect, but now after getting the chance to play again in that last window, it has only brought us closer together, which only helps us as a team to push forward and play better as a unit."
With the number of Australians following basketball on the rise, as evidenced through the record-breaking NBL attendance numbers in the opening round, Kay commented on his experiences with the resurging wave of fans that he sees in the NBL now.
“The fan bases only get better. With Townsville they had struggles, Illawara is building their base up well. But coming to Perth, it's insane. We are seeing crowds of ten to twelve thousand coming to each game, and it's tough to go against.
"I know coming to play in Perth when I was with the Hawks and Crocs, it was always tough to play over here. To have that on your side, it's definitely an advantage."
On Saturday the Wildcats came away with a thrilling overtime road victory against the defending champions Melbourne United. It was a big win, with Perth's star imports getting the job done down the stretch.
For Kay, it was another opportunity to improve as a player, going up against a quality NBL opponent.
“I want to be the best player I possibly can be. Work on my game, stretch the floor and become more efficient.
"When you have guys out there like Bryce [Cotton] and Trico [White], it's all about working those one-percenters and doing anything that my team needs from me.
“Once the ball goes up, you have to be ready to go get it.”