HAVING shown he can light it up like few players in the competition, Ridell Camidge is hoping he can be a difference-maker for the Joondalup Wolves over the next six weeks as he continues to enjoy life in Australia and playing in the SBL fresh off his college career.
Camidge is fitting in tremendously at the Wolves in his first season as a professional after four years at college which culminated in his senior year at Oklahoma City University.
The North Carolina-native is proving quite the offensive juggernaut with the Wolfpack too as he settles nicely into a group that has played in the past four Grand Finals alongside Earnest Ross with Kevin Davis returning in 2019.
They have joined a team still led by Seb Salinas, Trian Iliadis, Rob Huntington, Reece Maxwell, Ben Ironmonger and even 379-game former league MVP Damian Matacz.
Camidge arrived at the Wolfpack this season fully aware he was joining the team that is the benchmark in the competition on and off the court.
The last three championships might have been won in the Men’s SBL by the Perry Lakes Hawks, Perth Redbacks and Cockburn Cougars, but the common denominator on Grand Final night have been the Wolves.
They can’t be called anything but the best team of the past decade having played in six of the past eight Grand Finals for championships wins in 2011 and 2015.
But losing three Grand Finals in-a-row is a lot to deal with and now with one round of the regular season remaining with the Wolves again a championship contender sitting in second position, Camidge would love nothing more than to help them win that elusive championship.
“It would mean a lot to help them accomplish something they’ve been trying to do for so long now. They’ve always had the talent to do it, it’s just certain things that don’t go to plan that’s happened,” Camidge said.
“It would mean a lot and there’s nothing else that’s on my mind except trying to win this championship just like everyone else. Everyone on the team has the same mindset and it would mean a lot to all of us.”
Camidge is in the middle of a tremendous first season as a professional with the Wolves averaging 19.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game while shooting at 41.6 per cent from the floor, 39.3 per cent from deep and 83.5 per cent from the foul line.
He has proven himself a solid defender too and while a little different in terms of an import guard to the tremendous playmaker that Brian Sullivan was in 2018, Camidge is more than capable of handling the ball and running the offence.
But his great strength is obviously his vast array of offensive weapons with Camidge a tremendous shooter equally adept at creating his own shot or being able to hit on catch and shoot situations.
Camidge can also take the ball to the rack with aggression too and is effective at finishing around the rim so he has one of best all-round offensive games in the league and when he catches fire, he can be unstoppable.
That was best highlighted with his 46-point outburst against the South West Slammers in the highest-scoring individual game by anyone this season and that was despite playing with his sore foot.
“My father always told me that they come in threes so if I hit one then you have to be ready for two more to come and I’ll be looking to get them up. Sometimes you have nights where you just feel numb and that Slammers game was like that,” he said.
“There wasn’t a shot that I wasn’t prepared to take, I was just numb, and it didn’t matter who was guarding me. I just came down and took whatever the defence gave me, that’s basically about it. There’s no feeling like it when you are feeling it like that.”
Camidge did miss three games earlier this month due to a foot injury for the Wolves but he has been back for the last two matches against Geraldton and Cockburn, and nothing is going to be keeping from playing Cockburn this Saturday night and right through the playoffs.
“I’m getting close to being fully healthy again. I’m still doing some rehab and stuff, but I came back expecting it to be 100 per cent but it’s not quite there so there was a bit of disappointment there because I didn’t think I’d have trouble adjusting back to playing again,” Camidge said.
“But I know how I have to go about it now and I’m ready. If I’m not 100 per cent come the playoffs, I’m going to play like I’m 100 per cent anyway so it’s not an issue. I won’t be sitting out no more and I’m ready regardless of how the foot is feeling. Whether I’m 100 per cent or not, I’ll be giving 110.”
Camidge had always dreamed of playing basketball professionally as a youngster growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina or while attending New Hanover High School and then threw his college years at Cloud County, Charlotte, Tarleton State and finally Oklahoma City University.
Like most, that dream was to reach the NBA and Camidge wasn’t too sure what was out there outside of that, but once he realised the Wolfpack were interested in him he wanted to take them up on the offer and has never looked back since.
“I honestly didn’t have much options at all, this was my first call. My agent had a few guys calling him about me but nothing really stuck, but once he came in with these guys they really locked in and as soon as I found out I was over here within a month so it was a pretty quick transition,” Camidge said.
“I’m just looking to make the most of this situation to try and get as far as I can from here with my career. Playing professional basketball was always my mindset when I was growing up and going through high school.
“I wanted to be a pro and the goal was to always to go to the NBA, but really I would be happy just to get paid doing what I love as a pro. That’s what I’m doing right now so I’m on the right track. I never thought I’d be in Australia doing it, but i ‘m sure happy that I am.”
Camidge couldn’t be happier with the way he has settled into basketball life at the Wolfpack and into the lifestyle in Australia in his first venture following college to play internationally.
But there’s always things you miss from home and for Camidge it’s the chicken that he can’t quite find to his liking out in Australia.
“I really like it out here. The people have given me a warm welcome and everyone is so nice, and the weather is cool too. I actually like the rain so I don’t mind this time of the year, it was a bit too hot when I first got here,” Camidge said.
“Everything is so balanced right now. The only thing I really don’t like is the prices for the meals and the food, that’s about it I have to complain about.
“I’m really missing my normal Chick-fil-A or Bojangles food from back home, the chicken is quite different out here I’ve noticed. But I do like the kebabs I’ve tried out here. I really like those, the meat boxes can go a long way from one of those shops.”
As for anything else that has surprised him about Australia, it’s actually the ants that he is finding it the toughest to come to terms with.
“I was expecting to see a lot more kangaroos but I haven’t really been out like that either,” he said.
“What I really need to get adjusted to is how big the spiders are and then especially all of the ants. Once you see one ant, another 100 show up so that’s something I need to get used to.”
In terms of the basketball, one thing that has stood out to Camidge has significantly different to college to playing in the SBL is the way the referees officiate, especially the use of hands on defence.
“I always thought that no matter where I go all the world basketball won’t really change, but really here the biggest thing I’ve had to get adjusted to here is how the referees call the game,” he said.
“That was the biggest thing and learning how to exaggerate showing your hands on defence so you won’t get called as much.
“I guard 94 feet of the court so that was a big adjustment for me because I was ending up with two fouls early in the season and would have to sit basically for the rest of the first half.
“That was basically the biggest adjustment, everything else has been pretty cool to get used to and staying healthy has been the other big thing.”
While it has taken some adjusting for Camidge in terms of the way he plays defence coming up the floor, really once you become accustomed to the way the game is officiated you can get used to it without too many problems.
“Making those adjustments isn’t that big because you are taught much the same thing, but it’s just here you have to exaggerate other things more,” he said.
“In college we would want to make them go to a certain direction, but basically here all you really want is to show your chest and keep your hands out. Any time you bump you have to do it with your chest so it’s not that hard of an adjustment, it’s just something you have to get used to after a while.”
Camidge wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of level of play in the SBL when he arrived having played at a high standard in college finishing up his senior year at Oklahoma City University.
But he has enjoyed the level of competition he’s come up against in the SBL especially in his position which sees him matching up on the likes of Cameron Williams, DeAngelo Isby, Damien Scott, Marshall Nelson, Josh Braun, Shaun Stewart, Jack Isenbarger, Caleb Davis and Clint Steindl.
“There are some tough guys in this league and Marshall Nelson was actually in one of my college conferences a couple of years so there’s some tough guys. I really like Marshall Nelson’s game, I really like Shaun Stewart’s game and we went to the same junior college as me,” he said.
“Marvin Smith as well, I really like him as a player and I like a lot of these guys out here I’m playing against. Josh Braun is really a killer too and I think the competition is pretty similar to what I experienced in college.
“You get your outstanding players and then you get your role players who you have to watch for who can get hot in two shots. The competition is pretty high and you have to adjust to that wherever you go to play.”
Camidge recently celebrated his 23rd birthday overseas for the first time and while it took a while for people back home to catch up, his phone did eventually light up as he continues to enjoy adjusting to life in Australia and bonding with some players in similar situations.
“It was different because we are 12 hours ahead so my phone was like silent for the first 12 hours but as soon as midday hit the next day I started getting a lot of calls and it was different for sure. But I enjoyed it just like I’m enjoying everything else out here,” Camidge said.
“I call out to a few guys over here and I’ve been hanging out with Cam, I’ve chilled with Shaun a little bit and even the guys in Kalgoorlie I hung out with them when we were up there on that trip.
“I try to show my face as much as I can and the guys on the team are really good at getting together all the time and doing stuff.
“So the chemistry here in our group is real but as much as I can on the trips and things, I do what I can to get to know guys around the league but not too much because we still have to play against them.”