14/04/2024

Photos: @NBL1; @illawarrahawks/Twitter; NBL.com.au

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the reasons behind the JackJumpers' four game winning streak, the race for Rookie of the Year, and Kevin White's leadership at the Perth Wildcats ahead of Round 11.

Round 10 of NBL22 saw teams continue their win streaks, while others continued their slide.

The Inner Sanctum has made four observations that are flying under the radar around the NBL this week.

The race for Rookie of the Year made interesting

Round 10 saw several youngsters ball out and make the race for the Rookie of the Year very intriguing.

Coming into this season, Luke Travers was the favourite after his exploits last year as a development player, but he might have competition with many others impressing over the weekend, especially Bul Kuol.

Kuol was the final player the Cairns Taipans signed in the off-season, picking him up after seeing his performances for the Knox Raiders in the NBL1 South competition.

In limited minutes in the Blitz, the 25-year-old showed he belonged at the elite level, defending the opposition’s best offensive player and showing his ability to knock down shots beyond the arc.

With injuries to several key players, Kuol has been given more offensive opportunities. On Saturday against the Brisbane Bullets, he took advantage, scoring a career-high 26 points while shooting eight from 10 attempts from behind the three-point line.

Later in the day, Travers also had a career night against South East Melbourne, recording 24 points and shot four from six attempts from beyond the arc, an area that has troubled him so far this season.

If these two rookies continue to play consistently and produce good numbers, the race for Rookie of the Year at the end of the season will be an interesting watch.

Jordan Janssen

What’s behind the JackJumpers four game win streak?

Who would have thought that a single change to Scott Roth’s starting five would have led the Tasmania JackJumpers on a four-game winning streak and have them placed in the top four for the moment?

Well to be honest, since Roth introduced Matt Kenyon into the starting five, the JackJumpers haven’t lost a game so far.

It’s a small sample size, but since switching places with Sam McDaniel, Kenyon has had a positive net rating of +12.7 compared to -16.7 when McDaniel was starting the first eight games.

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Another thing that has helped the JackJumpers has been Roth’s ability to get his side to be more consistent on the offensive. That can be put down to imports Josh Magette and Josh Adams finally hitting the shots they were missing earlier in the season.

It’s unlikely that the JackJumpers hold their position in fourth, but it’s great to see the NBL’s newest franchise recording successive victories.

Jordan Janssen

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What is going on in Illawarra?

Last year, the Illawarra Hawks were one of the best defensive teams in the league. This year, they’ve taken a step back. While they’ve added more offensive weapons in Duop Reath and Antonius Cleveland, they’ve been hurt by the departure of Justin Simon.

The Hawks have only won two of their last seven games, and that can be put down to their defence. According to SpatialJam.com, Illawarra ranks eighth in defensive ranking, which is a strange sight for a Brain Goorijan led team.

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Illawarra’s ability to take care of the ball has also been an issue recently, particularly in its clash against the New Zealand Breakers.

The Hawks had 15 turnovers, well above their season average (9.3). Xavier Rathan-Mayes was the major culprit against the Breakers, coughing up five turnovers.

If Illawarra wants to stop its slide down the ladder, then Goorjian needs to ensure his team can get multiple stops.

Jordan Janssen

Kevin White – Ultimate team man

It might not show up on broadcasts, but Kevin White is a true leader of the Perth Wildcats. Even though he is not getting any minutes at the moment, he is still a key figure to Perth’s success this season. 

Every timeout or substitution, every stoppage in play, White jumps the sponsor signage and talks to his teammates from the sidelines like an assistant coach. This can be seen particularly with Luke Travers. Unless Wildcats’ head coach Scott Morrison tells him not to, LT goes to Kevin White for guidance.

This isn’t just with younger guys; Jesse Wagstaff did the same. White is almost acting like a sixth man on the court, looking at things that won’t usually get the attention of the coaches. 

And even when he’s not ‘coaching’, he’s still the hype man on the end of the bench. He keeps the warmers interested in the game even when they won’t be playing any minutes until ‘junk time’.

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Jackson MacDonald

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