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Newley: 2016 version

Almost 10 years have passed since Brad Newley last played an NBL game. John Howard was Prime Minister, Fergie had the year’s top-selling single with Big Girls Don’t Cry and the late Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. Newley was a young man when he packed his bags after a three-year stint with the Townsville Crocodiles and headed to Europe in 2007. Now he’s back in the NBL at the age of 31 as one of the Sydney Kings’ prized off-season recruits. Newley said the rapid growth of Australia’s premier basketball competition over the past two years was a key factor in his decision to return home. “It’s an exciting time for me,” the two-time Olympian said. “I was at an age where I probably could’ve stayed in Europe one or two more years, but the reason I came home was that I saw the league was going in a good direction. “That previous uncertainty about the league’s future was something that deterred me. I was on a good thing over in Spain and it’s a good league, and my club was financial, so that was a big reason for me staying over there and not coming home sooner. “Every I was overseas I always had a look how things were going in Australia, and my old man’s my manager back here and we always talk about things. “My European agent was the one who got the approach [from the Kings] and he told me it was a serious offer, and if he thought it was a serious offer, then I knew it was something I needed to think about and weigh up. “Seeing the league over the last 18 months, it’s really progressed, so I made the choice and here I am. “I’ve also got my wife and daughter and I thought it’d be nice to bring them back to Australia, so we came home.” Adelaide-born Newley always felt he would return to the NBL one day, though he knew nothing was guaranteed. After narrowly missing selection with the Boomers for a third Olympics in Rio, he has turned all his attention to preparing for the 2016-17 NBL season with the new-look Kings. Sydney had their first hit-outs of the preseason under new coach Andrew Gaze when they split two trials with the Illawarra Hawks last week. “It’s been fun. It’s good being able to talk to my coaches in English,” Newley said. “There’s a bit of an adjustment for me with the way the game’s played because it’s a little bit different to what I’ve been doing, but in saying that, I’ve played it before so it’s not too big an adjustment. “Playing and living for all that time in Europe was a huge experience for me. I’ve spent most of my adult life in Europe, so coming home has been a bit of adjustment for me and my family. Just things like finding a house, which was always done for me over there. “Now I’ve come back and I’ve gotta learn again, so it’s not just coming back for the basketball, it’s also a lifestyle thing.” Aside from securing Newley, the Kings also struck gold with the acquisition of reigning NBL MVP Kevin Lisch and Sydney-born Aleks Maric, a fellow veteran of the tough European circuit. Sydney’s new imports Greg Whittington and Michael Bryson arrived in Australia a fortnight ago. “It’s a whole new team and we have to get on the same page, but we should be disappointed if we don’t at least get into the playoffs,” Newley said. “The whole league is looking good, and it’s really exciting to have some current and ex-Boomers coming back. Every team is going to be competitive across the board. “I’m just looking forward to the first game against Brisbane and experiencing the league again.” Maric, also 31, is expected to be one of Sydney’s cornerstones as they shoot for a top four finish in 2016-17. Unlike Newley, he has never played in the NBL, heading straight to Europe after four years at the University of Nebraska. The 2.11m centre led a nomadic existence as a player, suiting up for 10 different teams in Europe. “I’ve always wanted to play back in Australia but I just had to wait for the right opportunity,” Maric said. “The opportunity came up and I grasped it. I’m so happy to back to in Australia, especially in my home city. “The league seemed to be going good a few years ago, but then two or three teams folded and there was questions about the league and if it would go under, so it was a security thing. “Now that Larry’s [NBL executive director Larry Kestelman] come on board and a few owners of clubs have stepped up, it’s set a great foundation for a lot of players to come back like your Brad Newleys, David Andersens and [Cameron] Bairstows. “It’s going to be a tough, exciting league. Everybody’s done a great job of recruiting in the off-season.” With so many new recruits having to learn to play together, the Kings might experience a few teething problems. “We have to learn everything as a team but that’s normal in the beginning,” Maric said. “We just have to play hard, work through it and stick together. Obviously you want to be there playing at the end of February and beginning of March, but we’re just looking to take it game by game and improving each week.” Gaze arrived back in Sydney two weeks ago after a commentating role in Rio and said Kings assistant coaches Dean Vickerman and Lanard Copeland kept preparations on track. “Dean and Copes did a great job of putting in the foundations and now we’re just trying to tweak things and get everyone on the same page,” Gaze said. “It’s great to get Brad and Truck [Maric] in, and Kev and the imports. I like our team so far and where we’re at.”   Written by Tim Keeble for NBL.com.au.
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