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The ultimate floor general

He wanted a basketball brain and Taipans coach Aaron Fearne got one. New recruit Travis Trice has been given the keys to the Snakes' complex shuffle/motion offence this season following a disappointing recent campaign where scoring fell by almost two points per game despite the league-wide average rising by almost 3ppg from the season prior. The 23-year-old graduated as an acclaimed senior from Michigan State University in 2015 and laced up for New York Knicks D-League affiliate the Westchester Knicks in the 2015/16 season, averaging 15.3 points and 5.7 assists per game. While the numbers are solid, it is about what the stat sheet does not show. Trice is the ultimate floor general, running the fabled Triangle offence with the Knicks and one not unlike Cairns' as a Michigan State Spartan. "Trice has played in the best conference in the US – the Big Ten – and played D-League, and played really well there too," Fearne told NBL.com.au. "The Westchester Knicks run the Triangle offence which is not really easy to pick up and run. It takes a lot of time to really get comfortable with that and he was great. "It shows his level of intelligence from a basketball IQ point of view and we definitely like players here that can play the game with some intelligence. "I've been looking at him for a couple of years. I definitely got stuck into him pretty hard last year from a recruiting perspective, but at the end of the day decided to go the D-League rout." A veteran of the shuffle/motion offence after seven years coaching at NBL level, Fearne has a better idea than ever about what he wants from his floor general. Trice has received a quality basketball education through the years, coached by his father Travis Trice Sr through high school and Naismith Hall of Famer Tom Izzo at Michigan State, where he ran an offence not unlike that of Fearne's. With the ability to score effectively 10-20 feet from the basket and ranking second in the Big 10 for assists in his senior year, Trice's potentially potent combination with monster Snakes recruit Nate Jawai looms as a game-changer. "He shoots the ball well so you're going to have to deal with him off an on-ball screen just from a shooting perspective," Fearne said. "Those two in that situation will hopefully be very difficult from teams to deal with. "He's confident, he believes in himself. He has dreams and aspirations of playing at the next level (NBA), and we want that. I sat there 14 or 15 months ago in Indianapolis (for the NCAA Final Four game) watching him run a team in front of 70,000 people. "It's like Scottie (Wilbekin) two years ago, he said the same thing to us when we got to the end of the regular season… he said how big is the crowd in New Zealand, and we go '8,000 people, around that mark', and he was like 'well this time last year I'm playing at Texas Stadium in front of 100,000 people'. So they've already experienced those crazy atmospheres. "Travis will be very comfortable in those high-pressure situations for sure." Known as a coach who will push his players, Fearne has warned of a professional experience likened to his time as a Michigan State Spartan. And that's what is needed for the Snakes as they look to ratchet up the intensity from a year ago. Fearne's sides have always been known as defence-first, but after ranking first in points against in 2014/15 the Taipans leaked 8.5 points per game more to finish middle of the pack last season. While Trice does not cut the most imposing figure for a point guard in the NBL, Fearne is confident he will hold his own against the superstars league-wide. "I think to play for coach Izzo, you know when you got to that program that you're going to be coached extremely hard and you're going to learn the game," he said. "[Trice] would’ve been coached hard to every corner of the gym, to put it politely, both at practice and during games because [Izzo] expects excellence and a high level of execution. "You just don't get nights off in [the Big Ten]. You have to bring that 'chip-on-your-shoulder' game every night, and when you become a pro that's pretty much what it's like – being able to play and practice at that high level. It's a trait that you need to have. "He has a good feel and understanding of the game, and he's driven. That's what we want, we want guys that have a point to prove and want to improve. We're getting a guy who ticks all those boxes."
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