Any coach can offer the big dollars a big name import that doesn’t make them a great recruiter. A great recruiter can find incredible talent on a shoe string budget… that’s what Aaron Fearne has been able to do since taking control of the Taipans seven years ago.
Jamar Wilson and Scottie Wilbekin, both recent Fearne finds, played exceptionally well during their time in the Orange, Navy and White. Both players were always in MVP contention despite taking less money to play in Asutarkia, thanks to the salesmanship of Aaron Fearne.
Fearne has discussed the disadvantages he faces when comparing the Taipans budget to other NBL teams on Aussie Hoopla previously, yet it seems like Aaron Fearne has found yet another superstar point guard in Travis Trice.
Travis Trice, 183cm, led Michigan State to the final four in his senior year, his 15 points and 5 assists per game, enough to catch Fearne’s attention who immediately focused on bringing Trice to far north Queensland.
“Travis was really impressive there and I actually made a lot of deep investigations for last year’s import positions, but he’d wanted to go the D-League route instead,” Fearne said.
Trice, who ranked in the top 100 players while in college, went undrafted in 2015 and chose to spend year with the Westchester Knicks, the D-League team for the New York Knicks, hoping to earn himself an NBA contract.
“My mindset is to go out and do what I can, play the right way. And then the stats, awards (don’t matter). Hopefully making it to the league will take care of itself.” Trice said whilst playing with Westchester.
Trice finished the NBDL season averaging again 15 points and five assists. These numbers in what is the development farm to the best competition in the world give good reason for pundits to believe Trice could be this seasons NBL MVP.
Some compare what Trice can do on the floor to former NBL MVP Cedric Jackson. Jackson arrived in the NBL in a similar fashion to Trice, Jackson spent a season in the D-League with the Idaho Stampede before deciding New Zealand was a better place to develop his game.
Jackson was good for 14 points and seven assists in his session with Idaho, a pace he maintained during his first season in the NBL, one which finished with him holding aloft a championship trophy.
NBL salary cap changes this season will ensure this is the most competitive competition in we’ve seen since the NBL moved to 40 minute games. Even though our league is generally thought of as higher standard than the NCAA or D-League, if Trice can adjust to the Australian style of play and deliver similar output to his efforts overseas the Taipans chances of success are much greater.
The Taipans begin the season as the least likely team to win the NBL championship according to the betting agencies so an MVP calibre season from Trice would be needed to give the Snakes any chance of that.
Trice will be given every opportunity to be the team’s primary scoring option and with the ball likely to spend most of it’s time in his hands on offence he’ll be placed highly in the assist leaders as well.
Trice is the prototypical point guard coach Fearne looks for, and he feels his college experiences have prepared him to succeed as much in Cairns as any of the import point guards before him.
“He’s played on the biggest stage. He’s played in the Final Four just like Scottie Wilbekin did. That’s the biggest stage there is and he went out there and played really well.” Fearne said after signing Trice.
“We think he’ll be a good fit for us. The point guard position in the NBL is really strong, so you need players who can hold their own in that spot.”
Fearne has done well to find a player like Trice who it seems will compliment the other members of the Taipans roster well.
Trice’s ability to dribble off screens will benefit greatly from some Nathan Jawai’s presence and his ability to drive and dish will no doubt result in a Cameron Gliddon and Stephen Weigh seeing a lot of open looks from outside.
This season it might be #ALLFORCNS on social media, but on court, Trice will be giving it all for Cairns as well. A blue chip resume and hard-working attitude and Coach Fearne’s blessing means he will be given every opportunity to be successful in this league, and this could translate to holding the Andrew Gaze Trophy at the end of the year.
“He’s a winner, coming from a winning program. He’ll bring a high level of intelligence, effort and execution, which will be really important,” Fearne said.
If Trice can prove the bookies wrong, defy the odds and deliver an NBL playoff berth for Taipans fans, he might Aaron Fearne won’t be surprised, he will have just done it again.