It’s the first day of training camp for the Sydney Kings and the full roster is on deck at Qudos Bank Arena. The new-look squad is looking more athletic, younger and loaded with shooters and scorers. Head coach Andrew Gaze and his assistants Lanard Copeland and Luke Kendall will have their work cut out for them, with six new faces and four fresh development players on the sidelines.
Returnees Brad Newley, Jason Cadee, Tom Garlepp and captain Kevin Lisch are fired up and ready for another big year. Cadee and Newley, who helped the Boomers win the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon last month, looks sharp, hitting threes and running the floor with gusto.
Two new imports who are going to make a huge impact for the club this season arrived a week early.
Shooting guard Travis Leslie, a former LA Clipper, looks like a solid pickup. He’s got a body frame and skill set that’s similar to Phoenix Suns star Eric Bledsoe. The 27-year old Leslie has hops, possessing an impressive 40″ inch vertical leap, and his athleticism could see him become a two-way player. He’s the last person to leave the court after training but continued to shoot around for another 45 minutes with another fresh face, swingman Adam Thoseby. Leslie is already leading by example, and it’s that kind of work ethic that could be infectious for the rest of the younger players.
Big man Perry Ellis is an interesting find for the club. After a successful four-year college stint at Kansas, the 23-year old 6’7″ forward is versatile enough to play multiple positions on the court. Over 144 games at Kansas, he averaged 12 points and 5.8 rebounds, but that included four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament. He can shoot from beyond the arc and has plenty of inside post up moves.
“I’m just learning about my coach and my teammates. I wanna be the guy that can help us win games and to come out and do what I do. Speed-wise, I feel like I run the floor well, I can do different things,” said Ellis.
Gaze is looking very optimistic with his new import pairing.
“Our system has structure. We have positions but there’s a lot of flexibility, a lot of continuity. You see the skill set that’s required to do that, you need versatile players, and that’s one of the reasons that attracted us to Perry and Travis, they’ll fit in well with our veterans.
I think it’s a nice balance. Ultimately, it’s about trying to exploit the skills that these guys have, as we go and learn more about them and more about us, we’ll be able to put a system and points of emphasis to exploit those skills,” said Gaze.
6’5″ Todd Blanchfield and 6’9″ rookie forward Dane Pineau, bring plenty of shooting and more versatility. Pineau could be a rookie of the year candidate. The 22-year old averaged 11.8 points, 8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his junior year at Saint Mary’s College, the alma matter of Matthew Delladova and Patty Mills. Two rookie centres round off the squad, 7 foot Indian captain Amritpal Singh and Kentucky graduate Isaac Humphries. Singh was impressive at training, grabbing plenty of offensive and defensive boards.
There are no designated rebounders or defensive stoppers in the team after they lost Aleks Maric, Josh Powell and Julian Khazzouh, which means the collective group must play team defense aggressively.
Sydney has plenty of long, versatile players that could keep the defence honest and not give up ground on the defensive end with Blanchfield, Pineau, Ellis, Newley and Leslie. Lisch and Cadee will spread the floor while the younger bigs can do the dirty work inside.
The Kings are built to run and score. If Gaze and company can play to their strengths, utilise the youth and get the best out of their imports, Sydney could do some damage. Let’s wait and see if their new strategy translates into the next stage at The Blitz.