I’ll admit it. As a starved Tasmanian sports fan, and an undeniable basketball tragic, I have longed to write this article.
After two nights at MyState Bank Arena, soaking in the unbelievable atmosphere and yelling until my voice is hoarse (pre-season), the lid is off.
I believe this JackJumpers squad IS GOOD.
Will they win it all? No. Will they make the finals this year? Unlikely. Will they scrap, claw, defend and hustle every night? Yes.
That is why I already love this team. Every player has shown already that they are willing and capable to play a hard nose style of defence.
Head coach Scott Roth, assistants Mark Radford, Jacob Chance and co have the team organised and potent at that end of the floor.
The team is already showing a capability to switch multiple matchups through pick and roll and horns sets. They trap effectively and often, and the players already seem to have an understanding of when to trap, show or contain ball handlers.
The results of this were truly too much for Cairns to handle. The swarming JackJumpers defence held the Taipans to 38 per cent from the field and forced 23 turnovers.
Import Josh Magette showed his defensive smarts and quickness with four steals. Jack McVeigh has quickly become a crowd favourite with his hustle and switch ability. He contributed two steals, as did speedy hustler Matt Kenyon.
Kenyon looks like an elite defender, as does son of a favourite gun Sam McDaniel, who has shown incredible desire and hustle on both ends of the floor.
Athletic guard Josh Adams has been brought in more for his offensive ability but has shown himself to be a very capable on ball defender – holding his main matchup Scott Machado to 2/7 from the field.
From what has been shown in a limited sample size, the JackJumpers will be more than effective on the switch as well.
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Many teams that have a capability of switching multiple positions on defence often show a pretty potent weakness – rebounding. So far however, the Jumpers have shown a real hustle and desire on the defensive glass.
This is essential for this team to be competitive. Smaller guys need to box and show real effort, particularly with key signing Will Magnay on the sidelines.
It’s early, but the desire shown by all the guys to crash defensive glass has been exemplary.
An example of this was aforementioned 6’5″ 90kg shooting guard Matt Kenyon throwing himself in front of Nate Jawai in desperation to stop an easy putback on Tuesday, ultimately drawing a loose ball foul, despite being thrown around like a proverbial ragdoll.
Although the Jumpers lost the overall rebounding count by four, the 23 turnovers forced through the swarming defence is a compromise coach Roth would be happy with.
Roth has installed a desire in all the players to play hard on the defensive side of the floor. One more important point of note is that the Jumpers allowed Cairns zero single fast break points. Not one. Every player has hustled. Not one is yet to take a possession off even in pre-season.
The offensive side of the ball is perhaps the bigger question for this squad.
Import Josh Magette looks very comfortable on the ball, extremely so in fact. Despite seeing more trapping and pressure bringing the ball up in this country, he has so far proved himself cool and collected handling the rock.
The team will take time to gel with him at the helm of the offence and there is undeniably kinks to be ironed out. At times it appears that Magette is so keen to find the open man he almost passes too early.
However, this will surely be worked out in time. His shooting ability and good offensive sense will hold the Jumpers in good stead. He is a safe pair of hands.
Adams will be a fan favourite. His raw athleticism and soft shooting touch look like an exciting combination for this league. He will find his place but he does look like the main scoring option at this stage.
The ball does tend to stick to him in the half-court, but this does appear to be somewhat by design. He will put up serious numbers this season.
MiKyle McIntosh looks like an astute signing also. Many questioned his pedigree in this league, however early doors the Canadian has shown a soft touch with a strong body.
Perhaps the most surprising thing so far has been his ability to handle the rock. He will be pivotal as a bail out option for the much smaller Magette in full-court traps and such.
With Clint Steindl’s shot looking like it’s starting to fall and savvy veteran play from McVeigh, the Jumpers look like a well oiled machine with the main guys on the floor.
Predictably however, when Magette is on the bench the team seems to sputter its way through some sets. This is another thing that will take time.
Development player Sean Macdonald looked solid in his minutes, but it will be some time before we see if he can be a floor leader. Jarrod Weeks was excellent on Tuesday, but struggled the game before. Time will tell how many minutes a night he will be most effective in.
The Jumpers ran a small ball line-up against the big Taipans front court that was very effective. The Magette, Weeks, Kenyon, McVeigh and Bairstow line-up was very effective, and this avenue should continue to be explored.
Overall the one take away from the Jumpers offence is that they are extremely well coached.
The diversity of offensive sets is elite. There were many times my inner basketball nerd was excited, a flurry of Horns sets, Iverson cuts and an iso play for McIntosh which was a thing of beauty to end the first half. I’m not sure the Taipans knew it was an isolation until the ball was in the bucket.
It is reassuring to know that Coach Roth is the captain of this ship. He and his coaching team will be the difference between last and fifth. Either way, I am excited to find out.
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