PERRY Lakes Hawks coach Matt Parsons couldn’t be happier with the way his core group has built now entering his fourth season in charge and no matter how 2020 ends up panning out, he’s excited by what this season and the future could hold.
While the future of the 2020 SBL season remains up in the air thanks to Coronavirus and the Hawks imports for this season Mike Parks Jr and Brachon Griffin were virtually forced to return home as soon as they landed, Parsons is still optimistic what it could hold for Perry Lakes.
He took over a team that was talented but could never quite get out of the first round but on the back of leading the Cockburn Cougars to the 2016 championship, he built more belief in the Perry Lakes group while also working on a group of core players built for sustained success.
Ben Purser, Rob Cassir and Ryan Smith have turned into the mainstay leaders of the group while the continued development of Mitch Clarke, Cooper Hamilton and Bailey Cole-Heath has been impressive to watch.
Obviously you have natural turnover along the way especially with imports and while they would have lost some experience in 2020, having Perth Wildcats NBL legend Shawn Redhage was going to be a significant boost.
With the experience and production of Purser, Cassir and Smith who are all just about still in their prime, the quality of Redhage who is still motivated and productive, and then the youth and development of Clarke, Cole-Heath and Hamilton gives Parsons good reason to like his group.
There’s also the addition of Austin Kisselev from East Perth so with the future of the season unknown and the prospect of being allowed imports in doubt, Parsons would have a strong local group at his disposal and he is proud of how it has developed in his time in charge as coach.
“This is my fourth year now with the club and those young guys have transitioned through since I got here. I only have to think back to when I first got here and how much excitement there was to see success come out of Mitch, Cooper and Bailey,” Parsons said.
“We had zero expectations on them, but they’ve continued to grow and develop, and all three of them could be amazing SBL players.
“Mitch already is and he probably has an NBL ceiling, Cooper goes under the radar but he has probably a similar ceiling, and Bailey is working back from some injuries and other bits and pieces, but his mobility and strength, and love of being around the guys is super important.
“Now you look at it and when we have Ben, Smithers and Cassir around 28 or 29, we’ve brought in Austin Kisselev in that similar bracket to be our core group.
“Then we have this bottom group of 20 or 21 year old’s who are heading on the same trajectory while having those leaders to learn from. It’s about maintaining waves and we’ve been able to do that.”
The Hawks had the benefit of the presence of four-time NBL championship winner Redhage for the second half of last season. He ended up as the starting centre on the team allowing for great versatility in the group despite having played his entire career as a forward.
He ended up producing 15.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists over the 19 games he played with the Hawks before recommitting to play on again in 2020.
Parsons was excited by what having him for a full season would have looked like, but remains glad that if the season does end up starting, Redhage will be a focal point of everything the Hawks do.
“We’re really excited to have Shawn with us for the whole season. He was training with us for the majority of the pre-season and he is really integrated,” he said.
“He allowed us to leverage off his leadership and experience, and he’s such a pleasure to coach and a great, happy, go lucky guy. He’s one of the easiest guys you could ever coach in the sense that you just tell him what to do and he’ll go and do the best that he can.
“He made a professional career out of that and even at 39, he is still one of the hardest working guys we’ve got. He doesn’t look 39 on the court although he might up close. But complements other hard working guys we’ve got like Ben Purser, Ryan Smith and Robbie Cassir.
“These guys aren’t flashy, but they just work tirelessly in all aspects of their game. Shawn is a huge complement piece and we can hopefully put some glossy parts around him. If we get it right, we’re still hoping of having a pretty good year.”
Parsons couldn’t fault the pre-season work that Perry Lakes put in before then seeing his team in action in two solid outings at the SBL Blitz. That was supposed to be a perfect lead into the season before COVID-19 interrupted things.
“I guess like most coaches there would have been 14 coaches saying they had a really good pre-season and everything was cherry ripe and ready to go for the start of the season,” Parsons said.
“The Blitz is a really good opportunity to test a couple of little things out and to feel out the depth players to find out if we have a little something there that can help during the season.
“We had some success with that and had two tough games, there was a lot to like and I really enjoyed how hard teams played that tournament.
“The fully timed games really promoted a more aggressive approach by both clubs so it was a good event and preparation for the season, but obviously that was put on hold.”
While Parsons was happy with the squad he had put together for the 2020 season, there was natural turnover with the departures of Brian Carlwell, Tevin Jackson, Travis Hayto, Dan Thomas and Clint Steindl.
There was also a changeover in his lead assistant coach with John Triscari on board to replace Conrad Francis, but Parsons couldn’t have been happier with the group he was coming into the 2020 season with.
“But we were really happy with our preparation and we thought we did a good job finding a nice balance to our squad. We were really excited by the imports we brought in and really excited by the retaining of players,” he said.
“I guess at the end of every year you sit down and look at what you liked and what you enjoyed. Sometimes basketball needs to be about enjoyment because it’s still a hobby for a lot of people at this level so enjoyment needs to be the No. 1 factor.
“We really wanted to create an environment in the off-season just to try and have some fun, and keep it fresh. We’ve had a fair bit of turnover but most of that came through retirement with Trav Hayto, Jordy Hickert, Josh Garlepp and Dan Thomas, and they’ve moved onto greener pastures.
“We love those guys and they were huge value for our club for a long period of time, and are all championship winning players so we’ll miss them, but it’s an opportunity for young kids to step up.
“We’ve also had a change of direction with BC moving on and Tevin moving on so that’s allowed us to change a few things, and be a more dynamic unit and have a couple of different gears that we weren’t able to try. I was excited for Round 1 but now we just have to wait and see.”
The unfortunate aspect of the postponement of the SBL season is the loss of imports and while Parsons was looking forward to seeing what Parks and Griffin were going to provide, there’s now no guarantee of them being back.
“We had a big guy called Mike Parks Jr who is a 6’9 big bodied, fast, energetic player who would have been a real treat to the league,” Parsons said.
“I think he would have adapted really well and he came from a great program and school in Memphis where he was coached by Penny Hardaway and Mike Miller.
“So we knew he had good grounding and like most professional players, we just were focused on providing structure to his week and doing work and trying to become better professionals. The other one was Brachon Griffin.
“He’s a little bit of a traveller throughout the world. He had a really good college career at a strong Division II program, and he has kept getting better. He’s seen a lot of the world and I think he would have provided a nice little punch for us in this program. Both those guys would have complemented who we already had in this system.”
The SBL’s season remains a possibility to still start in 2020 after the May 31 deadline comes and goes unlike the NBL1 competitions across the country who have already decided to cancel any potential start dates.
That’s a potential significant boost for the SBL this year still but in the bigger picture, Parsons does hope the league joins up with NBL1 to get in line with the rest of the country before too long.
“The disappointing part about NBL1 not going through is because this is a brilliant competition we have here in WA. We have some amazing talent and I feel like we’re letting down those guys who have made the commitment to be in the SBL just because we can’t showcase their talents,” Parsons said.
“Even the coaching staff that’s around the league, for a guy like me who didn’t play NBL, I’ve had some SBL level success and now I’m coaching against some amazing men from an international and professional level. That’s something we should be able to showcase.
“We’ve got this amazing group of young players and we effectively would have fallen behind the NBL1 competition had everything remained how it was meant to be this year. Hopefully now we still have a competition so we can still get something out of this year where the rest of the country now misses out.
“Then next year hopefully we join up with NBL1 as a glossy new toy where we can attract people to come here to play. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t make that move but it might have its positives now if we can get back and play. The league is still strong, it will continue to be strong and with or without the imports, hopefully we can have a ripping albeit shorter season.”