GOLDFIELDS Giants coach Wayne Creek is happy with his team’s 4-3 start to the season and while the additions of Jay Bowie, Patrick Burke, Mayo Malek and David Humphries have been important, he can’t be more impressed with Daniel Forlano, Brandon Holloway and Jerome Reid.
The Giants haven’t been quite able to recapture that stunning form in the second half of 2015 that saw them storm home to reach the semi finals after knocking off the Geraldton Buccaneers in the opening round.
It’s been a challenging past three seasons, particularly in 2018, but Creek’s heart and soul is with the Giants so when they needed a new coach, he was only too happy to put his hand up again.
Having played 312 games for the club between 1991 and 2007, Creek’s passion for basketball in Kalgoorlie runs deep and now he is liking what he is seeing come together at the Giants this season.
The season has included road wins over Kalamunda and East Perth while suffering narrow losses to Joondalup and Rockingham, while splitting their home games to date against the Senators and Flames.
That has them sitting at 4-3 coming into this weekend’s double against the Buccaneers starting in Kalgoorlie on Saturday night and then in Geraldton on Sunday.
It’s a largely new group at the Giants too with Jay Bowie returning for a second stint with the club with Patrick Burke, Mayo Malek, David Humphries, Fletcher Klasztorny and Michael Gardner also new additions.
Creek is happy with how they’ve blended in but knows longer term the key will be retaining the majority of the group to build some sustained success.
“We’ve got a good blend. The D1 team is in its third year now so guys have been getting blooded even though we still have a long way to go because unfortunately we don’t have WABL,” Creek said.
“That means being from the country you are always on the backfoot a little bit, but even though it’s been a lean couple of years the guys are still here, turning up and getting better. Then they are pushing our bench SBL players so they are getting better and then they are then pushing our starters.
“Having the likes of Dave and Mayo being Australian players coming in, they are quality players. Jay has also come back and he’s an absolute competitive. He wants to win at all costs and then you have a guy like Pat come in after four years at college in his first stint, and the guy’s a workhorse.
“Having those positive influences is definitely helping nurture the next line of guys coming through. What the club wants and needs is to have that stability now. You look at the successful clubs and they don’t change out many players from year to year.
“If you have the core nucleus together, it puts you in a better position. Otherwise if you have to essentially recruit heavily every year and buy a team where you are buying quality. So you have to either be cashed up and buy all these awesome players or you try to nurture your guys, get some key recruits and then hopefully get some stability. I’m hoping that’s the way we’re heading.”
While there’s no question the influence of Bowie, Burke, Malek and Humphries seven games into the new season, Creek knows that every club needs a strong group of leaders.
For him that’s Daniel Forlano, Brandon Holloway and Jerome Reid.
“They are the core of our local nucleus now. We’ve got a group of guys there who are doing what they need to do, and set a good example for the younger guys,” Creek said.
“Every successful team around the league has a couple of those guys whether it’s Seb Salinas and Trian Iliadis at the Wolves, or any number that you can point out.
“They might not necessarily realise that they are our equivalent while at different stages of our careers. I can’t speak more highly of those guys with how impressed I am with what they are doing.”
Forlano is captain of the Giants this season and is now an SBL veteran of 145 games. He started his career with 39 games at Rockingham, but it’s been the move to the Giants in 2015 that has changed his career and Creek wouldn’t want anyone else leading his team.
“Dan feels like he is the old man of the team because he’s 28, but he said that as an 18 or 19-year-old he never would have thought he would play SBL,” Forlano said.
“He didn’t even make a D1 team at Rockingham but then he came to Kalgoorlie, made the Giants and he’s stepped into a leadership role, and now he’s the captain of the team. He could have never thought it would happen so he’s trying to get every ounce that he can out of his body and it shows.
“He is one of the hardest working players on the team and again he is a vocal guy too which is great to have someone like him to have the story of how hard he’s worked to get here.
“That sets a great example to the young guys that you don’t have to be 6’9 and jump out of the gym, sometimes if you work hard and want it enough, you succeed and that’s what Dan has done. Every accolade that he gets or minute of court time, he has earnt well and truly.”
Holloway is vice-captain at the Giants in 2019 and after starting out in 2015 and not playing a game in 2016, he’s back for a third straight season and Creek too is impressed with everything he’s providing including his 7.1 points and 4.6 assists a game.
“Brandon is like the quiet guy on the team but he’s extremely smart. He is our vice-captain and this is his third year back with the club now,” Creek said.
“He is a really smart guy who came back from a knee injury and he was getting back in the swing of things last year, and this year he’s really come out even better. He’s not necessarily putting up massive numbers because he has different players around him, but he controls our team and along with Dan and Jay, they are the brains of our operation.
“He is doing what he needs to do on the court and is playing very well, but you wouldn’t see that in the numbers. He brings us what we need and I love the way he plays. He’s a guy I can sit there and talk to, and he understands basketball and what I need.”
Reid might very well be the most popular member of the Giants playing group. That’s both because of his affable character but also because of the way he always sacrifices himself for the good of team, and always gives his all.
He might not be getting as many minutes this season, but is still contributing 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds, and Creek couldn’t speak more highly of him.
“Jerome is a very quiet, unassuming guy but he is very well loved by the team because he has a great personality,” he said.
“It the start of the year, I told him that he’s now at a point in his career where he’s played his 100 games and he’s almost a veteran of our team. I told him to just enjoy the ride and reflected back to when I played and I didn’t realise when I got to a point where I should start enjoying it and then taking it all in.
“Then all of a sudden you are close to retirement and realise you should have taken it all in earlier. I’ve told him to enjoy the ride and play and have confidence in himself. Unfortunately for Jerome, Dave Humphries has come into the team and been exceptional. That has impacted Jerome’s court time but one of the key things about him is that he doesn’t complain.
“He just goes after Dave every training session so as a 21, turning 22-year-old going after a quality player like Dave, and Jay at times, he has another 10 years of basketball ahead of him. Against East Perth, he stepped up when we needed him and he did the same last week against Flames. There’s time there for him and just has to keep plying his trade.”
Then there is Bowie who is in his fifth season in the SBL now and is a proven star whether the Tampa, Florida native is playing the two or three spots.
He was part of that miraculous playoff run the Giants made in 2015 before spending the past three years as part of a contending team at Willetton. Creek is delighted he chose to come back to the Giants to coincide with his coaching appointment.
“I had taken a break from the league after some time coaching at the Suns and Stirling when he was last here in 2015 but I’d watched a few games and saw that he was a quality,” Creek said.
“Then I kept an eye on him at Willetton but then because the coaching appointment was made a little bit late in the play of things, he basically got presented to me straightaway. I’d only said hello to him, but I got on the phone to him and realised he is a good guy, is easy to talk to and he knows the league.
“He has been a very consistent high quality players over the last four years across the board. I remember after our second or third training session, with what he brings to our team I remember telling Dan Forlano our captain that he is a hell of a lot better than I thought he was going to be.
“I already knew he was good but that’s just what he brings with his intensity. He is an on-court leader and is a workhorse for us, and one of the biggest things I love about him is that he wants to win.
“That doesn’t change if it’s a game of basketball or who gets shotgun in the car, he just wants to win and that becomes quite infectious. You nurture that and encourage it, and it passes on to the other guys. I’m pretty happy having him back.”
The Giants did have a false start with their second import firstly signing Marquis Salmon. Despite coming in the week of the start of the season though, Burke has instantly fitted in and Creek loves everything he is bringing to the Giants.
“The guy hadn’t played basketball for 10 months after college. So he came in and had been here for four days, played his first game and had only trained with us twice before that,” he said.
“We got down to Perth and I started him off the bench to get him acclimatised and he still put up 24 points in his first game. The next day he was absolutely dead and had no legs, and was hurting, but he powered through and did what he had to do against Kalamunda.
“His attitude is very positive, he listens to everything you say and if he doesn’t understands, he asks. Then you only have to tell him once and he gets it. He is just a strong young guy who loves playing inside the post and banging and bashing guys around. He played collegiate ice hockey as well so he likes it nice and physical.
“He’s a different kind of leader to Jay because he leads by example which is a good balance for us to have. It was lucky the way things took place and it was unfortunate Marquise had to go home, but he just wasn’t the player we needed. But Pat gives us that physicality that we do need and it makes a big difference.”
As for the opening six rounds and seven games of the season for the Giants ahead of the break over Easter ahead of the double weekend against the Buccs, Creek can’t fault the start and is looking forward to his group continuing to improve.
“We have had a pretty tough start to the season playing Rockingham twice and Warwick who we got over the line against, Joondalup in the first game of the season and we’ve been on the road twice already,” Creek said.
“The break did come at a good time. A couple of guys were a little bit sore and it gave us that needed rest and the guys have come back this week with good intensity and effort.
“I am pretty pleased with the way things have been going and I can’t complain. We’ve got six new players in our team and if you had told me we’d be 4-3 after seven games six months ago, I would take it so I can’t be anything but happy about it at the moment.”