The NBL1 South’s regular season has reached its end, and Mount Gambier Pioneers’ Tom Kubank has his mind firmly focused on finals.
Kubank spoke with The Inner Sanctum and shared his confidence about the progress the team has made this season.
“Yeah, [the team is] really confident at the moment. I feel like this year we definitely have the pieces to win it all,” Kubank shared.
“Everyone’s playing their role really well, and we’ve got some guys that can really support the ball. So there’s really no reason why we shouldn’t be feeling confident.
“We just gotta keep carrying that through to the finals.”
It’s been a whirlwind NBL1 campaign for the 28-year-old who has been enjoying a season-best of his stats.
His electric performances against the Ringwood Hawks (21 points) and Ballarat Miners (24 points) in Round 10 saw him gain prominent attention in the league and saw him awarded a Player of the Week award.
The Pioneers forward acknowledged the vast improvements he’s made this NBL1 season, saying that he’s “having a really good season” so far.
“I just feel like I’ve just improved in a lot of different aspects of my game,” he explained.
“I got a player of the week, which was nice. [It’s] some good recognition for the hard work I’ve put in. So maybe I hopefully snag another one of them.”
However, Kubank confesses that the disappointment of last year’s NBL1 South’s Grand Final loss is a driver that was with him through the regular season. Months on from the 78 – 62 loss against the Hobart Chargers, he shared that he still thinks about the way the game ended.
“I had a shocking game. I shot like one of ten, and I feel like I let the team down,” he admitted.
“So, that’s what’s driving me at the moment. Putting us in a position to win us that championship for Mt Gambier, the club and sort of redeem myself a little bit because that still hangs over me.”
It’s been a long road for Kubank to get to where he is today which includes a collegiate stint with the University of Mary and a previous NBL1 appearance with West Adelaide.
Not long after, Kubank was given a chance opportunity in Europe where he signed on with Aris Leeuwarden in the BNXT League.
It was this opportunity that the basketballer describes as being “the most impactful” for him.
“The European season was definitely the most impactful timeframe in my life. That’s where I really put myself out of my comfort zone and managed to use that as motivation to continue improving,” he explained.
“I think I saw the biggest amount of improvement during that timeframe.”
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He explained that his time in Europe “playing against some bigger bodies” in a “different system” had helped him improve his game. The opportunity to play in an up-and-coming league was too good to pass up for the basketballer.
Despite ZZ Leiden ending Leewarden’s championship hopes in the semi-finals, Kubank shared that it was a memorable experience.
“The experience was crazy. It was tough but super rewarding. A lot of practice, a lot of games, a lot of travelling. But overall, an incredible experience. I met a lot of cool people, [and] travelled to a lot of cool places,” he added.
“So I really have nothing to complain about at all. It was really the experience of a lifetime.
“The competition was really tough. So it was really beneficial for my game being able to play in that and play against elite level players.”
He shared that at the start of the BNXT season, Leeuwarden wasn’t predicted to finish anywhere close to the semi-finals. As he explained, it was a “huge validation moment” for the team.
However, his European stint had the potential to come to an abrupt end, as the basketballer began questioning the experience.
“The first month there I was a bit homesick, I really wanted to come home. I wasn’t playing amazingly. I was just doing okay and it wasn’t quite what I expected,” he conceded.
“But then I settled in, put my head down and worked really hard. [I] made some friends, started playing better on the court and then I really started to enjoy it more.”
The challenges didn’t stop there for him in Europe, with Kubank sharing that towards the end of the season with Leeuwarden he began to develop a sore foot. Despite being injured, he still managed to get on the court to play for the small remainder of the season.
After getting it checked out, Kubank discovered that he had a little bit of a bone chip in his foot, which caused swelling in the joint.
He shared that it was “pretty painful to run and jump on”, needing some time to “rest and recover” a little bit at the end of the season.
“Right now [the foot is] not bothering me, it’s all good. I’m taking good care of it,” he shared.
For Kubank, having “a good support system” played a part in dealing with his challenges.
“My dad [Graham] played in the NBL. He’s been there, done it before. He’s had injuries, so I obviously bounce a lot of my thoughts off him,” he explained.
“I have great, great friends. I have really supportive friends and teammates to lean on and obviously, I’m really driven myself.
“I want to get back on court. I’m always doing the right things on my body too. Basically, rehab and recover as quickly as possible.”
Kubank was reflective on his basketball journey, comparing his time in the collegiate system to now and says that being 28 years old, he takes game preparation much more seriously as it’s key for him.
With his Leeuwarden season in the books, Kubank confessed that his time in Europe “validated” himself and showed him that he could play at the professional level.
He opened up that whilst he “wasn’t really that good” of a player right out of college, he feels that he’s ready to play basketball at the highest level here.
“The [major] goal for me right now is to play in the NBL and that’s it. That’s my last goal I have to tick off,” Kubank added.
“[Europe] showed me that I could play at that [professional] level, which makes me want to continue rising up the ranks a little bit and play NBL back here.
“I believe that I’m an NBL calibre player and I think that I could help a team for sure. So, well see what happens. But hopefully, teams are watching and take notice because I’ll love to play in the NBL.”
Kubank is also thriving off the basketball court just as much as he is on it through his website business Digital Elite Website Design.
He explained that the idea originated post-collage where he admits at the time he “wasn’t NBL calibre”, and wondered what his next step was.
“I was thinking about my career and where I wanted to take my life. I really enjoy talking to people and networking, so I thought look I’ll get into marketing.
“I’m pretty techy, so I slowly started branching out into website design and started developing my business that way,” he shared.
“I keep myself busy with digital marketing and building websites for people, that’s what I love doing on the side.
“That takes a fair bit of my time, and I think that’s super important to have as an athlete right now, not just relying on basketball to make it through. It’s important to dabble in stuff outside of basketball to keep yourself busy, [and] continue improving my skills.”
With a renewed mindset towards basketball, Kubank is clear that he hopes to run out onto the court for an NBL team eventually.
In the meantime, he’s looking forward for the Mount Gambier Pioneers to win it all this season.
“Win[ning] a championship. That’s the goal for me [this NBL1 season],” he said.