BRAD COLE THE ADVOCTE Tasmania’s official re-entry into the national basketball landscape is seen as an exciting opportunity to help aspiring local stars access the game at the top level.
Mark Radford and Mason Bragg have both tasted life in the NBL in previous years as an assistant coach and player respectively, but had to head interstate to do so.
While there are no guarantees that talented Tasmanian players will walk straight into the team when it debuts for the 2021-2022 season, the pair both believe that having a fully professional men’s basketball program in the state can only enhance the dream for young boys.
“What it does open up for Tasmanians is that you are able to touch it on a weekly basis,” Radford said.
“It’s right there in your backyard and you can observe, be educated, you feel like you belong to something, whether that be as a future player, as a coach, in administration or as part of the support staff.
“When it’s in your backyard you feel like it is more realistic to obtain and you can learn from it.
“I think that’s going to be the greatest thing for Tasmanian sportspeople that have a passion for basketball or for other sports for that matter.”
“There is a who new level of basketball out there that Tasmania hasn’t experienced for a long time,” Bragg added.
“It’s going to be cool for kids to grow up and see players that have played at the highest level in the world, such as the NBA or in Europe, here in their own state.
“They can go and watch and say ‘hey, maybe I can go and play for Tassie one day’.
“While we’ve already got teams like the (North-West) Thunder and (Hobart) Chargers, which are good stepping stones for kids, the NBL is another league above that and that exposure will give kids something more to dream about.”
Any doubts that the COVID-19 pandemic would delay Tasmania getting back into the NBL were allayed on Wednesday when the State Government ticked off on a $68.5 million dollar upgrade to the Derwent Entertainment Centre precinct.
The majority of home games are set to be played in Hobart, with Launceston’s Silverdome to be used as the secondary venue and the North-West Coast inline to host pre-season games.
But both Radford and Bragg said a statewide approach from supporters and the new club was crucial for its success.
“It’s only a three-hour drive from the North-West Coast and as a state we need to embrace it,” Radford said.
“In Victoria, if you live in Albury you are driving four hours to watch a Melbourne team.
“It’s shown through Basketball Tasmania in the last seven years – families are willing to travel to have their kids involved in the most exciting sport in the world.
“The team also has to be for all Tasmanians and I’m sure Larry (Kestelman, NBL owner) and the management group understand that and will do a great job to facilitate it.”
“Tasmania has a great basketball community but one thing we have to get better at with the NBL coming in is acting as a full state and not our separate regions,” Bragg said.
In terms of personal involvement with the yet-to-be-named team, Radford has already made public his desire to return to the NBL scene after stint as an assistant with Perth and Adelaide.
“I would love to be involved in a NBL program in Tasmania in whatever way shape or form,” he reiterated.
“If it doesn’t work out, I’m currently in a great job that I love, but I just want Tasmania to be a power basketball state which I believe it can be.
“It’s in our backyard now and there are various ways you can be involved in it, so we’ll see where it all goes.”
Bragg also represented the Wildcats back in 2016 and trained with the 36ers in 2018 before returning to Tasmania to play with the Southern Huskies in the New Zealand NBL last year.
While he would be happy to get a spot on any team’s roster, the 26-year-old said representing his home state would be the icing on the cake.
“It would be really cool and something that is a massive dream of mine,” Bragg said.
“If it happens, it happens, but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t – there are a whole lot of factors at play in terms of getting a contract.
“So I’ll just continue to train hard and do my own thing, and if the opportunity arises I would be absolutely over the moon.”
Also jumping for joy at the decision was Basketball Tasmania chief executive Chris McCoy, who said it was pleasing that the Tasmanian licence could get going from the earliest point available.
“It’s very exciting, great for basketball and great for Tasmania so we’ve been working towards this, having the team in for the 2021-22 season, so it’s really exciting that this announcement confirms that,”
“Everyone was still working towards this goal but there certainly was concern that it would be delayed with essentially everything shut down for four or five months,” he said.
“It always was a concern that it might delay it a year but it’s nice to know that we are on track still as planned.”