THE Willetton Tigers made a winning start to their 2019 Men’s SBL season despite coach Steve Black feeling he needs to be patient early after off-season changes including the arrival of two new imports and point guard Jackson Hussey.
The Tigers made another playoff appearance with Black as coach in 2018 but came up short against the Joondalup Wolves in the quarter finals having lost to the Perth Redbacks in the semi finals the previous year having won the regular season championship.
It was another three-game semi-final showing back in 2016 as well for Willetton before falling on the road to the Wolves, so they have been around the mark during his tenure as coach and he certainly isn’t looking for that to change in 2019.
There have been plenty of personnel changes to the roster with the Tigers, though, starting with a change in starting point guard with Jackson Hussey arriving to take the place of Kyle Armour who has joined the Lakeside Lightning.
Jay Bowie was also part of the run the past three years with the Tigers but he has returned to the Goldfields Giants with Willetton bringing in two new imports – Mo Barrow and Marcanvis Hymon.
Barrow is no stranger to the SBL having played with the Geraldton Buccaneers alongside Hussey in 2016 and 2017 before joining the Perth Redbacks last season. Hymon is a new arrival to the league but has impressed early days.
Add the arrivals of Barrow, Hymon and Hussey to Michael Garbellini and Scott Elder as well and there’s reason for Black to both be optimistic about what this group is capable of along with also feeling like it might take some time to get the chemistry right.
The Tigers got their season off to a good start beating the Cockburn Cougars 90-81 at Wally Hagan Stadium last Saturday ahead of this Saturday’s home opener against the Lakeside Lightning at the in redevelopment Willetton Basketball Stadium.
Black is happy with the team the Tigers have assembled this season and he’s especially looking forward to seeing how good they can become defensively, but he is prepared for it to take some time for it all to come together.
“We have focused on our defence and made acquiring versatile defenders a priority in the off-season. Mo is a stud in this league and is a natural leader, I believe Huss can be a great scorer and create for us, depending on the situation,” Black told willettontigers.com.au.
“I am excited for the depth of Willetton juniors we have at our disposal and can’t wait to see them compete against the best. With the breadth of changes this year, I need to be patient early in the season.
“I am, however, genuinely excited every day we go to train and play because of those changes and the potential of bringing our talents together.”
Hymon joins the Tigers in 2019 fresh off his college career at Ole Miss where he spent the past four years.
The 23-year-old is just starting out his professional basketball life with the Memphis native feeling like he is settling in nicely already and is ready to help Willetton on both ends of the floor as the season rolls on.
“I felt like it was a great opportunity for me later on in the season that I was waiting for so I got on task and I’m glad to be here. I think I bring athleticism and defence, I can also bring some offensive versatility for match ups with bigger defenders,” Hymon said.
“It was a culture shock but I got adjusted and the city is great, the people are great so I feel comfortable here already.
“I’ve been getting along with the teammates pretty good and the older guys like Mo and Huss have been settling me in. The chemistry is going pretty good. To bring a championship here, that’s be a great thing to do.”
One player who won’t need time to adjust to playing in the SBL and life in Australia is Barrow.
This will now be his fourth season in the SBL and he’s now played 91 games in the league with the first two seasons with the Buccs before joining the defending champion Redbacks in 2018.
Over his 91 games, he is averaging 19.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting at 50.9 per cent from the field and 34.1 per cent from three-point territory.
Barrow has proven himself a tremendous all-round SBL player over the past three years and he’s now looking forward to settling in quickly with the Tigers in what will be his first official basketball action since the Redbacks’ season ended last year in the quarter finals against the Senators.
“I think one of the strengths that I bring to this team is defensiveness. I can shoot, I can post up and I can defend. Steve harps on about defence and I totally agree with him. I feel defence wins the games,” Barrow said.
“I like the culture of the team, everybody gets along. Steve, the mindset he has for his team, they always play hard whether they are smaller or taller than other teams. They play hard and it keeps them in the game and I just enjoy that culture.
“I get along with them all good, I knew most of them before even came here. Me and Hussey have played together since my first year in Australia so I’m really cool with him and I’m just cool with all of my new teammates here.
“The last time I played was September when we lost in the finals last year at the Redbacks. So it’s been a while since I’ve played organised basketball, so I’m most just excited now that the season has started here.”