PERTH Redbacks will always be home for Michael Vigor and that is why he remains so committed to trying to win a championship in the SBL with his local club even if the easy decision for his body might be to rest.
Vigor remains committed to playing at the Redbacks during what should be his off-season from playing in the British Basketball League where he’s about to embark on his second season with the Bristol Flyers and the first as captain.
Despite the fact that it means he is playing a full 12 months of year given the SBL season has already started by the time the BBL playoffs finish, and his first pre-season games for Bristol begin next weekend, Vigor wouldn’t have it any other way.
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When his time ended as a development player with the Perth Wildcats that included him being part of the 2014 championship, Vigor didn’t want to join the list of local players who missed out on playing professional when they didn’t get a full roster spot with an NBL club.
He originally played in the United Kingdom with the Plymouth Raiders before joining Bristol last year and has loved his time there, but he would never turn his back on the chance to continue returning the Redbacks no matter how much his body might appreciate it.
That’s why it means so much to the big man to be preparing for Saturday night’s SBL Grand Final for the Redbacks against the Joondalup City Wolves.
“It feels like it has been a long time coming now and this is my ninth year. I was away for a couple of years and have come back and I’m enjoying to be back here at a mature age. It’s massive to be in a Grand Final now and I’m itching at the opportunity,” Vigor said.
“I’ve been playing back to back for seven years straight now and being at Bendigo and over at Bristol, but coming back to Redbacks is always special.
“Having been here for so long it was a goal of mine to come back and win a championship for someone like Joel and the people who have been around the club for a long time. It is massive to just get to the Grand Final now.”
To have the chance to now play in a Grand Final and try to win a championship against someone like Wagner who has been there with him his entire Redbacks journey is exactly what makes the opportunity mean so much to Vigor.
“We are the last of this generation with the young guys coming through and we’ve played for nine years together, and it must be nearly 200 games that we’ve played together now. We have that big man-point guard combination and the amount of assists he’s had for me would be pretty huge. It’s been a really good friendship on and off the court that I cherish every day,” he said.
“I was part of the Wildcats championship back in 2014 but after being a training and development player even though you feel part of it because you helped push the guys, but you weren’t heavily involved.
“But to know that I am an important player at this team and it’s important that I can set the example for the young guys and play a key role, I would feel like the championship is something I have worked hard for and have been building to for a long time. It would mean everything if it all came together for me.”
Vigor was the Redbacks MVP last year and while he might not quite get that again in 2017 due to the amount of games he’s missed and the performances from the likes of Shawn Redhage, Lee Roberts, Ben Smith and Wagner, he has enjoyed being part of a winning group.
With his departure now closing in to return to the UK and even though his body wouldn’t mind a bit of a rest, Vigor will be throwing everything into trying to help the Redbacks prevail on Saturday night.
“I’ve taken a bit of a different role this year instead of being the dominant big guy, there’s a wealth of us now which is fantastic. To have those two guys and the experience they have, and everything they’ve done for basketball in Australia and around the world has been great,” Vigor said.
“I love this game so much that I would never give it up. It’s the end of the season now so it’s starting to take the toll on the body but it’s definitely ready for one more big game before I head back to the UK with Bristol. I’ll look to play limited minutes in the pre-season there to try and freshen up a bit but right now it’s raring to go for a championship.”
When Vigor’s time finished up as a development player at the Wildcats, he faced a similar dilemma to a lot of Australian players about whether or not to hold out and keep pushing for that NBL dream, to head overseas to try your luck or continue to play at state league level while entering the workforce.
His time so far in the BBL has meant that he couldn’t be happier with the decision he made to continue to dedicate his life to basketball and he would recommend others to look to Europe if things don’t work out for them in the NBL.
“It’s one of those things, you can’t play professionally forever and your body is only going to hold up for so long so while I can do it and I’m fit and able, I’ll play as long as I can,” he said.
“A lot of it comes down to opportunity for a lot of guys and I was lucky to get the opportunity to go overseas, and a lot of guys would be able to make the most of it if they were given the same chance. I’ve been fortunate enough to have that opportunity and I’m grabbing it with two hands, and I’m making the most of it.
“Because there’s not a great pathway for players that don’t get an NBL contract once you stop being a development player, and I think a lot of them should at least be playing professional basketball, so for me to find the opportunity to go overseas and have a crack has been great.
“I would love to do it for more guys whether they are development players in the NBL or SBL players because it would be great for them to experience. I have fitted in over there really well and it’s a good example that there’s options out there for kids who don’t get offered an NBL contract. If it means that much to them and they put their mind to it, they can achieve anything.”
Vigor will now depart for Bristol on Monday to get involved in preparations for their pre-season games as the start of the 2017/18 BBL season closes in and he desperately hopes to jump on that plane as an SBL championship winner.
“It would be unreal if two days after the Grand Final I’m flying out with a championship. I’ll be leaving Monday so to hop on knowing we won on Saturday night would be unreal,” Vigor said.
“I’m going back to Bristol for my second year and I’ve actually just been announced as captain of the club so it’s going to be a massive season ahead. I love Bristol, it’s an unreal city and the club itself is so family-oriented and community-based that it has grown each year. It really is a second home for me.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)