Albury-Wodonga coach Brad Chalmers knows it’s too early to say his recruiting has been a success this season but the signs are good so far.
The Bandits took their record to 6-3 with a 100-93 win over Hobart Chargers on Saturday night and once again the club’s main recruits - imports Cory Dixon and Donte Nicholas plus Australian guards Daniel Sepokas and Deba George - all starred.
Over the first nine games all four players are averaging 15 points per game or more. Dixon leads the team and is second in the league with 23.2 points per game while also sitting second in rebounds with 11 per game.
As the win over the Chargers showed, the Bandits have found their groove offensively but are still giving up too many points for Chalmers’ comfort.
Those issues can be fixed as the team becomes more familiar with each other and the league’s newcomers get more accustomed to SEABL basketball.
But when asked about how his club managed to find such high level talent - Chalmers cited hard scouting work, some trusted character references, an improved budget and a dash of luck.
“We understood we needed to change the way we did things, we had to keep pace with other clubs that had more resources than we do,” Chalmers said.
“We are not in a situation where we can spend the same money as others so we had to be smart and we needed an extra player than other years - that guy probably ended up being Deba George.
“If you look at the Geelong and Mt. Gambier teams - we probably lacked that elite talent which you need to compete with the top teams.”
The Bandits reached far and wide to bring in their four big guns.
Dixon was in the NBA D-League and was looking for a European move but when those options fell through, it left him looking for somewhere to play.
“We tried to find a power forward with a skill set and some polish - we were lucky to find him but you still have to go out and get him,” Chalmers said.
“Donte was playing in Darwin last year and trained with Adelaide 36ers when they were in camp up there - I called Joey Wright and he had only praise for him then Daequon Montreal spoke well of him too.
“That close to home feedback makes a difference.”
Sepokas has been the surprise packet for the Bandits coming to the club from the New South Wales Waratah League where he was MVP last season.
Just like Dixon, if Sepokas had won a development spot with the Sydney Kings this past NBL season then he likely wouldn’t have been available to the Bandits.
But he didn’t end up with the Kings so wanted to prove himself in the next highest league - which was SEABL.
“It was disappointing for him that he couldn’t get a Kings’ development position but it worked in our favour because he is motivated to take his game to the next level,” Chalmers said.
“He is a fantastic kid who you couldn’t speak more highly of - he is low maintenance, just a gym rat and he is really a shooting guard trying to developing into a point guard.
“It’s not easy trying to run a team with Deba, Donte and Cory all needing the ball.”
George has played in many places starting in Cairns at NBL and Queensland state league level and more recently playing SEABL for Hobart last season.
All the Bandits players live in the Albury-Wodonga area which makes it easier for them to train together and be a part of the local community.
Chalmers said his new players were all making good strides and fitting in well.
Once they get their defence on the same page - they will be a match for anyone in the league.
“The offence is coming along well, it’s at the defensive end that I’ve still got some coaching to do,” Chalmers said.
“We are coming together but nine games is not much of a snap shot of a full season.
“We have to keep the foot to the pedal and build trust - so far, so good.”
*New Frankston import Eric Williams scorched the net for a second-straight week with 40 points in 41 minutes including nine three-pointers as his Blues’ lost by a point in overtime against North-West Tasmania. Nathan Wilson almost went point for point with Williams finishing with 35 and 10 rebounds.
*Geelong’s Jack Duck and Nathan Herbert both notched up 24 points in the Supercats’ win over Brisbane although Spartans guard Scott Kenny got hot with 27 points including seven of 14 three-point shooting. Kenny added 26 points and five three-pointers in the Spartans’ loss to Sandringham.
*Dandenong import Daequon Montreal hit top-gear on Sunday with 35 points in 34 minutes as his Rangers’ snuck past Hobart Chargers.
*Albury-Wodonga’s Cory Dixon put up big numbers again with 34 points and 14 rebounds in the Bandits’ win over Hobart Chargers on Saturday night while Donte Nicholas added 28 points and nine rebounds. Hobart’s Tom Wright had 26 points in a tough night out for his team.
*BA Centre of Excellence guard Dejan Vasiljevic and Nunawading veteran Shane McDonald were both on-song in their clubs’ shootout at AIS Training Hall on Sunday with Vasiljevic knocking down 28 points while McDonald enjoyed a 26-point, 11-assist outing as BA COE took a 100-98 overtime win.
*Dandening forward Lucas Walker was especially efficient in the Rangers’ win over Ballarat on Saturday night with 32 points in 27 minutes on 11 of 15 shooting - he also made both his three-point attempts and all seven of his free throws.
*Nunawading import forward Delwan Graham (25 points and 13 rebounds) was the leading man in the Spectres’ win over Canberra Gunners.
SEABL media links
*Bendigo Advertiser’s Nathan Dole reports Bendigo veteran Chris Hogan broke the Braves’ games record on Saturday night but his 332nd game was a loss. Report: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/3099368/hogans-party-spoilt-by-gambier/?cs=81
*Ballarat Courier’s Melanie Whelan (@Melanie_whelan) reports turnovers again hurt the Miners in their loss to Dandenong. Report: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3100124/turnovers-costly-for-wayward-ballarat-miners/?cs=63
*The Advocate’s Cameron Whiteley reports on Nathan Wilson’s big outing. Report: http://www.theadvocate.com.au/story/3100318/thunders-trip-is-bittersweet/?cs=88
*Border Mail’s Steve Smith (@Stevesmithffx) reports on the Bandits’ win over Hobart. Report, pictures: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3100496/george-a-winner-again-at-hideout/?cs=10#slide=2
*Geelong Advertiser’s Wes Cusworth (@WesCusworth) reports Geelong believe Nick Owusu is still underrated in the SEABL.
*Dandenong Journal's Jarrod Potter (@JarrodPotter) reports on the Rangers game on Sunday. Report: http://dandenong.starcommunity.com.au/journal/2015-05-25/rangers-sweat-on-last-second-result/
Roy Ward (@rpjward) is a freelance sports writer who has covered the NBA, NBL, WNBL, SEABL and Big V during his career. He will be filing weekly columns on the SEABL men’s and women’s competitions during this season. For feedback or suggestions send Roy a tweet or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org