Shepparton Gators won't be holding anything back when they take to court in the opening round of Big V on Sunday.DAMEN FRANCIS March 14, 2014 4:15am
Big V Gators (back) Jack Threlfall, John Woodcock, Tom Crowe, Ian Wright, Nick Dodd, Matt Waight, Dylan Wayman, (front) Bellamey Sims, Shaun Atkins, Shannon Ralph, Matt Bartlett, Tom Frame and Bailey Michel.
Shepparton Gators coach Russell Parker expects a more hostile reception from opposition teams when his side takes to the court in its sophomore season.
The Gators won six of their 18 games and finished ninth on the ladder in their comeback campaign, but gained respect as the season went on and found the going tougher as a result.
‘‘Last year teams underestimated Shepparton at their peril, but now they’ll be taking us more seriously,’’ Parker said.
‘‘We made the finals of the pre-season tournament last week, so we expect teams to be turning up looking to get a good quality game against a quality opponent.’’
The Gators open their campaign against Casey Cavaliers at Shepparton Sports Stadium on Sunday.
Parker will be picking Dylan Wayman’s brain for information about the Cavaliers.
‘‘Dylan used to play for them, so I understand a bit about what they’re likely to run on offence and defence,’’ Parker said.
‘‘They have the same coach and mostly the same players, so we’ll sit down and talk to Dylan at training and find out if there’s anything else we need to know.’’
Wayman, who joined the Gators part-way through the Country Basketball League season, is one of several new faces in this year’s squad, along with CBL captain Matt Bartlett and Shepparton-raised power forward Ian Wright.
Echuca guard Shaun Atkins has also joined the Gators, but at 17 and with the club’s depth at the one and two spots, he is unlikely to be a major part of the rotation initially.
Mainstays Matt Waight, Shannon Ralph, Jack Threlfall and David and John Woodcock form the foundation of the team, while young players Tom Frame, Bailey Michel, Nick Dodd, Tom Crowe and Bellamey Sims round out the squad.
With Ralph still working his way back to full fitness from an ankle injury, Frame is likely to see good minutes at the point, while a shortage of bigs means Dodd looks set to relieve Wright and the Woodcock brothers in the front court.
Wodonga pair Dylan Webb and Beau Sheridan have not returned for a second season, but the door remains open to veteran Seymour guard Robbie Sartori.
Parker tried to coax electric guard Zaine Allen back to the Gators’ set-up, but his current club McKinnon’s promotion to championship division proved too good an opportunity to turn down.
Wright is expected to prove a key acquisition, as he brings much-needed height to the floor.
However, it’s Bartlett who Parker said would be the most significant signing.
‘‘We’re basing our growth and improvement through Matt, which is a lot of pressure on a 25-year-old guard, but he’s such a great leader,’’ he said.
‘‘The expectation and goal we set last weekend is to make finals and even though we have a long-term goal of getting back to championship, that would be a good achievement.
‘‘From a team and club point of view we would love local spectators to come and see what is a truly local team playing at a high level.’’
The Gators will run with a 12-man roster at home games, starting against the Cavaliers on Sunday, but could cut that number for road trips.
Sunday’s game tips off at 2
Today at 8.30pm on SBS television the Insight program casts its eye on Shepparton and asks the question: How do you beat the odds in a place where too many kids drop out of school, and not enough of them find jobs?
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