by Marco Selorio | Hoopdreamz with insight from Bruce Bolden
The Sydney Kings are bracing for a massive year after a solid recruitment drive during the offseason. The club has solidified its frontcourt and added plenty of firepower to its bench. After another losing season, the Kings are primed for a return to the playoffs behind a new triumvirate – American superstar Josh Childress, the high flyin’ Marcus Thornton and Julian Khazzouh.
Kings management seems to have addressed its depth issues, defensive failures and shooting woes from last season. With six new players, the team must train rigorously and find chemistry together as a unit.
COACHES: Damian Cotter (Head Coach), Jacob Jackomas
LOSSES: Ben Madgen, Kendrick Perry, Kevin White, Cody Ellis, Josh Duinker, Daniel Joyce
GAINS: Marcus Thorton (import), Julian Khazzouh, Steve Markovic, Jerome Hill, Rhys Carter, Dion Prewster
RETURNING: Josh Childress (import), Jason Cadee, Angus Brandt, Tom Garlepp
The club has added new import Marcus Thornton. The American shooting guard recently graduated from NCAA Division 1 school William and Mary University. The offensive juggernaut averaged 20.0 points per game, shot 45% from the field, 40% from three-point range and 80% from the line in college. He was selected 45th overall in the second round by the Boston Celtics in the NBA Draft last June. Thornton is expected to carry the scoring load alongside Childress.
Ben Madgen’s toughness and leadership is not easy to replace. However with Thornton and the acquisition of two veteran point guards, Steve Markovic and Rhys Carter, the Kings should be able to compensate for the loss. Markovic is a former Rookie of the Year who made his mark with the West Sydney Razorbacks. He was a primary reserve for the Townsville Crocodiles last year. Carter is a journeyman who played a supporting role last season with the title-winning New Zealand Breakers. Jason Cadee is back after an injury-free season and is looking to play a bigger role with the club in 2015.
The frontline looks strong, with four main bigs on rotation.
Former Kings captain Khazzouh returns for a second tour of duty after a three-year stint in Lebanon. He had a short but distinguished career with the Kings in 2010-2012 when he put up MVP-numbers. With a superior cast of players surrounding him, Khazzouh can be an anchor and focus more on the defensive end.
Angus Brandt made a solid rookie debut until he succumbed to injury. He will likely come off the bench to make way for Khazzouh. Despite an injury-riddled season, Brandt is a promising big man that will spell good minutes at the four and five. Tom Garlepp had a breakout season after averaging 13.8 points, 4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1 block per game. His emergence as a two-way player will help the Kings immensely.
The X-Factor of the bunch is J-Chill. The imminent return of Josh Childress is a massive coup for the club. There is much to be admired about Childress on and off the court. His superior talent, desire and affable personality are tailor-made for Sydney City. The prominent former NBA star is looking to lead the ball club to greater heights this coming season after averaging 21.2 point, 9.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 blocks in only 18 games last year. His all-around game is the envy of other teams. He wants to bring a title to the city, and his return brings higher expectations. Childress is tough, relentless and passionate.
Two young recruits could challenge for a spot in the rotation. Young New Zealander Dion Prewster will likely spell some minutes at the small forward spot after helping the Wellington Saints to another title in the NZ pro league. Rookie forward Jeromie Hill finished senior year with University of Texas-San Antonio with 16.1 points and 8 boards and will be seeking quality minutes.
Second-year coach Damian Cotter has plenty of options this season. The Kings can go big with a lineup of Khazzouh, Garlepp, Childress, Thornton and Markovic. That frontline looks scary on paper, and they will be a defensive force to be reckoned with. Small-ball is in at the moment, and Sydney can also go with a quicker lineup featuring Garlepp, Childress, Thornton, Cadee and Markovic.
The 2015/2016 Kings on paper is a definite for the finals and can very much turn it into reality providing they find chemistry early. A well-defined plan and distinct identity will set them apart from the rest of the league.
It is imperative that Coach Cotter demands a big defensive effort from each player to make a statement to the opposition this season –the Kings are ready to play.
Finally, the BIG 3 of Childress, Thornton and Khazzouh must stay healthy and lead the team from every tip off. A championship beckons, Sydney.