Hungry Jack's NBL
Dead eye Dexter
It took him four games to score his first NBL points and five to make his first shot, but Dexter Kernich-Drew has shown over the past fortnight he could be the answer to the Perth Wildcats' search for more points from beyond the three-point line. Kernich-Drew signed with the Wildcats for his first stint in the NBL with the Melbourne-born sharpshooter coming off a successful college career at Washington State University before playing in Brazil and then most recently with Waverley in the Big V competition. [ooyala code="03dmo2NzE6vM9lFWZYT0MHqpg1fMrQry" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="500" height="400" auto="false"] He shot 43 per cent from the three-point line during his Pac-12 career and after spending time training with the Wildcats last season, signed a two-year deal with the defending champions. It took the 25-year-old until the fourth game of his NBL career against the Illawarra Hawks at Perth Arena for him to score his first points, a pair of free-throws. Two days later as Perth beat Melbourne United at Hisense Arena, Kernich-Drew finally knocked down his first field goal in the NBL – and made two threes for the afternoon in his team's three-point win. Despite the slow start, he remained confident that he could make an impact on the court. "It was just about trying to get the monkey off my back by getting that first bucket out there," Kernich-Drew said. "I was able to do that a couple of games ago and then with what's taken place it's given me a bit more opportunity to get out there, and get some more looks. I just have to make the most of that opportunity and run with it." He then knew that with the absence of starting guards Damian Martin and Jarrod Kenny, and following the departure and subsequent return of Jaron Johnson after two games from Andre Ingram, that there would be more chances for him last Friday night. Kernich-Drew knew that coming in but coming off hitting his two threes against Melbourne, he was feeling good and ended up delivering 14 points on the back of three triples. "I knew I was going to play a bit more than I had been playing with the injuries that we had," he said. "Trev (coach Trevor Gleeson) gives us all the confidence in the world that we can come in and contribute, and play our role. I just tried to do my best when I was out there." Kernich-Drew has worked hard through college and now since on being able to get himself open to take, and make, three-point shots at a high clip. He also knows that remaining confident that your next shot will fall no matter what's happened previously is key to being successful as a shooter. That's especially now that he is his team's best threat from deep with the departure of Ingram who was signed specifically to shoot the three ball. "What I've worked on the most throughout the last couple of years is trying to be able to knock down shots coming off screens, and just trying to provide energy out there," Kernich-Drew said. "As a shooter you can't afford to have a conscience out there, you just have to shoot it and know that you won't hit every shot. "But your job out there is to take the shot to spread the floor and create space for other guys who can drive and penetrate. That's what I'm trying to help the team out with more than anything." Kernich-Drew is excited to have been brought into the Wildcats on a two-year contract and has no doubt that it's the ideal place for him to continue to learn and develop, while also enjoying playing front of almost 13,000 fans at Perth Arena. "It's a great opportunity to be able to play in front of Perth fans and for such a great club. For any kid coming out of college wanting to play for a team and learn how to be successful, this is the club to be at," he said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity and I'm just going to keep rolling with it and work hard, and see what happens. We all know that anyone is going to be given their opportunity on any given day, so you just have to be ready for that." While Kernich-Drew was impressive last Friday in Wollongong, the Wildcats did lose their second game of the season. Now he and his teammates are focused on getting back on the winner's list this Saturday night at home to the Adelaide 36ers. "We felt we let one slip the other day in Wollongong even though we were undermanned. There was just a few things here and there that we can clean up so that doesn’t become a habit," he said. "We know they (Adelaide) are a tough opponent and they've got a couple of guys who are playing pretty well, kind of in the same situation to us with their captain going down and other guys having to stand up. "We are playing at home so that will give us a bit more confidence out there and if we can do the things that Trev asks then we should go alright." Playing without key guards Martin and Kenny made things difficult for Perth last Friday and could do so again this Saturday night, but with Corban Wroe stepping up to start and Jackson Hussey signed to help, Kernich-Drew is confident the Wildcats have enough cover with everyone stepping up. "Damo and Jarrod do so much on both sides of the floor for us, but it can't be up to them to dictate that all the time," Kernich-Drew said. "Everybody has to be able to do that from time to time, and I think as other guys get a bit more experience out there it will become easier for us. "Corban did a great job the other night and we just have to keep rolling with whoever is out there and give 100 per cent because that's what Trev asks of us." Speaking of Martin, coach Trevor Gleeson won't rule out his earlier expected return this Saturday night take on Jerome Randle and the 36ers. "The swelling was a lot more than was anticipated with his jaw and there was more work done in the surgery than we expected, so we have to wait on the doctors' appraisal before going from there," Gleeson said. "Typical Damo, he wanted to play last Friday night. But we have to do the smart thing for him and make sure that the doctors are alright with it first of all, and secondly that he's OK practicing with it. I don’t know if he will get a practice in before the game but we certainly won't play him without that."