Life as an NBL import remains strenuous

Chris Pike Columnist

By , Chris Pike is a Roar Expert

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    As much as things change, life as imports in the NBL remains one with low job security, as highlighted by the fascinating tale of Adelaide 36ers’ Ronald Roberts.

    The NBL is at its strongest point in perhaps the past 25 years on and off the court, with the growth since Larry Kestelman bought the league phenomenal, but that doesn’t make it easy to play in.

    The NBL extended its import rules to allow each team to sign three international players last season and there were the gems like Bryce Cotton, Casper Ware, Casey Prather, Jerome Randle, Torrey Craig, Travis Trice and Rotnei Clarke.

    But there were also the likes of Jermaine Beal, Fuquan Edwin, Cedric Jackson, Devin Williams, David Stockton and Steven Blake, who didn’t see out the season, and Michael Holyfield, Marvelle Harris and Josh Powell, who were perhaps lucky to do so.

    Now even before the 2017-18 season got underway last week, Cairns had to find a replacement for the injured Michael Carrera, before intrigue surrounded Roberts.

    The Sixers had come into the season electing to bring back their core of Australians, led by Nathan Sobey, Mitch Creek, Matt Hodgson and Daniel Johnson, but went with three new imports to replace Jerome Randle, Terrance Ferguson and Eric Jacobsen.

    The jury remains out on if Shannon Shorter can come close to filling the point guard shoes of Randle, while Ramone Moore is a proven commodity, but the axe has already fallen on Roberts.

    Having sat out the last of Adelaide’s pre-season games and then missing some training sessions, the Sixers were led to believe Roberts was suffering a knee injury and ended up releasing him on the eve of last week’s season-opener.

    Seemed straight-forward, until Roberts spoke up.

    “Actually I have no injury whatsoever,” Roberts said.

    “I’m 100 per cent fine. I’m not injured, reports are false. But on to the next… ready to kill for whatever team I go to next.”

    That left coach Joey Wright completely bewildered because he could come up with no other explanation for Roberts to be placing himself on the sidelines.

    “Well we don’t know why he didn’t practice then. He didn’t play in the game and he didn’t practice and he told us he was injured,” Wright said.

    “If he’s playing those types of games he might want to forget about playing basketball. He told us he was injured, he didn’t play in the games and he didn’t practice. Shit, I don’t know what to tell you.”

    While Roberts might have had his problems with coach Wright, it’s the opposite for another Adelaide player, Moore.

    Moore joined the Sixers this season having played with Melbourne United last year before a calf injury ended his campaign prematurely and he returned home to South Philadelphia for the birth of his second daughter.

    But he always wanted to return to the NBL and when it was the 36ers calling, he did his homework on Wright and couldn’t be happier with his new club and coach.

    “I just felt comfortable here. Aside from the basketball standpoint, I loved the country itself and speaking English, the food was good and my mum and daughter came to visit as well and they enjoyed it,” Moore said.

    “It’s just the little things like that which I didn’t experience places in Europe. My main goal was to come back to play in Australia and when Joey reached out it was a no-brainer. Aside from how great these guys at the 36ers play, my main goal was just to come back to Australia and I’m glad I am back.

    We might be only one round into the season, but Brisbane’s Stephen Holt, New Zealand’s Edgar Sosa and Devonte Newbill, and Perth’s Derek Cooke Jr are among the other imports who will need to quickly improve to avoid the pressure coming onto them.

    Round 2 NBL Fixtures (AEDT)
    Thursday

    Cairns Taipans v Adelaide 36ers – Cairns Convention Centre 7.30pm

    Friday
    New Zealand Breakers v Sydney Kings – Spark Arena 5.30pm
    Perth Wildcats v Illawarra Hawks – Perth Arena 9.30pm

    Saturday
    Adelaide 36ers v Melbourne United – Titanium Security Arena 5.30pm

    Sunday
    Sydney Kings v Illawarra Hawks – Qudos Bank Arena 3pm