SEABL 2015: Men's preview

With the 2015 season under a week away, The Pick and Roll’s SEABL experts, Grant Richardson and Tom Harrison, have cast their eye over the league and made their predictions for what promises to be another hotly contested year of competition.

East Conference

Conference Champions

Dandenong- Despite reaching the playoffs for a fourth straight year in 2014, the Rangers would have been disappointed in their Preliminary Final loss. Their star, Daequon Montreal, was able to gain a little NBL experience during the off-season, averaging 9.6 points in five matches for the Adelaide 36ers. His usual partner in crime, Tony Lewis, has been poached by Bendigo but a more than adequate replacement has been found in Chuck Long. The forward has averaged 16.5 points and 8.7 rebounds in a strong career that will see him pass 200 games this season. With the majority of Dandenong’s roster returning, the front court duo of Montreal and Long could be enough for the Rangers to return to the top of the East Conference.

Geelong- The Supercats could be a real chance this season as Kimmani Barrett returns to the line up after playing in 2012 when he nearly won the MVP award despite not playing a full season. If he can lift to that sort of form once again, Geelong will be well on their way. While the team may not have as many standout stars, they have an incredible amount of experience, which could prove valuable when coming up against the better sides in 2015. With a fixture that sees them play many of the tougher teams at home, we could see Geelong topping the conference at seasons end.

Outside Chance

Ballarat- The Miners have retained Roy Booker, who won the scoring title last season despite playing just 15 games. His three point shot is deadly and will be a tough match up for opposition teams. Everard Bartlett is a big acquisition, coming over from New Zealand while Kodi Augustus must play a major role as he fills the big shoes of Ken Horton. Ash Constable should also bring some experience after being on the Cairns Taipans roster for the past NBL season. With added depth, the Miners are a chance to have a fantastic year but Booker is the key.

Canberra- The only major fixture change for 2015 has seen the Gunners move over from the South Conference, replacing Knox in the East. Under Coach Shawn McEachin, the Gunners were solid improvers last season, threatening for a playoff spot before the toils of a long year eventually caught up with them. They have had a successful off-season, nabbing Ben Allen from Mt. Gambier while adding import Ebuka Anyaorah from North Carolina Central University. Alongside Allen, Daniel Joyce, Dan Jackson and Luke Jamieson all have NBL experience and this team balance could help the Gunners return to the finals for the first time since 2007.

Making Up The Numbers

Brisbane- One of the biggest acquisitions in the off-season will be seen on the sidelines as CJ Bruton takes over coaching duties of the Spartans. The six time NBL champ will have his work cut out for him, with his first task to improve Brisbane’s defence but his knowledge of the game will certainly help, especially in the absence of veteran CJ Massingale. Point guard Scott Kenny needs to fire all season long for the Spartans to have a realistic shot at the top four but in such a tight East Conference, it could be a gruelling year.

Players to Watch

Everard Bartlett- Bartlett has been tearing up the court in practice for Ballarat and looks to be one of the signings of the off-season. With lots of experience overseas, he brings high levels of athleticism and a great three point shot. We might see some highlights from him, as he was the 2006 NBL dunk champion.

Brendan Teys- Teys went from strength to strength for the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL and will be taking that form into the SEABL season. After a tough start, he put together a couple of big performances, including 9 matches of 10+ points. He could be a drawcard for Brisbane fans if he can continue that trend.

Kimmani Barrett- After a two year absence, Barrett has returned to Geelong and is ready to showcase his skills that electrified the competition back in 2012. The 198cm forward finished second in MVP voting that year despite tearing his ACL three-quarters of the way through the season. He averaged 26 points and 8.9 rebounds but has not played professionally since the injury. It may take Barrett a few weeks to get back on track but if he can stay healthy, Geelong will be chasing the Championship that they felt went begging three years ago.

Roy Booker- In a similar situation to Barrett, Booker was leading the Ballarat Miners on a charge last year before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in Round 12. Scoring at least 18 points in every game and tallying 40+ on three occasions, Booker led the league in scoring (28.6 points) and assists (6.9). He has stated he has unfinished business in Ballarat and teams will be hard-pressed to stop a man with his combination of talent and determination.

South Conference

Conference Champions

Mt Gambier- Last year’s Champions have lost Ben Allen but snatching Tyrone Lee from N/W Tasmania is a major coup and could severely affect both sides’ hopes for this season. Lee averaged 18.8 points and 10.4 rebounds in 2014 and will be joining a very cohesive team. The Pioneers were 13-0 at home last year and could again send a message to the rest of the competition with three home games to start the year.

Kilsyth- The Cobras will be looking to improve on last season as they have kept their core group of players. Led by Kyle Adnam who is coming off another season on an NBL roster, this defensive minded team would want to keep that trait for the coming season. With the two big boys down low, Auryn MacMillan and Tim Lang will make it hard for the opposition to get into the paint and crash the boards. With the likes of Taylor Cameron being added to the line up, the Cobras will look to share the load amongst this versatile group. Kilsyth will be big improvers from last season, so don’t even think of writing them off.

Outside Chance

N/W Tasmania- Last season saw the Thunder make the playoffs for the first time since 2008 before being knocked out in straight sets. The next step is for them to win a final but that will be difficult without imports Tyrone Lee and BJ Jenkins. Together, they combined for 42.1 points and 15.4 rebounds per game so their replacements, Monzaigo Williams and Fred Hunter have their work cut out for them. It will be up to stalwarts like 350+ gamer Nick Haywood to keep the wins coming early in the season as their imports find their footing before N/W Tasmania can make a proper assault on the top four.

Sandringham- The Sabres only just snuck into the playoffs last year after making it with a losing record. However, they have held onto Junior Hairston and Rayshawn Goins who should continue to develop after an impressive 2014 and they have a wonderful backcourt with Nathan Crosswell and Alistair McDonald leading the way. Hairston’s form will be a barometer for the Sabres season as he can be damaging on both ends of the floor and a lot of the defensive work will be put on him. Sandringham could make a late charge for the finals with a great run of home games towards the end of the season.

Making Up the Numbers

Hobart- No less than eight new faces round out the list for the Chargers and although there is undeniable talent there, it will be a difficult task for Coach Ben Rush to bring them together. Kyle Hunt and Cameron Bennerman have both experienced the NBA D-League with the Austin Toros while 210cm Shane Harris-Tunks cuts an imposing figure. Without Deba George, Hobart’s offence will have a completely new look but perhaps that is the shake-up this club needed.

Players to Watch

Kyle Adnam- Adnam is only going to improve as the years go on as he gains experience in different competitions and at higher levels. Dominating from the point guard position last season, he is poised to do it again and other teams will need to put extra time in trying to stop this young gun. Watch this space, Adnam could be a star.

Jordan Vandenberg- This guy looks the complete package for Bendigo and standing at 7’1” and 111kg, could be an absolute bully under the rim. Last season, only two players averaged more than 2 blocks per game but Vandenberg will be able to match that effort defensively. At the other end of the floor, he has been ominously scouted as “being able to play above the rim.” Under the tutelage of SEABL veteran Tony Lewis, expect Bendigo to dominate the rebound and points in the paint count against most sides.

Rob Linton- After leading the league in three-point percentage for Knox last season, Linton will be a dangerous spot up shooter for Frankston in 2015. In a team that may struggle for scorers, Linton could be destructive from downtown. Anyone who shoots at almost 50 per cent from beyond the arc needs to be watched.