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Adelaide 36ers – 2016/17 Season Preview

Adelaide 36ers: The need for speed Last season: 14-14; missed playoffs First game: Friday, 7 October v Illawarra Hawks (WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong) Arrived: Terrance Ferguson, Majok Deng, Anthony Drmic, Eric Jacobsen, Adam Doyle Departed: Adam Gibson, Anthony Petrie, Ebi Ere, Lucas Walker   What happened last season Jerome Randle came to town. Arriving with the 36ers sitting 1-2, ‘Handles’ produced 40 points in his opening two games to lead his team past Cairns and the Kings, but from there it was a roller-coaster ride for Adelaide fans. It took a devastating road loss to the Crocs in Round 10 to finally get the season on the upswing, the 36ers winning seven of their next eight games as Randle and struggling import Ebi Ere produced some offensive magic, averaging a combined 51ppg at 60 per cent over a three-game stretch. But just as it appeared Joey Wright’s men were rolling to their third straight playoff campaign, hoops tragedy struck in the form of injury to Randle, Adelaide lost their final four games and 2015/16 went down as the season that could have been. What did the 36ers learn? If recruitment is anything to go by, coach Wright learned that age and speed don’t mix. Wright’s style requires high energy at both ends, and the inability of Ebi Ere and Adam Gibson to stay fit hampered last year’s team, as did the physical struggles of Anthony Petrie, who battled manfully as always but was below his usual best. Into the line-up in their place come Anthony Drmic (24), Majok Deng (23), Eric Jacobsen (22) and Terrance Ferguson (18), who Wright will expect to bring energy, versatility, athleticism and intensity while spending less time in the medical room than their predecessors. At 208cm, Jacobsen brings greater size than Petrie at the four-spot, meaning extra help for Daniel Johnson guarding the NBL’s big men – who seem to keep getting bigger and better each season – while Deng provides another frontcourt shooter who can open up room for Randle. What do we already know? That Randle is a superstar. If coach Wright were able to design a point guard Jerome would be it – small, lightning quick and at his happiest ‘ad libbing’ in transition. Leading up to his injury late last season, Randle had scored less than 20 points in just two of his previous 16 games, and shot below 40 per cent from the field just once in that timeframe. Can he repeat such a brilliant first season? No doubt opposition teams will be better prepared, but with shooters like Ferguson, Drmic and Deng now added around him, keeping Randle out of the lane could get even more difficult.   What’s the question mark? Experience. Drmic, Ferguson, Jacobsen and Deng are new to professional basketball, Adam Doyle is getting his first real experience in the big time, Matt Hodgson is heading into just his second season and new captain Mitch Creek is a 24-year-old who has never been a regular starter. Perhaps the biggest lack of experience is behind Randle at point guard, where Nathan Sobey, Brendan Teys, Doyle and Drmic appear to be back-up by committee, and that could spell trouble if Randle struggles with injury. Without a core group of veterans many expect the 36ers to be inconsistent, especially up against veteran rosters who understand each other’s game well. Petrie and Gibson will be sorely missed in this area, so the ability of Creek and Randle to set standards and keep this team level could be vital. Reason for optimism? Talent. Pure talent. Forget experience, these 36ers are going to dare teams to keep up with their speed, athleticism and straight-up basketball ability. There is no point guard in the NBL more dangerous than Randle, no big man better in the open floor than Johnson, no small forward who hustles and runs harder than Creek, while both Drmic and Deng are expected to give Rookie of the Year a shake. Hodgson, Jacobsen, Teys and Sobey will play the roles Wright asks of them, and perhaps the difference between Adelaide being an entertaining team and a playoff team is Ferguson reproducing the shooting that made the world take notice at this year’s Nike Hoop Summit.   Written by Paulo Kennedy for NBL.com.au
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