Studs and Duds: Round 4

After a heavily disrupted round that featured only a pair of games, NBL Media’s Liam Santamaria lets us know who made the grade and who deserves a little shade.



Caleb Agada (Melbourne United)

This man is straight balling right now.

Notching up his third consecutive game with 20+ points, Agada was everywhere on Boxing Day as his team put the hurt on the Kings.

And I mean everywhere. In his 27 minutes on the floor, the Nigerian registered the incredible stat-line of 24 points, 14 rebounds (!), 3 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocked shots.

“What Caleb did was pretty amazing,” Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said.

“To be a two-guard and have 14 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 4 steals, that’s an incredible all-round game from him tonight.”



Chris Goulding’s return has clearly assisted Agada but he’s also just a really good fit within Melbourne’s defence-oriented system. His activity on that end (including on the glass), combined with his quickness in transition has seen him firmly find his groove over the past couple of weeks.

“I love it here,” Agada noted postgame.

“Everything is really good. I’m comfortable, I’m happy, and we’re winning games so that’s all that matters.”

Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)

While we’re on United, let’s throw some much-deserved love towards CG43.

I mean, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but the Melbourne captain is shooting the absolute heck out of it to begin the season.

Coming off a game last week where he drilled 7 three-pointers, Goulding missed his first few looks in Sydney before catching fire right before half-time. In fact, he scored 13 of his 20 points during a blistering four-minute stretch midway through the second term that saw Melbourne turn a 7-point deficit into a 5-point lead.

It was vintage stuff from the Olympic bronze medallist, who is just in a beautiful place right now in terms of his overall approach to the game.

“I’ve been around the block,” Goulding told the ESPN broadcast postgame.

“I had good looks in the first quarter, I just didn’t make them. If I continue to shoot and continue to be aggressive, I can find my spots.”

Josh Adams (Tasmania JackJumpers)  

Speaking off aggression, that was the secret to Josh Adams’ success this week as he helped the Ants snap a four-game losing streak.

Adams put the three-ball away for the most part on Boxing Day and, instead, looked to put more heat on the rim; an approach that resulted in a Player of the Game performance. 



With his explosive quickness creating issues for New Zealand, Adams got to the bucket and drew fouls, finishing with a team-high 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the stripe.

“We’ve been trying to be more aggressive towards the basket and not settle for early shots,” JackJumpers coach Scott Roth explained.

“Josh has bought into the fact that he can be very dynamic getting to the basket and creating problems there. I loved his intent to get to the rim and create fouls… that opened up some things for us.”

Sam McDaniel (Tasmania JackJumpers)

Before we move on, shout-out also to Sam McDaniel for his outstanding play over the weekend.

His numbers won’t jump off the page (he scored 10 points and grabbed 6 boards) but the championship-winning guard was hugely influential in setting the tone for Tassie defensively.

Roth put McDaniel on Will McDowell-White to begin that ball game and his pressure made life difficult for the Breakers’ point guard. 



As the game progressed, McDaniel’s versatility saw him spend time on dynamic guard Hugo Besson and then, in the second half, power forward Finn Delany. It was far from highlight-reel stuff, but McDaniel just quietly went about having a really big impact on the game.

With his father watching on from the stands, Sammy Mac also made a couple of large plays in crunch time. Up 7 with 90 seconds to play, McDaniel slide across and deflected a pass to an otherwise open Yanni Wetzell before sealing the win with a no-nonsense pull-up down the other end.

There were other Ants who also played well, like Clint Steindl (4-of-5 triples) and Jarrad Weeks (+17 in 12 minutes), but much love to McDaniel for a really impressive two-way performance.

Jeremiah Martin & Yanni Wetzell (New Zealand Breakers)

Let’s not spend too much time on the Breakers in this section but a quick shout-out to Martin and Wetzell for their impressive efforts on Boxing Day.

Wetzell produced his second double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 boards while Martin provided a huge offensive spark in the second half, finishing with 24 points and 8 assists.

Simon Edwards (New Zealand Breakers)

Now THAT’s how you bring the Christmas cheer! Well played, Mr Edwards.


Xavier Cooks (Sydney Kings)

The Kings were heavily undermanned again this week but, despite their loss, let’s take a moment to recognise the tireless contributions of Xavier Cooks.

Along with Jarell Martin, Cooks has been carrying an enormous load for Sydney to begin this season. While it was far from his most efficient outing, the versatile forward brought his trademark energy again this week, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks. 

Just quietly, it was also nice to see Cooks knock down a few more shots from three-point territory. That’s now 6 made triples across his past 4 games and I’m going to assume he’s working on his release with first-year assistant Daniel Kickert as it’s definitely looking smoother.

Oh, and for the record: Cooks is the only player across the entire league averaging at least 13 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block per game. 



Omicron Variant

It goes without saying but this bugger is having a major impact on the competition right now.

Moving faster than a Bryce Cotton snatch-back, the latest Covid variant has recently found its way into several team camps, resulting in the postponement of numerous games. It’s far from an ideal scenario but, with everyone’s health and safety the number one priority, this is the unfortunate reality right now.

In the meantime, I’m sure I speak for the entire NBL community in sending best wishes to all those currently afflicted for a full and speedy recovery. And to everybody stuck in isolation: stay strong – we’re thinking of you.

New Zealand Breakers

Finally, it hurts me… it really does… but the Breakers cop a spot in the duds for letting a golden opportunity slip through their fingers on Boxing Day. 

Desperately searching for their first win of the season, Dan Shamir’s men just didn’t bring the juice to begin their clash with Tasmania. 

Now, I’m not throwing shade at the JJs here. Well, maybe I am. But after an early-season schedule full of really tough match-ups, a clash with an expansion team on a four-game losing streak was the perfect chance for New Zealand to break through. 

Full disclosure: I may even have backed them in somewhat by holding them above a couple of squads in last week’s Power Rankings.

Unfortunately, this Breakers squad is having all kinds of trouble defending. Over the first four rounds, they’ve combined a lack of pressure with an inability to consistently keep guys out of the lane. As a result, they currently rank second last for steals and last for both blocks and defensive effective field goal percentage. The grand sum of all of that, of course, is a defensive rating that sits well and truly at the bottom of the league.  

Sadly, those struggles were the tale of the tape in Tassie as the Breakers gave up half a century across the first two periods in a game where they never got their noses in front.

The Breakers are doing it tough but the reality of their situation is this: that elusive first win will only arrive when they churn up their efforts on D.

The views on this page are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBL, its Clubs or partners.


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