THE Horsham Hornets men will take to the court in the new North West Country Basketball League for the first time on Saturday.
The Hornets will take on the Maryborough Blazers. Both teams will go into the contest relatively unknown to one another.
The Hornets have a mostly unchanged list from the 2016-17 season.
The team welcomes youngsters from junior Hornets teams including Austin McKenzie, Ben Hobbs and Sam Breuer.
Coach Cam Bruce said the youngsters would get sporadic game time to ease them into open-age basketball.
John Wood is a list addition for the 2017-18 season.
“He’s just one of those versatile players. He’s not the tallest fella but he plays bigger than what he is. He hasn’t played basketball for a number of years so he’s finding his feet again,” Bruce said.
“I’m expecting massive things from him. I know it will take a while but he’s as fit as a fiddle.
“He can run, jump, and play several positions. He’s definitely one to watch further in the season as he gets more game time.”
Bruce said playing finals was his goal this season.
“It’s a bit of an unknown because we don’t know too much about the teams and we won’t until six or seven rounds in when we have played everybody,” he said.
“I am expecting us to be a pretty competitive side. We haven’t lost many players, we’ve only lost Brett Goodgame to overseas and we picked up John Wood.
“I’m not expecting us to drop off our game style or how we play too much.”
This is Bruce’s third season at the helm of the Hornets, the same number of years they have ran their system.
“I feel like we’re well and truly advanced from year one and we have improved and built on last year. We’ve tweaked a few different things that worked and didn’t work,” Bruce said.
“We have been building on all of our plays, getting that continuity and the chemistry between us and it shows on the court.”
Bruce said he did not necessarily have specific A to B plays set, and instead the team assessed each situation and acted proactively to move the ball in a fluid manner.
Captain Tim Pickert said the group of basketballers had just finished eight weeks of pre-season.
“It’s been pretty solid, I think everybody is ready to start playing now,” he said.
“I guess after last season it was a bit disappointing to lose another grand final so I think the hunger is back in everyone. After eight weeks of running around on the court you just want to play. I think everyone is ready.”
Pickert said the team would be playing the same style as usual this season.
“It’s never really faulted or failed us in the past,” he said.
Bruce said the Hornets were not the tallest team and would need to use their speed and smarts to overcome taller opponents.
“Obviously it will be wait and see, if we come up against some giants it’s going to be hard to stop but we are going to be one of those teams that is hard to play against because we will have a crack,” he said.
Pickert said playing new teams and being given new challenges is what he looked forward to the most.
Bruce said the development of the young players was a priority. “The sooner you get them exposed to men’s basketball and incorporated, the better their development will be,” he said.
Pickert said even training with the Hornets would help the younger players improve.
Bruce said his team’s strength was that it did not rely on one player.
“We obviously have scorers like Tim, Matt Lovel and Damian Skurrie but the likes of Mitch Martin, James Hallett and Jake Hobbs – I’m expecting them all to step up.”