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Hardball in Puerto Rico

A beautiful island surrounded by the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea has been the home for half a dozen NBL stars this off-season. AJ Ogilvy, Daniel Johnson, Ebi Ere, Cedric Jackson, Kevin Lisch and Omar Samhan have made the long trip to Puerto Rico to take up contracts in the Baloncesto Superior Nacional de Puerto Rico (BSN). However, despite the common impression that the Caribbean nation is an island of relaxation and vacation, the BSN has proved to be a tough and hard-working league for our players. In particular, 2015/16 All NBL First-Team member AJ Ogilvy has been experiencing an incredible run whilst representing the Atenienses De Manatí, averaging 14.1 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds for his side. “There’s a lot more games, we play between 3-5 times a week,” said Ogilvy from Manatí - a municipality located near the north coast. This is due to the compressed nature of the BSN competition, where this year the regular season commenced in February and wraps up May 9, with the playoffs to follow. But that seems to suit the towering centre just fine. “I’m playing a lot of games and not really doing much training so it’s the ideal job as a professional athlete. It’s been nice just to just come in and jump straight into games and be playing so much," he said. “It’s challenging trying to find some consistency in playing that many games in a week, but it’s a lot of fun too." Ogilvy wouldn't mind catching up with his fellow NBL colleagues, but the tight schedule means it is challenging. “There’s plenty of Aussies around to have a chat to before the game but with how busy everyone is it’s hard to do much outside of basketball at all." QrkIvhy4.jpg-large The experienced 27-year old is no stranger to different competitions, having previously played in Spain, Turkey and Germany. “The level here is similar, maybe a bit more athletic, than in Europe. A lot of guys can shoot the hell out of the ball," he said. "It is similar to Australia in a lot of ways,  the biggest difference is there’s a lot more athletes over here." Atenienses de Manatí currently sit eighth (12W & 13L) in the 11-team competition, but in a very close league they’re only three wins off top spot – in fact, the bottom team Indios at (10W & 15L) are only five wins from the top of the table. “We’re in a bit of a fight at the moment,” said Ogilvy. “We’ve had a bit of a tough stretch with five games on the road in a row and we’ve lost our last two so we need to come home strong in the last three weeks, leading into playoffs. “It’s the top eight who go through but we want a good seed towards the top of the pack so we need to win a few down the stretch. We’ve still got 10 or 11 games left.” While the schedule is full on, AJ still has plenty of time to think about the upcoming NBL season where he will again suit up for the Illawarra Hawks. Having recently penned a new three-year deal with last year’s semi-finalists, he is clearly excited about what lies ahead for the team under the instruction of Head Coach Rob Beveridge. “I’ve been talking to the coaches at Illawarra and speaking to the guys. "We’re trying to build something important in the Illawarra region so we’ve been in contact with each other constantly and talking to Bevo and Matt Flinn [Assistant Coach] making sure we can get the best team together for next year," he said. “It’s definitely something that I’m thinking about while I’m over here."
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