BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE The continued rise of Australian basketball on the world stage has helped lure the North-West Thunder’s two latest imports to our shores.
Nick Banyard and Jordan Bowling both have aspirations of playing in the ever-growing National Basketball League and see a move to Tasmania as the ideal way to help progress their professional careers.
Banyard, 24, arrives after stints in Japan and Mexico, while Bowling’s first move out of college saw him star for a Singapore-based team in China.
But it is in Australia where they hope to make a name for themselves, starting with the new Victorian Elite League which the Thunder will be competing in from this season.
“I just thought this move would be a nice fit,” Banyard said.
“It’s a good league and great for what I want to do in the future and where I want to go.
“I would love to play in the NBL and would love to stay in one country and make that place my home.
“I’m happy to move around as much as I need to in the beginning, but overall I want to stay in the one place.
“I visited Australia a few years ago and loved it – I could definitely see myself relaxing and having a good time here.”
“I’ve always wanted to play in Australia because every league here is a good league and I just want to get my foot in the door,” Bowling added.
“In my last few years at college I always saw the NBL as somewhere I could play but I just never really knew about the leagues underneath.
“Like Nick said, I just want to be in the one spot where I feel comfortable and the NBL would be perfect.”
To reach the end goal, both players will be required to play vital roles for a new-look Thunder team that has lost the majority of its starting five from a 2018 campaign that saw them make finals in the now defunct SEABL.
They have been able to acclimatise to the Australian style of play through the NWBU with Wynyard (Banyard) and Devonport (Bowling), but both admit they still have a bit of work to do before the Thunder’s season opener on March 30.
“The physicality of basketball in this country is similar to the overseas game, but it’s different to how it is played in the USA,” Bowling said.
“You can get away with a lot more body contact than what I am used to.
“It will take some getting used but I’m glad we are getting these NWBU games in before the new league starts.
“I felt good condition-wise when I got here, but I’m having trouble in the NWBU at the moment finding my rhythm on offence.
“I’ve been pretty bad in the first three games, but it will eventually come if I stay confident.”
Banyard said the pace of play has come as the biggest shock to him.
“I thought I came here in good physical condition, but the style of play here is a lot quicker to what I was used to,” the power forward said.
“I’ve got to get accustomed to that and the NWBU games I have played already have helped and I’m starting to get used to it.”
While they are finding their feet at NWBU level, they have already been impressed with what they have already learned at Thunder training and are appreciative of the chance given to them under coach Sam Armstrong.
“Sam has been really good to deal with when the approach came, and since I’ve been here I’ve found he’s a real players coach and I play better for them,” Banyard said.
“He wants me to be an aggressor, rebound everything in the paint and take open shots whenever I can.”
“The practices we have had so far have been real player-friendly and he tries to keep our confidence up,” Bowling added.
Off the court Banyard and Bowling are keen to learn about their adopted home and are open to suggestions.
“I’ve already been to the beach, but Nick and I have already talked about trying surfing or going hiking,” Bowling said.
“We’re looking for people to tell us what we can do around here.”