The Roar
The Roar


Rating the NBL imports after opening round

Casey Prather of the Perth Wildcats.
10th October, 2016

It might be too early to make definitive judgement but often first impressions last and there were some NBL imports across the opening round of the 2016-17 who delivered performances to remember, while several had outings to forget.

With the NBL allowing three imports this season and with the ability to spend money over the salary cap, it has the potential to increase the gap from the rich to the poor, the impact your impacts can have could be more significant than ever. (Click to Tweet)

The defending champion Perth Wildcats have gone with three highly regarded imports and all were instrumental in their overtime win over a Cairns Taipans team whose three overseas players had indifferent beginnings to their NBL careers.

The Brisbane Bullets have picked up two imports from rival NBL clubs but have built their core largely around Australians, while Melbourne United needs more out of their two imports not named Cedric Jackson after an 0-2 start.

The New Zealand Breakers had to replace Cedric and Charles Jackson, and while Ben Woodside and Akil Mitchell were solid, their fortunes rest with Kirk Penney, Corey Webster, Tom Abercrombie and Mika Vukona more than anyone.

The Sydney Kings got precious little from their two imports but do have two-time NBA champion Josh Powell set to arrive. The Adelaide 36ers know what to expect from Jerome Randle, but Eric Jacobsen and Terrance Ferguson need to provide more.

The Illawarra Hawks were emphatic in beating the Sixers by 34 points with Rotnei Clarke, Marvelle Harris and Michael Holyfield all terrific.

Here’s a look at all 21 NBL imports after the opening round:


Those who delivered

Jerome Randle (Adelaide 36ers)
Had a remarkable last season after a late arrival with the 36ers and only narrowly missed out both on leading his team to the playoffs and claiming the league’s MVP award.

After 13 points in Friday’s loss to the Hawks, he led his team to the Sunday win over Melbourne with 30 points, going 13 of 23 from the field.

Nnanna Egwu (Cairns Taipans)
The big man had to play a bigger role than perhaps was hoped when he signed with Nate Jawai still out injured. Even when Jawai returns, he will have a job to do and he showed he’s capable of being solid enough inside to score when the opportunity presents, to rebound well and be a defensive presence. Had ten points and six rebounds.

Rotnei Clarke (Illawarra Hawks)
The Hawks sent the biggest message of the opening round, thumping the 36ers 122-88, and it was the former league MVP who had a return to remember. Charged with replacing new King Kevin Lisch, he showed he is more than capable with 23 points and six assists on shooting eight of 16 from the field and five of 12 from deep.

Marvelle Harris (Illawarra Hawks)
With Kirk Penney, another Hawk needing to be replaced from last year, he showed he is capable of providing the shooting punch of the Kiwi in Illawarra’s big win over Adelaide.

He was impressive with 21 points, seven assists, three steals and three rebounds, nailing two of three from long range.


Michael Holyfield (Illawarra Hawks)
Came off the bench, backing up AJ Ogilvy and Nick Kay, and had a shaky first half. But based on his second half he will provide the Hawks with exactly what they were missing last season: a strong presence inside who can rebound and put back shots.

He had 14 points, six boards and two blocks and appeared to be just warming up.

Cedric Jackson (Melbourne United)
Set remarkably high standards at New Zealand, meaning Melbourne was excited at his arrival. His chemistry with his teammates can still improve but he had a solid two games, with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six assists against the Breakers, and 15 points, seven assists and four boards against Adelaide.

Akil Mitchell (New Zealand Breakers)
Signed to fill the role left by Charles Jackson in last year’s team that made the grand final, Mitchell came off the bench behind starting centre Alex Pledger, but ended up playing 25 minutes and looking good for eight points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals. That’s exactly what he was signed to deliver.

Jameel McKay (Perth Wildcats)
He may go by the nickname ‘Showtime’, and he has elements of being exciting in his game, with the thunderous dunks and blocked shots, but more valuable appears his ability to battle hard on the glass, defend strongly and provide an option inside. He started well with 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in Perth’s loss to Brisbane, before having another 14 points and four boards in the overtime win over Cairns on Saturday.

Casey Prather (Perth Wildcats)
Had a disappointing night to start the season in Brisbane, in early foul trouble and never got into the game, but showed the form that saw him be a championship winning star last season on Saturday night with 23 points, six assists and five rebounds. He is unstoppable in the open floor and with momentum going to the rim.

Those who didn’t


Eric Jacobsen (Adelaide 36ers)
Came with the reputation as a powerful presence inside, which is what Adelaide need from him, but he didn’t show anywhere near enough of that in his opening two games. Had just three points and five rebounds in 16 minutes before fouling out in the loss to the Hawks, then 11 points and one rebound against Melbourne.

Terrance Ferguson (Adelaide 36ers)
The 18-year-old was always going to have trouble to adjust to playing professionally for the first time, but he has arrived with the expectation of being a first-round NBA draft pick following this season with the Sixers, so he needs to deliver more than he did in the opening round.

He had ten points against Illawarra, hitting 2 threes, while against Melbourne he went scoreless in six minutes.

Travis Trice (Cairns Taipans)
Probably deserves to be leading the betting in first import to be sent packing after a poor showing in Perth. Looked well off the pace both with his ball handling and passing while he shot poorly going 1-of-9 from the field. Even his coach noticed.

“Travis is underdone and is not sharp enough right now. He needs to be really locked in and to be able to run the team, and be direct and in control,” Aaron Fearne said. “He has been out too many games and you can see that. He’s just behind. He is giving it a go but he’s just off the pace.”

Devin Williams (Melbourne United)
Came with a big reputation, someone who could be a force for Melbourne inside along with Majok Majok, but is replacing Hakim Warrick and had an opening round to forget.

With his look standing out more than his game, he had four points and three rebounds in just 16 minutes against New Zealand, and only three points and six boards in 11 minutes against Adelaide.


Michael Bryson (Sydney Kings)
The Kings almost gave Andrew Gaze a winning start to his coaching career, but Bryson had little say in that, with just five points on a disappointing two from eight shooting from the floor in almost 20 minutes.

Greg Whittington (Sydney Kings)
Little impact on the contest in his 24 minutes, finishing with a disappointing six points, four rebounds and three assists. He could see his role further diminish with the arrival of Josh Powell as well unless he shows he deserves to keep his minutes.

Jury still out

Jermaine Beal (Brisbane Bullets)
Beal arrived at the Bullets with two championships in three seasons at the Wildcats. He hit 4 threes to be a big factor in Brisbane’s win over Perth last Thursday but had just eight points, four boards and four assists against Sydney on Saturday, while shooting just two from nine and having his shot blocked three times.

Torrey Craig (Brisbane Bullets)
An exciting yet erratic player with the Taipans before joining the Bullets this season, he started with 16 points and seven rebounds in the win over Perth, then had nine points and 17 boards. It was a solid enough start but he needs to show he can be more consistent than he was at the Snakes.

Fuquan Edwin (Cairns Taipans)
Had a scoreless first half in Perth and looked all at sea, but opened the second half on fire with a three, a three-point play and a strong finish at the rim to show what he’s capable of. Then he was subbed out and was never again a factor.

If he can replicate that dynamic few minutes, he will be a strong player in this league.


Ramone Moore (Melbourne United)
Joined Melbourne to provide another shooting option and had nine points from three of six from the field and one of two from downtown against New Zealand. He then had 15 points shooting five of nine from the field and three of five from deep in Sunday’s home loss to Adelaide.

Ben Woodside (New Zealand Breakers)
The point guard had a solid debut finishing with eight points, seven rebounds and two assists. Shot three of four and nailed his only three-point attempt, so he was efficient. His problem is everything he contributes will be compared to Cedric Jackson. The fact that Melbourne outscored New Zealand by 13 points when he was on the floor was a concern too.

Jaron Johnson (Perth Wildcats)
Had a debut to forget with just six points in Thursday’s loss to the Bullets in Brisbane. Was then in foul trouble and had no impact in the opening three quarters on Saturday against Cairns, but turned it on with 5 threes, including a massive triple to send the game into overtime. If he can continue that momentum he will be tough to stop, but so far it’s one good quarter out of eight.

Round 1 NBL results

Brisbane Bullets 72 defeated Perth Wildcats 65

New Zealand Breakers 76 defeated Melbourne United 71
Illawarra Hawks 122 defeated Adelaide 36ers 88

Sydney Kings 73 lost to Brisbane Bullets 77
Perth Wildcats 84 defeated Cairns Taipans 74


Melbourne United 79 lost to Adelaide 36ers 87