YOU certainly wouldn’t know by watching him play or pull in board after board that Jarrad Prue wasn’t sure if he could still play at SBL level having been retired the last two years, but the Lakeside Lightning rebounding legend had plenty of motivation to make a return.
Prue had nothing left to prove when he retired following the 2015 season at the Lightning. He had already played in three championship winning teams for Lakeside, had a crack in the NBL with the Perth Wildcats and is the SBL’s all-time leading rebounder.
By the time he retired following that 2015 season, Prue had amassed 330 games in the SBL – all but nine at Lakeside – and had collected a simply remarkable 5998 rebounds along the way at 18.2 per game.
His body needed a rest and with two young children and his burgeoning work career, Prue decided the time was right to call it a day.
He had kept playing in the local league at Lakeside to maintain a degree of touch and fitness, but he had never once considered a return until new Lightning coach Dave Daniels got in touch.
Initially Prue thought that was to help out in a coaching capacity and he thought no more of their meeting, until when they were face to face Daniels outlined the dearth of bigs the Lightning would have in 2018 and that he wanted him to play.
That took the 36-year-old father of two aback a little and he wasn’t sure how he felt. He firstly had to see what wife Emma and their two children felt about the idea, then he had to decide if he could juggle adding that commitment back into his life and then if he felt he could still play.
Eventually Prue decided to give it a crack and really, he has never looked back since and his form has been every bit as good as at any other point of his career as he now nears the 350-game milestone.
Prue is going at even better than his career average despite playing in 40-minute games for the first time collecting 18.6 rebounds a game and while he’s only scoring 7.0 points, he’s doing so with remarkable efficiency shooting a phenomenal 85.7 per cent from the field.
His rebounding numbers are made up of 8.3 at the offensive end too so he is giving his team eight more possessions on average every single game on a missed shot.
He even had 18 offensive rebounds alone a couple of weeks ago in a win over Cockburn and he is being as instrumental as anybody in Lakeside currently sitting in sixth position on a four-game winning streak right ahead of the Round 13 double-header against Stirling and Kalamunda.
Considering the form he’s been able to step right back in and deliver this season for the Lightning, it might seem tough to comprehend that Prue had plenty of doubts about how he would go once he did agree to pull on the purple and white again.
“Whilst I agreed to play, I was very apprehensive about what it was going to look like for me personally and for us as a team this year,” Prue said.
“I set myself low expectations of what I could achieve personally and I just wanted to help the team get better without worrying about the personal numbers.
“Obviously it’s almost like one helps the other, though, and if I play well hopefully it helps the team perform well, but I was very apprehensive even after agreeing to play and until the first game.
“After two years away from it, I didn’t know what to expect with my legs two years older and I would say the league has got bigger and stronger than two or three years ago. I definitely had no idea what it would be like.”
Much like Damian Martin at the Perth Wildcats in the NBL, Prue is that rare breed who can win games for his club without having to put the ball in the hoop. He takes great pride in the fact that he is a big reason why his team is able to continue to be a jump shooting-oriented group.
“My role is to help the team get more shots up so by me getting extra rebounds, hopefully that leads to more shots and ultimately more points and us winning the game,” he said.
“What it does do is it gives you a sense that you’ve helped the team win a game when you see that you’ve had that many rebounds. So that’s obviously kind of a good feeling.
“And with our team, we can be a very good shooting team but the reality is jump shooting teams do miss a lot of shots and will have nights where things don’t go well.
“When you don’t shoot well it’s critical that you win the possession game and get stops. So being able to play defence and rebounding the ball is critical to being able to win games whether you shoot well or not. It’s important for a youngish team to understand that.”
Making the decision to retire was nothing new for Prue when he made the decision following the 2015 season but this time he was sure it was for good.
With 330 games and the 2006, 2009 and 2013 championships under his belt along with living out his dream of hitting the court in the NBL for the Wildcats, he felt he had nothing left to prove and also didn’t want to hold back the development of any other players at Lakeside.
“I’ve semi-retired half a dozen times over my career and I think I did for the first time after 2008 when I had played 100 games. I took a season off but I think my game style is very draining on the body so when I get to the end of a season, I need time to regroup,” Prue said.
“So by the end of 2015, I had played 330 games and had achieved what I had achieved from a team perspective, and I thought it was time to give some of the younger guys a go.
“I had been playing my 40-plus minutes which gave the younger guys limited opportunities because if we had a big import and me, the minutes for someone like Tom Parkinson weren’t quite there.
“Then in my last year in 2015, I only agreed to play if I came off the bench and Tom was starting because I wanted to help him develop so that was a big factor behind my retirement, plus my body had just had enough.”
Prue didn’t completely escape basketball in his two years away, he was still playing competitively at Lakeside but not once did he feel the urge to make an SBL return.
But it soon began to make sense to him once he realised Lakeside were amassing a good team they just needed his rebounding, size, leadership and experience.
“I got a message from Dave when I was on a family trip at the start of January asking if I wanted to catch up. I didn’t even think it could be about me playing again, but we caught up when I got back and he told me that he was interested in me playing again with our big guys who had moved on,” he said.
“I was a bit shocked to start with and then I went home to speak to my wife and got her thoughts on it to discuss what impact it would have on our family, and personally how I thought I’d be able to compete again.
“After speaking to Emma and with how much the club means to me, I had to decide if me returning would help the club and given the situation, I thought I possibly would.
“So it didn’t take a lot of convincing but it did take a lot of myself thinking about if it would be the best thing for the club and my family. Then I had a couple of months of hard work with my diet and exercise to get in the right shape to play and the rest is history.”
It was a small line-up that Prue was part of in the first part of the season, but now with the arrival of Daniel Alexander, it’s a handy frontcourt. With Bryan Michaels and Corey Shervill added to the group as well, he couldn’t be enjoying things right now any more.
“In one way with us being small it was good in a sense because I knew the club needed my presence and leadership, and how we went inside could have a big say in how we go against bigger teams,” Prue said.
“I enjoyed that challenge and always have, but obviously at the same time it was good when some of the other guys returned, especially Dan, to provide more balance to the team and more flexibility.
“We’ve had four or five different teams along the way already from the one we had in pre-season, then early on when we had Mason, then without him and then Dan showed up, and then Bryan and Shervs. It’s been a real change in terms of the first half of the season.”
As for what this Lakeside team is capable of as they chase down a top four spot with the additions of Alexander, Michaels and Shervill, Prue sees no reason why they can’t aim big but producing for 40 minutes night after night will be key.
“To be perfectly honest, if you look at the talent and depth we have in every position means that we genuinely go 15 deep. You look at our squad and our scrimmages at training, we have the talent and depth to match it with the top teams in the league,” he said.
“It will just come down to us being mentally and strong, and willingness to play every possession for 40 minutes and play defence the whole game.
“Come playoff time, that’s critical and the sky is the limit for this team but it does come down to that mental discipline. And for our team and the amount of time we’ve played together, that could still be our biggest challenge.”
Prue never would have returned to the Lightning this year if it hadn’t been the right thing for his family as well. But wife Emma, their two young children and even their extended family, have all embraced the return.
So he is getting a real kick out of his kids getting to embrace their dad playing at a high level but juggling family, work and basketball certainly has its challenges. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“They have both got their little replica uniforms and it’s awesome seeing them in the crowd and seeing their enjoyment. My son especially gets involved with the team and the playing group has really embraced him as well,” he said.
“He has just turned six and his interaction with the group and his look on the face when he’s doing it is really special. Hopefully he’s at an age where he will remember that and even for his sixth birthday he had a basketball party at Lakeside with his friends.
“Some of the guys came down to help with that. He’s always talking about basketball and Lakeside, which is a really special experience and one of the biggest thrills I’ve got out of coming back is how the kids are embracing and enjoying it.
“I became a partner at BDO after working there for 14 years three and-a-half years ago and the pressure with that has only multiplied since then. With the basketball and family commitments as well I don’t have downtime, but it’s all just about planning things well and improvising all the time.
“Generally I get up at 6am, go for a run and come home to see the kids for a bit. Then I’ll go to work and I never stay at work late, I leave on time and spend time with the kids and I usually do the cooking at home.
“Then if we don’t have basketball training, I do some extra work at home at night and my wife has been very accommodating with all of that. But at Lakeside, they embrace the family and game nights have become almost like a family outing for my wife and kids, my parents and my wife’s parents.
“It’s challenging but I think that’s part of life to try and fit in as much as you can while balancing it out and not going insane.”
This time 12 months ago, there was no way Prue could have seen himself about to reach 350 games played in the SBL, him leading the league in rebounds by a hell of a margin once more and gearing up for a tilt at a fourth championship.
But given that’s all happened so fast, he’s not ready to think about what 2019 might hold just yet.
“My wife asked me about next year too. Right now, I couldn’t say this is definitely my only season but I couldn’t say I’m going to play next year again either,” Prue said.
“I’ll assess it at the end of the season and over the off-season and see how we are all feeling. It’s quite a time commitment and a physical commitment, and with the style of my game, quite often the day after games my body breaks down and I can get quite sick. It’s about weighing all that up but I wouldn’t rule it out or bank on it happening either.”