BY BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE As the fortunes of the North-West Tall Timbers Thunder improved during the 2017 SEABL season, so have the confidence levels of big man Chudier Pal.
Brought in as part of a complete overhaul of the roster, Pal is the first to admit that he struggled to adapt to his new surroundings after arriving from Western Australia and spending plenty of time on the bench.
But these days Pal can be found taking his place in the starting five and will be an key member of the Thunder’s attempt to defeat Dandenong in Saturday night’s SEABL first semi-final.
“As the season has gone on I’ve felt more comfortable in what the coach (Sam Armstrong) has wanted me to do,” Pal said.
“When I came here I had to find my way and I wish I could of had a better pre-season – Sam and I didn’t really know each other that well.
“But we’ve grown a lot along the way and I credit him a lot for keeping me mentally focused, keeping me grounded when I needed to be and to trust the process.
”There was a game at Mount Gambier where I came in during the first quarter and I made a couple of mental errors.
As the season has gone on I’ve felt more comfortable in what the coach (Sam Armstrong) has wanted me to do.
“Sam grilled me and took me out of the game but instead of going into my shell, I focused in and by the end of the game I was contributing to the team.
“After the game he told to keep bringing that same focus and mentality to every game.”
While the 26-year-old’s current averages read 7.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, Pal’s improved form gives the Thunder a genuine presence in the middle and allows import Jeremiah Ingram to play his natural game.
But he knows he has to make an adjustment to overcome the early foul trouble that saw him only play eight minutes against the Rangers last week.
“Most of the calls I felt there wasn’t much in them, but at the same time there’s nothing more you can really do,” Pal said
“I’m really focused on getting my feet set on defence before the opposition players get there this week.
“In this league the offensive players are really smart at causing contact and getting a call.”
After the craziness of last week’s trip to Dandenong, Pal is confident the Thunder can overcome any adversity on the road with his tight-knit teammates.
“I feel like when we are on the road we really band together because we leave all our families behind,” Pal said.
“When it’s just the eight or nine players, Sam, Nick (Haywood) and Ryan (Carroll), we feel like one big family, and it’s a common cause we have all brought into.
He also believes that the Thunder’s good form is in direct correlation to their training standards.
“If we play the way we have been practicing we give ourselves a good chance,” Pal said.
“But Dandenong have been the best team over the last few months and we knew after we beat them that it will be a different game this week.
“We’re going into this game knowing we come up against their best and we have to play better than what we dd last week.”