No player in the NBL has made a bigger leap in form than young JackJumpers guard Sean Macdonald.
A quiet part of Tasmania’s run to the Grand Final last year, the Development Player has made himself impossible to ignore this season following a breakthrough campaign.
After only scoring four points for the entirety of NBL22, Macdonald has averaged 6.15 points and 20 minutes per game off the bench in his second year.
The JackJumpers were understandably eager to extend their emerging star’s stay at the club by another two seasons, an offer Macdonald didn’t need to think about for long before accepting.
“The culture and the core group of guys here were massive for me and re-signing. I felt like it was the best place for me to continue to grow and develop as a player and a person,” Macdonald told The Inner Sanctum.
“I’ve just loved every second of the last two years here so I’m very excited for the next two.”
Under the deal Macdonald will spend another year as a Development Player before joining the club’s full-time roster for the 2024/25 season.
The 22-year-old could have immediately walked into a full-time roster spot at another NBL club or gone overseas, but he never entertained the possibility of leaving the JackJumpers.
“I think my heart was always set on coming back,” he said.
“I was keen from the start of negotiations to be back here, so that was my mindset for sure.”
It’s easy to see why Macdonald was keen to remain in Tasmania, with the guard playing in every game for the club this season.
Off the back of an impressive NBL Blitz campaign, he’s seen increased court time after injuries to skipper Clint Steindl and Matt Kenyon created openings in the line-up.
Macdonald’s been asked to make big shots, play in crunch time down the stretch and remained in the game over import point guard Josh Magette at times.
Even after Steindl and Kenyon returned from injury, he has still been receiving consistent minutes.
“It’s been awesome. I love being out there with the team, it’s such a great group of guys to play with and go and compete with on a nightly basis,” Macdonald said on his increased role.
“I’m just really grateful for the opportunity I’ve had this year and I’m continuing to try and build on it and just grow each and every time I’m out there on the court.”
It’s a big step up in responsibility for Macdonald, who only averaged four minutes in the seven games he played last season.
But the guard has felt trusted by the JackJumpers from the moment he joined the organisation.
“I’ve felt that trust both my years here ever since the start. Even last year when I hadn’t played much, just the one or two games where I played a little bit, there was never any doubt externally,” Macdonald said.
“That’s been huge for my confidence and just being able to go out and play my role to the best of my ability. That’s all the team expects from me.”
Macdonald’s impressive form has him in the running to be named the NBL’s Most Improved Player, which will be announced at next Tuesday’s awards night.
He said it was a “great feeling” to be named as one of the three finalists for the award, which was decided by a panel of experts and coaches and captains from across the league.
“Obviously we don’t do the work that we do just for the recognition, but it is cool to see your peers and the guys you compete against acknowledge and recognise the improvements that you’ve made,” Macdonald said.
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A key figure in Macdonald’s continued growth has been JackJumpers’ head honcho Scott Roth.
The reigning Lindsay Gaze Coach of the Year’s influence has been crucial in shaping his young player’s development.
“He’s been huge, just instilling a lot of confidence in me to go out there and play my game. And obviously I feel an enormous amount of trust from him,” Macdonald said on Roth.
“He’s challenged me at the right times to work on little things and that’s been great for my development.”
Macdonald’s impact has been an important part of the JackJumpers’ great sophomore season, with the team finishing in fourth place once again.
After shocking the NBL world and making the Grand Final in its first year, Tasmania has only built on the groundswell of momentum it generated.
Macdonald said being able to run it back with most of last season’s squad has been a key part of the team’s continued success.
“It’s been really, really cool to have a lot of the same guys back from last year. Having that continuity and just being able to build on what we did last year,” he said.
“There’s been some slight adjustments, but there’s that same culture and pretty much the same game plan of being a defensive-minded team.”
But the few additions the club has made to its roster have slotted in seamlessly.
Clutch shooting guard Milton Doyle has taken over from last season’s team MVP Josh Adams and is in line for All-NBL honours.
Forward Rashard Kelly has added an important presence off the bench, while former Hawk Isaac White has played big minutes for the team.
Macdonald said it was a testament to the trio’s character that they have all been able to buy into and add to the club’s revered culture.
“Milton’s unbelievable, so poised, so calm. A great on-court leader for us and just someone who’s never panicked, which really rubs off on the rest of the group,” he said.
“Rashard’s similar, great demeanour, always positive and always lifting up his teammates which helps out a lot.
“Whitey’s just incredible, he can come in some games after not playing much and then just be that sparkplug.”
One thing that has been evident ever since the JackJumpers entered the league is how beloved they are by the Tasmanian public.
MyState Bank Arena sells out for every home game, with the team’s fans the loudest in the league.
Macdonald said the packed crowds and passionate supporters are part of what makes playing for the JackJumpers so special.
“It’s unbelievable in there (MyState), the noise is crazy. It’s sometimes difficult to hear what we’re trying to get done in timeouts and stuff,” he said.
“We love the fan support, it makes it such a fun place to play. Knowing that we’re representing all of the state and we’ve got their full support, it means a lot to be able to have that.
“Our home stadium is a bit of a fortress for us and we know that we’re gonna have elite fan support every single time we play there.”
The Victorian loves life in Tasmania and the recognition he gets as being part of the hottest ticket in town.
“The fan support we get at MyState just transfers into everyday life. People always come up, say hello and ask questions,” Macdonald said.
“It’s really cool to be recognised and to know that we’re having a positive impact on the people of this state.
“Doing all those clinics really pays off when you see so many fans in jerseys and buying merch. It means heaps to us as a playing staff and as a club.”
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