JALEN Billups has fitted in tremendously joining the Joondalup Wolves in 2018 and as he eyes off bring the championship back to the Wolfpack he expects to be locked in and feels unstoppable when he has that mentality.
Billups first played in the SBL last season with the Cockburn Cougars and enjoyed his time there immensely including fighting his heart out in a three-game quarter-final series against the Wolves.
After an ill-fated stint in England, Billups wasn’t sure what he’d be doing for the rest of 2018 until he took the call from the Wolves and he was only too happy to return to Australia and Perth, and to join up with a team he had such a good time going up against in 2017.
The result has been Billups fitting right in with the Wolves system and having an MVP-calibre season made up of 24.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game while shooting at a phenomenal 60.0 per cent from the field and a more than solid 36.1 per cent from three-point range and 66.4 per cent from the foul line.
He’s done that all on a team that finished in second position, has swept the Willetton Tigers and Stirling Senators in the playoffs to reach another Grand Final and while having prolific teammates like Brian Sullivan, Trian Iliadis and Rob Huntington.
Now all of Billups’ attention is on Saturday night’s Grand Final against the Perry Lakes Hawks at Bendat Basketball Centre and he has no doubt if he’s locked in, the Hawks won’t be able to stop him and he sees no reason why he won’t be locked in.
“That’s impossible honestly, when I’ve actually got my mind to it and it’s not an arrogance thing, it’s a confidence thing that I know I can play and when I’m locked in you’re not going to stop me,” Billups said.
“This is one of the biggest games I’ve played in for a long time and I’m going to be locked for however long it is. They are going to have their hands full that’s for sure.
“Yes he’s (Brian Carlwell) a big body and a great player, and smart also, but you have to play him against his weaknesses and for me I’m faster than him and if he wants to give me a shot, I’m definitely going to shoot it.
“With their whole team, they can pick their poison when it comes to me, but even if they do stop me they have still stop all the other guys on this team.”
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With the Wolves having lost the past two Grand Finals as they prepare to play in a fourth straight decider, Billups focused on helping bring a fourth championship to the Wolfpack while for himself, it will end a sizeable drought since some title success as well.
“I can’t even recall the last championship I won, it’s been a while honestly. I’d probably say AAU days but I wouldn’t count just little tournaments as championship wins. I honest don’t even have a clue,” he said.
“It would mean a lot to me if we could win and I think it would mean a little bit more to this club too. It would definitely would mean a lot to me personally though.
“Everybody is locked in about winning it and they don’t want a repeat of the last two years and everybody is ready for it. Saturday night needs to hurry its ass up. It’s just moving so slow and I’m ready for it already. I’ll probably sleep on my uniform on Friday as preparation.”
Billups enjoyed his time at Cockburn last year and will never have a bad word to say about that experience, but one teammate he loved practicing against was Lochlan Cummings and now he’s looking forward to facing him and his Hawks in the Grand Final.
“Cockburn is where it started off for me so I have no bad blood against them at all and actually I still talk to a bunch of the guys down there. Socially and just comfort-wise I would say both clubs have a great feeling and I’ve enjoyed them both,” Billups said.
“I enjoyed going against Lochie in practice and now to see us in the big one after going our different ways is big and I’m ready for seeing him out there now in the Grand Final.
“I learned some moves from Lochie and I was able to teach him some things too and now I’m just eager for Saturday go against him for one more time.”
Looking back on just over 12 months ago and Billups, and Cummings, were key parts of the Cockburn team that pushed Joondalup to three games in the quarter finals.
Billups enjoyed that experience but never thought about joining the Wolves until they made the approach, and he’ll always have a soft spot for Australia over anywhere else he’s played away from home.
“I like it a lot more here and the communication is a up front than out there. Over in the UK they seem to use you more as a tool than a person and stuff like that so I enjoy myself much more here for sure,” he said.
“I loved playing against them last year. It was very competitive in that series, it was very physical and they were a defensive-minded but team-oriented team to play against. Robbie and Damo are two guys who are two different-type players for this team but are really important and it’s much better to play with them than against them.
“Honestly I didn’t give any thought to playing here because it was a last-minute thing. After everything didn’t go as planned over in the UK I went back home and was just trying to find a team to go to. They rung the cell phone and wanted me so I said I’d be happy to come back out since nobody else wanted me.”
The Wolfpack started off the season on fire with Billups leading the charge as they won 15 of the opening 16 matches before a bit of a slip with a run of losing four in six matches.
But the Wolves got back on track after an overtime loss in a cracking contest at home to Perry Lakes to win a tight win away to Lakeside and then win well against the Flames and Magic leading into the finals where they have been untouchable.
Billups and his teammates aren’t taking for granted being in a Grand Final, but they are grateful to be there.
“We started off hot this season and then we had a little bit of a dip when we couldn’t figure anything out but the game when it really started to change for us I would say was when we won that thriller against Lakeside. That’s when things started to change around for us for the better, and we were locking in on our assignments better than before,” Billups said.
“It’s a great feeling to reach the Grand Final. I know the guys have memories of the past and losing and what not, but just being in a Grand Final is a blessing all of its own.
“To be in the position for three straight years in-a-row is amazing. I am just enjoying playing with all the guys and we all have the same objective in mind, and that’s to win the whole thing.”