BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE Trying to bring back the majority of this year’s squad will be the priority for North-West Thunder coach Sam Armstrong in the aftermath of the 2020 NBL1 season being called off. Following an 8-12 campaign last year which saw them finish 15th in the 18-team competition, Armstrong had high hopes for his new-look playing roster which contained several key signings. They included point guard Mason Bragg, former team captain Brad Simpson, southern recruits Jacob Richards and Cam Brown, Launceston’s Sejr Deans and imports Samajae Haynes-Jones and Brandon Conley.
Armstrong said while nothing is certain while the sport is on a break, bringing the bulk of the squad for 2021 back could result in an exciting campaign based on what he saw during the Thunder’s pre-season. “We’re disappointed with the way things panned out, but more so for our guys who had done a heap of work and had put themselves in a really good position to have what we thought could have been a really exciting year for us,” he said.
We had put a lot of pieces of the puzzle together and that was on the back of our local contingent and our import recruiting as well. “We were looking forward to seeing what Samajae may have been able to deliver, and Brandon ticked every box for what we wanted from a second import. “The biggest thing for us moving forward to 2021 is to try and retain as much of the playing group as we can starting with the locals and then Samajae – there’s no doubt I will be hunting him to come back for the 2021 season. “He was a high-quality guy with a high work ethic and talent to match that, and I’m disappointed that in his first professional contract, he didn’t get a chance to showcase what he could do.”
While his players will be itching to get back on the court as soon as possible, Armstrong plans to use the break to study plenty of film to improve his coaching knowledge. But he said the time away from game in what is a crowded calendar might not necessarily be a bad thing for all participants. “It will allow those who are managing a niggling injury to really freshen up, while others can reset and mentally clock out for a few months,” Armstrong said.
“It will be a different couple of months coming up so we’ve urged all the guys to stay in contact with one another. “But at the same time, as a club its a great chance to reset and come back bigger and better when basketball resumes.”
Armstrong added that he was also keen for next year as anticipation ramps up for Tasmania’s entry into the NBL for the 2020-2021 season. “With the groundswell of support from the NBL establishing a team here, Tasmania could maybe become a destination place for a lot of players to come and play,” Armstrong said. “What it is going to provide is access for everyone, not just players, but coaches as well and I can’t wait for it to happen.”