No Time For Crocodile Tears In Townsville.
For some it was a huge surprise, for others it was long overdue. The Townsville Crocodiles decision to release reigning league MVP Brian Conklin however is a step in the right direction.
With poor crowd attendance, a lackluster record and a team seemingly unable to gel, something needed to change. So why did it have to be Brian Conklin?
“Unfortunately, we are almost sitting last on the NBL ladder and the reality of not making the finals again is one we do not want to face.
“There are no outside factors or reasons behind this decision – we simply want to give this club the best chance of being successful in the competition.” Townsville GM Rob Honan told ABC media.
Conklin did win the league’s Most Prestigious award last season, the MVP trophy and was able to negotiate a very lucrative contract as a result. This contract would be ultimately which led to his undoing.
Although talk around the league has been that Jordair Jett was the one on the chopping block with his inconsistent play when it becomes a business decision it all comes down to the numbers. When you’re paying Jordair Jett to deliver 13 points per game and paying double that amount to get the same 13 points per game from Conklin the neck on the chopping block becomes clear.
The most striking statistic around Brian Conklin’s performance however was the fact that the Townsville Crocodiles were -10 for the season with him on the floor. It becomes difficult to pay someone MVP dollars for 13 points per game and the end result is your team down by 10.
From an outsiders perspective Conklin seemed to be playing rougher and with more desperation of late, perhaps to compensate for the poor shooting percentages he opened the season with.
It is very unlikely Townsville find a replacement before their next NBL game, but who that replacement may be is an exciting prospect. It’s known Townsville do not have a replacement ready to go, but have a shortlist of 100 of players to shift through.
Whether they will turn to a quick fix with players already in the country, or hold out to find the best possible player in between overseas contracts is unknown but there is more quality hidden in the country at the moment then usual, so the right path could be either one.
Former St Mary’s big man (and teammate of Patty Mills) Omar Samham is has just been signed to play in the SEABL with the NW Tasmania Thunder, Townsville could do worse than bringing in a guy who was WCC Defensive Player of the Year (2010) and was last playing the NBA D-League with the Texas Legends. Samhan is also a part of Egypt’s National Basketball program.
With Townsville second from the bottom and having some of the worst shooting percentages in the league, someone who can spread the floor and be a perimeter threat is probably more in need than a big man. The team has seen recent success going “small ball” with Conklin missing games due to errant elbows and if Crocodiles management can find a quality player who fits that mold it’s a done deal. The Los Angeles Lakers have a guard who will be leaving their team shortly but somehow I don’t think this will be the answer.
Australian’s Ben Madgen and Daryl Corletto are both players who can shoot the ball and are currently not with an NBL team but with Madgen averaging 17 points in Belgium and Corletto acting as player coach in England these are not options either.
Perhaps Townsville start looking to the future. There are many talented junior players in the Queensland region and anyone who is involved with the Center Of Excellence (Australian Institute of Sport) basketball team knows young Australians are not looking at college options as favourably as they did in the past. With Dante Exum making the NBA with no college experience and the NCAA talent level being far below NBL standard, more and more young players are looking at the NBL as a better step to Europe or the NBA.
Having be snared Queenslander Harry Froling from the AIS recently the Crocodiles are stock piling young, Queensland born aspiring NBA players and it’s likely we see more join the team now there are vacancies opening up.
One player who could be joining the Crocodiles is talented junior William McDowell-White, a teammate of Frolings who has been playing with the Southern Districts Spartans in the QBL. McDowell is the son of Brisbane Lions triple-premiership winner Darryl White.
The 17 year old guard impressed at the 2014 adidas Nations Global event where he posted similar statistics to fellow Australian Thon Maker. An impressive feat as Maker was the MVP of the tournament one of the best high school players in the USA.
Another Queensland born tyro would be 6’5 forward Tom Fullarton who could provide scoring from the outside.
It’s thought that McDowell-White and Fullarton would both prefer to enter the NBA Draft from the NBL rather than college. With Townsville being in a prine position to cultivate these players, perhaps a AIS > Townsville > Europe/NBA pipeline develops which could only see our game here strengthen.
Brian Conklin’s exit from the NBL may have been a surprise, but what is has every chance to be is the resurgance of the Townsville Crocodiles.
By replacing Conklin with a consistent import, the hopeful addition of McDowell-White or another talented junior and the fact that Townsville will play more home games than any other NBL team for the remainder of the season but them in a good position to return to the success of seasons past, it’s just a shame it had to come at the cost of a genuinely great guy like Brian Conklin.