Cairns Taipans head coach Aaron Fearne spoke with Aussie Hoopla about his plans to transform what was an underperforming team in 2015/16 to one which can deliver on the court.
Now the Taipans have completed their roster we take a closer look at these talented players who come from very different backgrounds, but none like the environment they will experience in Cairns.
“We weren’t competitive enough in the point gaurd position last season” Aaron Fearne told Aussie Hoopla.
Travis Trice #0
Position: Point Guard
Weight: 170 lbs
College Team: Michigan State
Julie Trice was rushed to hospital on January 22nd, 1993 after her unborn son’s heartbeat flatlined. Despite that her unborn son Travis defied the odds and survived to be a happy, bouncing boy. Ever since then Trice has continued to defy the odds, last season becoming one of the best players in the Big Ten conference (NCAA) despite standing only 183cm tall.
Aaron Fearne hopes Travis can overcome the odds once more and deliver an NBL playoff appearance for the Taipans fans.
Trice enters the league with the reputation of being highly intelligent, his last season spent running the famed triangle offence, one known for its complexities for the New York Knicks D-League team (Westchester Knicks).
While Trice is still settling into the Far North with a massive reputation as one of the smartest floor general’s on the market after running the triangle offence in the D-League last season.
“I’m a point guard who can run the team, but also a guy who can score: I just try and make the right play. I’m willing to do whatever I need to do for us to win, whether that’s scoring a lot of points or getting other people involved and finding the hot hand. I’m the ultimate competitor and all I want to do is win.” Trice describes his playing style to taipans.com
This is fantastic news for Snakes fans who are still bemoaning last season’s lack of success. A young talent like Trice who possesses amazing passing abilities and great handles is a great way to potentially turn things around.
Fans should expect Trice to excel in coach Fearne’s reactive playing style where a lot of on ball screens and wing movement should give him the ability to really shine.
Trice becoming the team’s starting point guard will give teammates like Cam Gliddon the freedom to play off the ball and focus on being able to use his shooting to the full extent of his ability. This will allow the Snakes to spread the floor, making it easier to get the ball inside to post players like new addition Nathan Jawai.
“We need to get more athletic and younger for 2016/17” Aaron Fearne noted on the Aussie Hoopla podcast.
Fuquan Edwin #23
Position: Shooting Guard / Small Forward
Weight: 207 lbs
College Team: Seton Hall
Fuquan Edwin also spent some time fighting to be seen by NBA scouts in the D-League. Edwin arrives in Far North Queensland after a great couple of seasons for the Sioux Falls Skyforce after going undrafted out of Seton Hill.
Edwin was a huge part of Seton Hall’s success during his time there, renowned as a “Three and D” guy he spent much of that time anchoring the team’s defence. In 2012 he led the entire NCAA Division I competition in steals per game (3.0) and then in 2014 his individual efforts there were rewarded when won the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Coach Fearne hopes the same tenacity on defence will equate to success for Cairns as well.
Aaron Fearne’s offence is at it’s best when his wing players are able to spread the floor. Edwin’s ability to spot up and hit the three, use his incredible length to disrupt opponents and accuracy from downtown provides Cairns with a player who they can go to in the crunch on offence or shut down their oppositions best player.
Expect Taipans veteran Stephen Weigh to benefit greatly from Edwin’s arrival. Having to fight for time behind a blue chip talent like Edwin will surely force Weigh to put in the extra hours at training required to gain extra court time and this will only make Weigh a greater player and give the Taipans a stronger roster.
Watching Edwin and Weigh battle for minutes and the right to start for this Taipans squad will be interesting to watch and perhaps the key to their success.
“We’ve gotta find ways to get competitive and win” said Coach Fearne.
College Team: Illinois
Nnanna Egwu is a winner.
He’s won at a high school level, college and the D-League and now he plans on keeping that momentum going whilst stopping in Cairns.
As a junior in 2013–14, Egwu started all 35 games, finished fifth on the team in scoring (6.9 ppg), led the Illini in rebounding (6.0 rpg) and finished second in the Big Ten in blocked shots 2.1 (bpg).
As a senior in 2014–15, Egwu earned Big Ten All-Defensive Team honours and averaged 6.5 points and 5.9 rebounds in 33 games
Standing 6’11” and 250 lbs he’s a massive specimen and he possesses lightning speed and great agility that you wouldn’t expect for a player his size. Egwu’s Nigerian heritage has provided him with some amazing athleticism, particularly on the boards.
Not unlike another Nigerian import we’ve seen in the league, Ekene Ibekwe, Egwu possesses a potent midrange jumper which should provide Cairns with the ability to spread the floor inside while we see Gliddon and Edwin spread the floor from the outside.
These “puzzle pieces” will give Coach Fearne all the requirements he needs to keep teams guessing as well as facilitate star Nathan Jawai with as much room as possible on offence.
Despite being in much better “playing shape” than last season if Jawai shows signs of tiring it’s fair to say that Egwu’s rim protection will allow that to go unnoticed on the scoreboard.
Egwu is slotted into backup Jawai at this stage but with sparing use and the fact he provides a much different skill set than what Jawai does, don’t be surprised if they find themselves on the court at the same time in crucial moments.
Aaron Fearne has failed, adjusted and now looks to return the Snakes to playoff contention. It won’t be long until we see these three take the floor and renew some pride to those who wear the Orange jersey in Far North Queensland.