Hungry Jack's NBL
Taipans Sign Ben Ayre to Two-Year Deal
The Cairns Taipans have announced that Australian guard Ben Ayre has secured his first NBL contract, signing a two-year deal (second year club option) following a memorable stint as an injury replacement and an outstanding campaign with the Taipans’ feeder team in the off-season.
Ayre has been averaging 24.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the Cairns Marlins, which has featured a 43-point performance over Rip City, four other 30+ point games and a run to the NBL1 North playoffs.
Choosing to remain in Cairns for the off-season has provided him proximity with the Taipans’ coaching staff, with Head Coach Adam Forde disclosing that Ayre has been repeatedly tested to step up to the plate and prove he was worthy of a roster spot.
“Like the rest of our roster, we’ve done our due diligence throughout this off-season to get where we are now. Ben has gone down the long and hard road to get here. He has embraced the grind and navigated the unpredictable and sometimes bias path it takes to get to the NBL. We have challenged him, and each time Ben has answered the call. He isn’t just deserving of this opportunity, but now he is due it,” said Forde.
“His NBL1 numbers speak for themselves. When you compare him to other NBL point guards playing NBL1, it’s only Jason Cadee that edges him out in scoring, so that puts him in pretty good company. There are 71 NBL1 teams throughout Australia, and each one of those teams will have 6 or 7 guys that want to be in the NBL. So that’s close to 500 guys in the NBL1 alone who want to be the next Ben Ayre. But as daunting as it seems, Ben has shown that hard work and persistence can help get you there."
As a training player for the Taipans, Ayre was elevated to the full-time roster in April as an injury replacement and made records in his eight-game tenure. The 26-year-old became just the second Taipan in club history to register 20 points and 10 assists, temporarily leading the NBL in three-point percentage (42.1) following the remarkable performance in Melbourne.
“Ben came in originally as an unpaid training player from the advice of [former NBL coach] Joey Wright. Nothing was owed to him but in the words of [NBL commentator] Homicide Williams, he took a bet on himself,” revealed Forde.
“I know the Cairns community really got behind Ben last season, especially when he went up against [Matt] Delly. I know they’ll be happy he’s on our books because he embodies that underdog status that everyone appreciates here. This isn’t a PR stunt as we aren’t in the business of handing out contracts to guys who are undeserving of them.”
Originally from Victoria, Ayre played with the Knox Raiders in the NBL1 South last year (alongside teammate Bul Kuol) and averaged 12 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds across 11 games. He has also suited up for the Nunawading Spectres, Bendigo Braves, BC Mažeikiai (Lithuania) and the Adelaide 36ers as a development player.
Ayre joins Tahjere McCall, DJ Hogg, Sam Waardenburg, Jonah Antonio, Lat Mayen, Bul Kuol, Keanu Pinder, Majok Deng and Mirko Djeric on the roster, with one restricted (import) spot remaining.