WARWICK Senators coach Mike Ellis is backing in a taller and longer side this Men’s SBL season to give them a new look that he hopes can take them further than the semi finals of 2018 while the improved depth is another aspect he’s liking early in 2019.
The Senators took a significant step forward in 2018 going from being a team just happy to reach the playoffs to one that was ready to make an impact there which they showed by eliminating the defending champion Perth Redbacks.
While they lost in the semi finals to the Joondalup Wolves, it was a significant stride forward for the Senators with Ellis at the helm and he is looking for them to build on that further in 2019.
And it could be the player they have lost that inadvertently could make them into a different looking line-up that could see them tough to stop the longer the season unfolds.
The departure of Corban Wroe has meant that the Senators don’t have a genuine starting point guard but what it does mean is that the five players they have on the court, aside from backup point guard Oliver Cross, make them significantly longer and taller than most opponents.
With Justin King, Cody Ellis, Caleb Davis, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk, Jay Thwaites and now even at times Rob Anshila sharing the ball carrying duties, that gives the Senators a significantly different look than other teams in the competition.
It might cause difficulties trying to stop some of the quicker and athletic guards at times defensively, but it will make the Senators tough to match up on too given the height and length advantages it will create.
It’s still a work in progress for the Senators with how it will all come together but the signs with a full group on Saturday night in a 31-point over the Mandurah Magic was exciting following the arrival of Anshila for his first game of his second season at Warwick.
The Senators’ ability to play above the rim offensively thanks to Anshila, Swaka Lo Buluk, Ngor Manyang and even Ash Litterick makes them tough to stop when they are attacking the basket with the likes of Ellis, Davis and King on the perimeter.
Anshila is also one of the best shot blockers in the competition up the other end so Ellis is excited by what his taller and longer group of 2019 can produce as they continue to grow as a unit together.
“If you look at us, we don’t have a monster or a real big guy but we are actually quite tall and long right across the board. At one stage I had five guys on the court and the shortest guy out there was 6’6, 6’7,” Ellis said.
“Admittedly a couple of them were the bench kids and all that but even so, the thing is we have to get used to utilising our advantage we have with our length and size. I don’t think we are doing that at the moment as well as we can and that’s going to be a learning curve for us.
“But the upside is that we are heading in the right direction and having Robbie back makes us different. All of a sudden you’ve got a shot blocking presence in there and he threw out a couple of shots in that game. He’s only just got here too and he’s finding his way but he makes us look a lot different.”
Now that Anshila is with the Senators after his delayed arrivals, it gives Ellis plenty of options to go with different line-ups that can play totally different styles.
They could go with a quick line-up at times if they play Cross at the point guard and they decide to go small with the likes of Ellis, Davis, King and then possibly Anshila or Swaka Lo Buluk.
They can also go extra big if they wanted someone like Ellis in the one spot playing with King, Anshila, Manyang and Litterick.
There are any number of combinations Ellis can now throw out there which gives them a totally different look, and in turn he hopes makes them mighty difficult to stop in the long run.
“What we haven’t had in the past is that depth where we can rest our key guys. That’s why Robbie being here now, I don’t need to play all those other guys 30-plus minutes,” Ellis said.
“They can play a little less so we get more efficiency out of them by playing less minutes which is going to be a positive for us. But at the same time we have to work our way through that.
“He just gives another dimension to what we do and he allows us to put different people in and play a different style depend on who’s on the floor.
“We can change it up quite regularly and this week I actually thought the guys coming off the bench really gave us a lift, certainly in that first half when we were struggling a little bit. I thought they were the difference to keep us right up there.”
As for the Senators’ start to the season, given they have only played one game with a full roster Ellis is reasonably happy to be 3-2. He might have thought they deserved to be 4-1 had it not been for a narrow loss to the Giants on the road, but he’ll certainly take 3-2 over 2-3 at this point.
“I think we probably should have one more win, we probably shouldn’t have lost the Kalgoorlie game because we had a chance there and lost that. But we weren’t full, this was the first game that we’ve played with a full team,” he said.
“So really being down an import we’ve done OK to this point and I’m realistic to think one more win was where we probably deserved to be, but at least it wasn’t one more loss. I’m OK with where we’re at right now.”
The Senators are now preparing to host the Redbacks on Easter Thursday at Warwick Stadium.
Warwick did eliminate Perth in last year’s quarter finals and also beat them in Round 1 of this season by 35 points at Belmont Oasis, but Ellis knows they’ll be a different outfit on Thursday and he’s looking forward to the occasion.
“I hope we get a good turnout. The Easter game is always a good one and it’s nice for the guys to work their butts off, play the game and then you have the whole long weekend off,” he said.
“We just have to focus on getting the job done on Thursday but it should be a good occasion. Against Redbacks, it’s always a good rivalry so I’m expecting a good crowd.”
The Senators will also be wearing special Aboriginal themed jerseys for the Easter Thursday clash and Ellis is proud of his club to be embracing the Indigenous culture especially to celebrate the heritage alongside one of their players, Oliver Cross.
“We’ll also be wearing our Indigenous singlets and they are fantastic. They have a full story behind them and the guy who designed them has done a fantastic job. It will be a significant occasion for everybody at the club for us to wear those and it’s going to mean a lot for a lot of people,” Ellis said.
“It’s one thing to recognise the Indigenous culture, but when you actually have guys in your team with that heritage it makes it that bit more special. It really does mean a lot and it’s a great thing that the league is doing, and our club is leading the way with that. We are very happy to continue to support everything to do with that.”