WITH a fresh challenge in Italy on the horizon, Michael Vigor’s professional basketball career has turned out quite nicely despite not ending up in the NBL but the SBL always remains a priority and to be playing at Lakeside Lightning has brought back all the reasons why.
Following his three years as a development player with the Perth Wildcats, Vigor realised that to become a professional basketball player he might have to broaden his horizons outside of just the NBL and it’s fair to say it’s turned out quite nicely for the big man.
The now 28-year-old, 6’9 centre has put together quite the impressive British Basketball League career starting at the Plymouth Raiders and then continuing in recent seasons with the Bristol Flyers where he was held in such high regard that he was named captain.
With his Scottish heritage, he has also now played with Scotland including at last year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast where they were coached by Rob Beveridge and finished in fourth place.
Vigor has now signed to play professionally in Italy for the first time for the 2019/20 season as well so his career continues to go from strength to strength, but it’s always going to include the SBL especially when he finds an environment he enjoys so much that he has at Lakeside.
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Up until this season, Vigor had played his entire SBL career at the Perth Redbacks having made his debut in 2008 and going on to rack up 203 games including winning the 2017 championship, but he was after a fresh start upon getting back to Perth in 2019.
Then when he saw Kyle Armour was joining the Lakeside Lightning and he met with coach Dave Daniels, that soon become an obvious choice for where he would want to play and he’s never looked back since.
Upon his return back from the United Kingdom, Vigor played 16 games for the Lightning in the regular season helping them to a second place finish and now ahead of a quarter-final series with the Goldfields Giants starting in Kalgoorlie on Saturday night.
Vigor has teamed with the SBL’s all-time rebounds leader and one of the greatest of all-time in Jarrad Prue to form quite the imposing frontcourt for Lakeside with shooters like Jobi Wall and Jack Isenbarger, and versatile guards Kyle Armour and Rowan Mackenzie helping them be an impressive outfit.
Now heading into the finals, Vigor couldn’t be happier with the decision to join Lakeside.
“I’m 100 per cent happy with the move. You always hear about Lakeside being a great place to play and their slogan that ‘It’s more than a game’ is a true testament to who they are,” Vigor said.
“Being here for almost three months now, I’ve slotted in really easily and they have just made it easy for me more than anything. I’ve been trying to give my all to the club in return and it’s been a hit so far. It’s a really special group of guys as well and everyone really just hopes that each other has success which is the key to us doing pretty well.”
Given he now plays basketball all-year round and playing as a professional overseas has its ups and downs, a focus for Vigor when he’s back in Perth is to make sure he is enjoying his basketball.
He immediately thought the best chance at that would be with Lakeside when he first thought about making the move and that’s certainly how it has panned out.
“It’s all about wanting to enjoy my basketball. I worked out with Dave and Kyle in the off-season down at Lakeside and it was a bunch of fun and when you’re playing overseas, it can become a grind at times,” Vigor said.
“That means that when you come back home, you just want to enjoy your basketball and have some fun. When you start playing basketball it’s to have fun and that’s the reason we should still be playing, but it’s not always the case from team to team, and when you are a professional the whole year round.
“But as you get older, you start realising you want to play with mates and it’s about the relationships you build. Winning is always a bonus but to play with one of my best mates in Kyle and have a coach like Dave with some of the older heads there like Jarrad has been unreal.”
While he has been able to turn himself into a quality player wherever he’s playing and able to make a living out of basketball like he always hoped, continuing to improve and broaden his game is something Vigor continues to work on.
While a strong inside player who can score with his back to the basket while also being a good rebounder and defender, Vigor has also turned himself into a more than handy outside shooter and that’s only happened through putting the work in.
“It’s all about getting in the gym from day one and when I left Perth, I started working in Bendigo in what was my first what you would call professional gig in the SEABL. I got in the gym every day getting shots up and developing my game, my IQ and developed my shooting and passing game,” he said.
“Then you just gain that maturity by playing in big games and from being in the same situations so you come back and feel confident in yourself and your ability to shoot the ball if you’ve put the work in. When your teammates trust you to shoot it as well, it just makes it easier and when your coach believes in you, you think your shot is going to fall every time.”
Vigor always knew he wanted to be a professional basketball player and while he did put a lot of those hopes in being able to do it in the NBL, the fact that he’s made such a success of playing in England and now is heading to Italy shows just how many options exist for Australian players.
It might not have been the way he thought he’d make a living from basketball, but Vigor couldn’t be happier with how it’s all turned out.
“I always said to myself that I wanted to be a professional basketball player and I had three very fortunate years at the Wildcats as a development player and I loved my time there. It got me ready for a different opportunity,” Vigor said.
“A lot of guys aim for the NBL and if they fall short, they decide to move into a full-time job and basketball takes a backseat but I guess my message would be not to give up and keep aspiring to find your own pathway.
“At the end of the day, there are so many pathways and anyone who can be a professional basketball player as long as you work hard and have a goal in mind, you have a great chance to get there. Making a career outside the NBL has worked out for me and I think can work for a lot more people if that’s what they want to do.”
Right now the Lightning’s SBL season has Vigor’s full attention and the style of play coach Daniels has in place in combination with the players led by Armour and Prue he’s thriving alongside, and Vigor is enjoying himself as much as ever.
“The winning is just a by-product of the style and system that Dave has in place and at the end of the day, every guy from one to 15 on this team cares about each other,” he said.
“They really want to see each other go on and succeed and do well in life as well as basketball, and I think that’s what makes it so much fun.
“Even when we’ve lost games, it didn’t feel as bad because you knew everyone had your back, was still proud of you and giving it their all. For us to take a step forward in that direction, the winning has come because of that and it’s really fun to be part of so I have no complaints.”
A big reason in Vigor choosing to move to Lakeside was the fact that Armour had already committed to make the move as well.
While Armour had been captain at Willetton and Vigor a championship winner at the Redbacks, both were after a fresh start and Vigor loves having Armour now as his point guard.
“Playing with Kyle is unreal. We just both have a lot of grunt in us and we love to win, and love to compete and that’s what you can see out there when we play together,” Vigor said.
“We actually initially became friends because we hated each other by playing against each other, but to now play on the same team and share some success together, and go into every game looking each other in the eye saying we’ll compete and battle together, it’s an unreal feeling. It has been really cool to experience.”
To have Armour as his point guard and then to have Prue racking up rebound after rebound for the Lightning makes Vigor quite the happy big man. Having had to battle against Prue for years, to now have him on his side is better than he could have ever hoped.
“The rebounding numbers he continues to rack up is pretty phenomenal and it’s just a luxury to play alongside him really, there’s no real other way to explain it and there’s no one else like him that I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“It’s just such a luxury because you know when you take a shot you feel confident because you know if you miss he’s going to grab it, and as soon as you grab you just jump back out and get ready to shoot again. It’s a lot of fun.”
Given Vigor’s first 203 games in the SBL were played alongside Joel Wagner as well who holds the SBL’s all-time assists record and for him to now be playing with Prue certainly makes him feel grateful as well.
“I’ve been very fortunate because more than what they do on the basketball court, they are two outstanding humans. For them to have had such success is a true testament to their character,” he said.
“Joel will always be one of my best mates and for him to break the assists record, I was just so happy for him. Now to play for Jarrad is such a luxury. To play with elite guys like that in the SBL, I consider myself fortunate to have had that opportunity.”
Vigor is right at the top of his game now but playing all-year round season after season is starting to take its toll on his body. He isn’t sure exactly how long he can keep going but right now there’s no end in sight.
“It’s been a real grind at times playing without a break and I’ve been trying to keep the body in shape as best I can. I’ve had a couple of injuries here and there that have kept me out, but overall I’ve just been fortunate to play back to back seasons for seven or eight years now,” Vigor said.
“I don’t think it will last for too much longer, but in the short-term as long as I’m still young enough and fit enough I’m going to keep doing it because at the end of the day, I know it will come to an end at some stage when my body can no longer handle it. I just want to enjoy the game as long as I can.”