In a shocking turn reversal of events, Australian’s have decided to colonise the British!
Well… not quite, but it’s certainly a shock to see five former NBL players decide to play in the British Basketball League as an alternative to signing with a team in Australia.
It all started when Josh Wilcher (who has has dual British nationality), after a number of years spent toiling in the second tier SEABL trying to crack an NBL roster, decided to look overseas for playing opportunities. The pint sized point guard (178cm) had managed to play 2 games for the Melbourne Tigers in 2011/12 as a developmental player but despite remaining on the radar of NBL coaches with his SEABL play for Sandringham and Bendigo it still wasn’t quite enough to get an NBL call up.
This is when the Plymouth University Raiders opened their arms and signed the talented 24 year old who in return he led the team with 7 assists per game and became the crafty floor general they needed.
Despite a strong rookie season by Wilcher it was a difficult season for Plymouth as the team finished 10th and didn’t make the finals. It then became even tougher when no players from that season decided to re-sign with the Raiders bar Wilcher). Many leaving to play in other countries due to the Raiders having limited funds for player salaries.
It was then the team decided to try a different tact. After speaking with Wilcher about his friend Daryl Corletto and other contacts he had from this playing time in Australia that Raiders coach Jay Marriott embarked on a strong oversea’s recruiting mission looking at Australian and New Zealand players who might consider playing basketball on the opposite side of the world.
The recruitment drive was able to land three former Australian NBL players. Aussies Daryl Corletto (Melbourne United), Auryn MacMillan (Melbourne United), Bennie Lewis (Former Melbourne Tigers player) and New Zealand born BJ Anthony (Adelaide 36ers),
Under BBL rules clubs are only allowed five non British players in their roster but with Wilcher, Corletto and Anthony all having Australian/British dual citizenship they will be to suit up this talented core and add up to three additional import players.
Dante Williams, who played at Oakland University in the US will be one of the import players..
Coach Jay Marriott, now heading into this third season coaching the BBL Raiders, is excited with the recruiting results. “I really do love the direction we are going in,” said Marriott.
“In the past we have been guilty of blending in with the trends of the BBL but this year we have decided to take a different approach.
“We know what we are getting with Josh and myself and Daryl have been talking three times a day.
“Last season we had some top four talent but it didn’t work out – you can never be 100 per cent sure that players will blend together or blend with the coaching style.
In each of the last two seasons Raiders have missed out on the play-offs and that is something the club are keen to step away from with their “Aussie” Raider squad.
“I am a big fan of Australian basketball and the players there have grown up in a similar culture to the players here. Australian players are not surprised by community coaching when they come to England as they are used to doing it as part of their contracts in Australia. American and European players are not used to that so it takes a while for them to adapt when they come here.
Despite being founded in 1987 the British Basketball league has been somewhat of a small scale competition in comparison to the NBL even to the SEABL in Australia. With the basketball being brought to the attention of the British public with the London Olympics, in 2012 the BBL along with several other basketball governing bodies (including England Basketball and Basketball Scotland) united to form the British Basketball Union, an organisation created to promote the commercial development of basketball within Great Britain.
Moves like this have the BBL seeing considerable growth and Marriott feels despite having this many Australian/New Zealand based players is unheard of in the BBL he is confident that the growing league will start to see more players making the move.
“In America there is a lot of very talented Australians coming through, even though it is relatively unheard of over here.
“I had the luxury of working with some Australian players when I was in Spain and I always enjoyed working with them.” Marriott is not one to shy away from his bold recruiting moves either. The team clearly has an “Oceania” flavour to it and it’s by strategic design. “Next season is definitely make or break but whatever happens at least I will be able to say that I did it my way” Marriott declared.
Coach Marriott has said that he is hoping for pre-season to be more open this year, with the players expected in Plymouth on September 1.