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Opinion

Why the JackJumpers have joined the NBL at the right time

(Pic via JackJumpers Facebook)
Expert
1st December, 2021
4

The NBL over the past decade has enjoyed something which has not been common during its inception in 1979 – stability.

It’s particularly been the case since Larry Kestelman took over the ownership of the league in 2015.

From that point the competition has improved dramatically on and off the court.

The same teams have stayed afloat and built rivalries, which has made it a lot easier for fans to keep track of who’s who in the zoo.

Since the Kings re-entered the scene in 2010 to eventually again become a perennial contender, the only two teams which have fallen by the wayside are the Gold Coast Blaze two years later and the Townsville Crocodiles in 2016.

There have been a few anxious moments elsewhere, particularly with the Illawarra Hawks, but the NBL has managed to keep a stable competition, unlike the first three decades when teams came and went with almost relentless regularity.

All up there have been 25 franchises which have gone belly up – several in the early years when gloriously named teams like the Frankston Bears, Bankstown Bruins and the Glenelg Tigers had their moment in the sun.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the NBL’s ambition was too big for its bottom line and a combination of overcrowded markets, the tyranny of distance and dubious owners led to the demise of the likes of the Singapore Slingers, South Dragons and Hunter Pirates.

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But the most recent decade has easily been the most even keeled, leading to the ability to expand with the success of the South-East Melbourne Phoenix over the past two seasons prompting the entry of the Tasmania JackJumpers for 2021-22.

The Apple Isle of course has been home to a few NBL franchises – Launceston City Casino actually won the league in 1981, the second of their three seasons.

Devonport Warriors tried their luck without success for the 1983 and ‘84 seasons while the Hobart Tassie Devils were at least able to stick around for a decent period from 1983-96.

The Devils were able to attract the likes of former NBA stalwart Ollie Johnson, NBL stars Steve Carfino and Andre Moore, and the superbly nicknamed Jim “The Gorilla” Havrilla but were never sniffed the finals in their existence.

For the JackJumpers, it has been a somewhat unusual build-up to their debut season.

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They were granted the 10th licence by the NBL in July last year with the nation in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic and so much uncertainty about everyday life, let alone a new sporting team trying to get a start in Australia’s southernmost outpost.

A couple of months later they went with JackJumpers as their team name, beating out suggestions like Tridents, Pride, Timbers and Mountaineers.

For the uninitiated, a JackJumper is a nasty ant native to Tasmania which can cause hospitalisations.

Naming a team after an ant in a sport which is synonymous with height may seem like an odd choice but I for one welcome our new insect overlords – having a unique identity is so important for new franchises.

Too many of Australian sporting clubs in recent times have gone with common names that sound like obscure lower-league baseball clubs – Titans, Giants, Phoenix, Thunder.
Foundation coaches are also crucial and the JackJumpers signed a good one early in the process in Scott Roth.

Originally from Cleveland, he played three seasons in the NBA from 1987-90 with Utah, San Antonio and Minnesota but perhaps more importantly, has racked up an impressive resume of assistant coaching gigs at Golden State, Dallas, the Grizzlies, Toronto and Detroit, plus he has NBL know-how after he was on Perth’s staff for their charge to the 2020 title.

Ultimately, the JackJumpers’ chances of success in year one will come down to the players.
They’ve assembled a solid roster with plenty of NBL experience from the likes of Clint Steindl, Jarrad Weeks, Jack McVeigh and centre Will Magnay, who enjoyed the briefest taste of the NBA with New Orleans late last season.

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Much will depend on the impact of their imports – they’ve recruited American duo Josh Magette and Josh Adams plus Canadian forward MiKyle McIntosh.

Magette – a 31-year-old veteran went close to the NBA with Atlanta and Orlando – and Adams – who has also built up a detailed resume in Europe – will join him in the backcourt.
McIntosh, will support Magnay in the frontcourt, was part of Toronto’s G-League squad and has also plied his trade in South Korea, Canada, Belgium and France.

The JackJumpers have also been given the honour of opening the NBL season when they christen their new home court, the MyState Bank Arena, on December 3 against Adelaide.
As part of their strategy to get the entire state on board, they are also set to play games at the Silverdome in Launceston later in the season.

All is in readiness now for the JackJumpers to make their mark and with the way the NBL has provided a solid base for all clubs, they will hopefully be around a lot longer and have more sustained success than their predecessors in Tasmania.

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