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“Crappy” 2017 Nearly Made Me Retire: Wesley

Recently retired South East Melbourne Phoenix star Tai Wesley has revealed he almost left the game after a “crappy” season with Melbourne United in 2017.

The two-time NBL champion announced his retirement yesterday but has told NBL Overtime that decision could have come much earlier.

Wesley struggled in his first season with United in 2016/17, averaging 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

After a change of coach in the offseason though, Wesley came back a different player and went on to have his best stretch in the NBL, becoming a key part of Melbourne’s 2018 championship winning team.

“I moved from New Zealand to Melbourne United, I had a really crappy year under Dean Demopoulos,” Wesley said.

“I was ready to hang them up after that year and then he left and I had one more year on my contract.

“Dean Vickerman came in, I had to earn that starting spot and once I earned that…you look at the players I had with me, I had Casper (Ware), I had Josh Boone, I had Chris Goulding, I had Casey Prather, I had some killers on my team.

“To be able to perform the way I did, then I said ok, I’m the man too and we are going to do this. Putting that squad together and being an integral piece on that line-up, then I knew anybody in the post can get this work.”

Wesley began his NBL journey in 2014 with the New Zealand Breakers. After two seasons with the Breakers and one championship (2015), he made the move across the ditch and joined United for two seasons.

After his first season with Melbourne, the options for Wesley were either retirement or getting out of his contract to go elsewhere.

"If Dean Demopoulos would have come back, I would have hung them up or I would have asked out of my contract, try to have gone somewhere else," Wesley explained.

"I couldn't do another year just going back and forth with him everyday on the practice court and I wasn't playing, you know there was a couple games I played two or three minutes a game, so it was a rough year." 

Wesley credits the arrival of Vickerman as the driving force behind a 2017/18 season in which he won a championship with Melbourne as well as being named in the All-NBL Second Team.

"I credit a lot to Dean Vickerman who let me have some leash, let me make some mistakes trying to be a point forward and then drawing up plays where even our guards were like, 'hey, we've got to throw it in, we've got to get Tai the ball' like yo, let's go, let me get a bucket real quick"

Wesley finished his contract with Melbourne and moved on to the Breakers for the 2018/19 season before joining the Phoenix last season.

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