THE Mandurah Magic started 2019 reasonably well but the last three losses by a combined 129 points is testing the patience of coach Aaron Trahair, but he will continue to trust the group he has and is urging persistence for them to get back on track.
After two tough development years with Trahair in charge as coach following the former NBL stalwart beginning his SBL coaching journey at the Geraldton Buccaneers, it looked like the Magic were taking significant steps forward to open the 2019 campaign.
There were narrow losses to start with against Lakeside and Kalamunda before Mandurah produced a dominant second half to come away with an impressive 95-79 road win over the Eastern Suns to close Round 2.
There was nothing to suggest what was to come over the past three games though. The tough run for the Magic began with a 51-point loss to East Perth before a 47-point defeat to Perry Lakes a week later and then on Saturday night, a 31-point defeat at the hands of the Senators at Warwick Stadium.
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Coming off three losses by a combined 129 points is enough to shake the confidence of anyone involved in any program, but Trahair is urging persistence from his Magic playing group and he did see some better signs against the Senators on Saturday night despite the eventual 31-point margin.
“Persistence is a word we’ve been using quite a bit lately in regards to just sticking to the process and believing what we are doing will eventually reap some rewards,” Trahair said.
“At the end of the day, I wasn’t overly disappointed with this performance. I thought we were a lot better and we just need to tidy things up.”
Trahair remains confident in the playing group he has at his disposal too that they can get things back on track starting as early as Easter Thursday up against the winless South West Slammers at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre.
“I believe this group can get things back on track. Even this week was a glimpse in regards to them believing in what we are doing and they kept fighting,” he said.
“The first thing we spoke about all week was that we’d been knocked down a couple of times but had to get back up and swing back. It’s not going to happen overnight but overall I was reasonably happy considering the margin at the end with how we played.”
Trahair won’t be forced into making any rash personnel decisions just because of a couple of tough weeks.
He will continue to persevere with the development of the likes of Cousteau Kyle, Akau Deng, Riley Parker, Dadi Pal, Nick Lawrence, Chad Miegel, Dylan Moir, Aaron Kearing and Perry Lakes recruit Jake Cannell.
Trahair also has faith that Marvin Smith will get better as he gets healthier again and fits into the team better to improve on his current 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.
“I think we’ll stick with the players we’ve got, including Marvin. He hurt himself in the game we won against Kalamunda and missed the one against East Perth, and played against Perry Lakes when he probably wasn’t quite right, Trahair said.
“Then this week he said he was good to go and there were some glimpses of what he can certainly do. We just need to find him more good shots truth be told. He went 5/8 from the field and we just have to give him the ball a little bit more in positions where he can show what he can do.”
Shaun Stewart is back with the Magic for his second season as point guard and is again putting up impressive numbers with 24.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists a game.
Key to his productivity within this Mandurah team is not only looking to score and shoot himself, but to continue to work on bringing his teammates into the game and not losing faith in that process even if they are missing the shots that Trahair wants them taking.
“It continues to be a balancing act for Shaun, because he’s a scoring point guard but he is a point guard still so it’s his responsibility to get others involved and run the offence. I think this week he did a pretty good job of distributing the ball but we just missed shots,” he said.
“That’s another thing in regards to persisting to do that because it’s hard when you penetrate and kick it out to guys, and then they keep missing shots. Sometimes you can lose faith a little bit in continuing to do that so that’s that juggling act that we have to get a good balancing act with.
“Hopefully Shaun sticks with what he’s doing and guys can start knocking down shots and we can loosen Marvin up a little bit to give him more of a chance. I’m pretty happy with the two Americans I’ve got and they’ll stay around.”
As for what happened from that impressive win over Kalamunda to the 51-point loss to East Perth where they scored just 48 points, Trahair can’t quite put his finger on it but he acknowledges that Eagles defeat has rocked the confidence of the group.
He hopes they have started to shake that off and can put it behind them now.
“In terms of the game against East Perth, in the first half I didn’t think we played overly poor, we just really shot the ball awfully. Shaun is a bit of a barometer for us and he went 2/20 that night which he’ll probably never do again in his life,” Trahair said.
“But in the first half we weren’t too bad even though we were shooting at 18 or 20 per cent at half-time which means you won’t be in too many games. But we were only 13 points down still. Then in the second half of that game, we capitulated truth be told and we just coughed the ball up again and again with the pressure that they put on us.
“The wheels fell off and we basically threw the towel in, which was the most disappointing thing from that night. That knocked us around a little bit with our confidence and then we came up against a red hot Perry Lakes team.
“They went 20/40 or something from three and we were a little bit better that game, but they just completely outclassed us and were too big and strong for us. Sometimes that happens and you can live with that against a team as talented as that. But the East Perth game certainly knocked us around a bit and it’s taken us a bit of time to get back on our feet.”
Travis Durnin was recruited to the Magic this season and has made a solid start averaging 13.0 points and 4.7 rebounds a game, but that does feel like it’s only scratching the surface of what he’s capable of producing given his athletic traits.
He now gets to play his first game against his former Slammers team on Easter Thursday and Trahair is looking forward to seeing what he can deliver.
“I know what it’s like to play against your former teams and I can kind of remember what that was like when I still played,” Trahair said.
“It was always nice to come in against an old club and I know he has a lot of close friends down there, and I can’t speak for him, but I’d like to think he’ll be really motivated this week and excited to play against them and have a good game. I hope he does too.”