It’s become clear that many Adelaide 36ers fans have questioned this season’s search for an import. With the season rapidly approaching us I decided to take at look at Kenyon McNeail and Ebi Ere and question “Have Adelaide signed the best imports for the job?
At the start of the off season I remember reading an articles by Boti Nagy talking to coach Joey Wright about the plans for next years roster. Joey mentioned wanting to build an Australian core at Adelaide, anchored by stalwart Sixers players like Adam Gibson, Mitch Creek, Anthony Petrie, Daniel Johnson and Brendan Teys. Complementing that would be an import combo guard who can shoot it and an import scoring small forward, who is an alpha male with a strong body who can at times take over games.
A few months later we see Joey has recruited Kenyon McNeaill and Ebi Ere to be that complementary import duo, it didn’t take long for Sixers fans to question to signings on social media with many questioning if this roster can contend for the 2015/16 NBL Championship.
To give a little background on the two players in question, Kenyon McNeall is a 6’1, 24 year old guard who played college basketball at Lousiana Tech. A combo guard who can definitely shoot. For those who want proof McNeall just wrapped up a season in the Portuguese LPB, where he averaged 19 points which came from a 46% clip from the field including a very solid 38% from 3 point land.
Add this effort with his his senior year at Louisiana Tech where he averaged 11 points while shooting 42% from the field and 40% from 3 point land I think we can give scoring a big tick on this guy’s scouting report.
Joey Wright already has had a first hand look at McNeall while coaching him at the recent Worldwide invitational tournament.
The question mark above Kenyon’s head however is that he hasn’t played in a League as strong as the NBL so far. How will he handle the improved level of competition? It’s something which is very difficult to tell until the season starts
(Editors Note: otherwise the King’s Marcus Thornton would be the league’s MVP already thanks to an impressive Instagram video).
Looking at his resume my prediction is that he wont be a MVP level player, but as long as his shot keeps dropping from 3 point land like it did in college and in the Portuguese league he should be a nice fit to the team as a good 3 point shooter and perimeter scorer.
Looking optimistically at the fact he may not have played in a NBL-level league before, he has put up some great numbers overseas and his resume actually reminds me of Corin Henry who suited up for the Kings in the 2012/13 season. While Corin didn’t dominate the NBL he was a very solid import (averaging 13 points per game) while helping the Kings reach the 4th spot and the NBL play-offs. If Kenyon can maintain the shooting consistency he has delivered elsewhere and be able to compete like a “Corin Henry” type, I think he will prove to be a very solid signing.
Let’s return to Joey’s second need. A scoring small forward, who is an alpha male with a strong body who at times can take over games. This spot has now been filled by 2 time NBL championship winner Ebi Ere who was a part of the Joey Wright coached Brisbane Bullets. Ebi Ere is not the young man he was while leading the Bullets/Kings to championships but he is still only 34 years old. A 6’5 swing man who is ia proven winner having completed four NBL seasons and played in 3 Grand Final series. Ebi Ere has the big strong body Joey was looking for and has previously shown the attitude and game to take over games and hit clutch shots.
Ebi Ere’s career NBL averages are 21 points, 2 assists, 5 rebounds, shooting 46% from the field and 38% from 3 point land. So with McNeal gives the 36ers another good outside scorer.
As far as the style of player that Joey stated he was looking for I think we again can give Joey a tick, Ebi Ere seems to be the style of player he originally said he was looking for. This at the very least is a good sign as there have been times when coaches have ended up with a completely different player to what they have talked about being after.
However with Ebi being 34 years old, is he going to be still able to have a strong impact on the NBL, seems to be the doubt of some fans. Firstly, even though he is 34 years old and hasn’t played in the NBL since the 2009 Grand Final series with the Melbourne Tigers, he has been playing continuously in strong leagues around the world, presumably for more money than any NBL team could afford to pay him, putting up very solid numbers in every stint. Often the imports who come back to the NBL at an ‘older age’ and have failed have often either not being playing professionally continuously since leaving the NBL and/or have been playing in lower level leagues. Ebi Ere has been putting up solid numbers in strong leagues so I wouldnt be automatically putting him down in this category just due to his age.
My thoughts on this signing are that if he isn’t at the MVP-contender level he left the league at he should still be a very strong addition to the team. As a reference point Kirk Penney who many NBL and Hawks fans were excited to see return to the league and are expecting big things from is nearly a year older and has had a similar career path to Ebi Ere since leaving the NBL. In Puetro Rico he recently he averaged 15 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds in a league that also featured NBL MVP’s Cedric Jackson and Brian Conklin. Thoughts that Ebi Ere may be over the hill seem to be a little premature here.
While it’s possible Ere may not be able to deliver the production that Gary Ervin and Jamar Wilson have in previous seasons I feel he will be among the better imports and better players in the NBL (I also predict Kirk Penney will also have a strong season at a similar age). I see no reason why he cant at the very least replicate the numbers here he delivered in Puerto Rico.
Did Joey get the right imports? It appears he at least got the right styles of players he was looking for and both seem to be a case of “better the devil you know” for Joey. Whether they can play at a level to help the 36ers contend for the title remains to be seen, but they shouldn’t be simply written off because they are either not experienced at NBL level leagues or over 30 years old either.
I for one am happy to have them on board and look forward to seeing them play for the 36ers in the 2015/16 season.