2022/23 NBL season preview – Perth Wildcats
THE 2022/23 National Basketball League season is less than two weeks from getting underway, and it is shaping up as one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory.
Last year saw the Tassie fairytale, some new stars step to the forefront and Sydney dominance in the big dance. With some big names joining the competition over the past few months, there is a lot to like about how the fixture is looking, as the league continues its rise on the world stage.
With that in mind, Rookie Me Central will be taking a look at how each side is shaping up ahead of the season tip-off, with some new look squads eager to take the next step.
The next side on the list are the Perth Wildcats, who look set for a finals return after missing the postseason in disappointing fashion last year, and have all the pieces they need to take home their 11th title in club history.
2021/22 record – 16-12
It was an absolute heartbreaker for the Wildcats to close out their campaign last season, falling from an almost guaranteed finals spot to being booted out of the top four in the final round, putting an end to 35 consecutive years of postseason.
The duo of Bryce Cotton and Victor Law fired in the first half of the season, and it looked like Perth was the side to beat once again. When Law went down in April with a nasty looking ankle injury, it looked like a speed bump for the Wildcats. He was eventually ruled out of the remainder of the season and when the team lost to the Phoenix in the final round of play, it was season over.
Over the offseason, Scott Morrison resigned from his position as head coach, and the Wildcats found a willing replacement in John Rillie. The former NBL champion has plenty of experience in the coaching ranks, having spent over a decade in the US College system as a coach.
Rillie looks to have rejuvenated the side, as Perth looks to get the best out of a talented roster. Cotton will be among the best players in the competition, with the three-time NBL MVP showcasing in the Blitz preseason competition that he’s still got it with a 36-point outing last week.
One of the most exciting additions to the team in the last few months is sharpshooter Brody Manek, with the import set to make an immediate impact to Perth’s offence. Like his coach, Manek brings a wealth of experience in the collegiate system, and has played a crucial role in some big games. If he can get his shooting rhythm going early in the NBL, it will take some of the offensive load off Cotton’s shoulders, and the crafty guard can kick out to another damaging shooter.
Rillie said Manek had been on his scouting radar for quite some time.
“I watched Brady in Summer League and got great feedback from both the Hornets and both of his college teams. He always gives great effort, and he wants to get better,” said Rillie.
“Everyone is going to talk about his shooting, but I also think his passing, decision making and just being a good teammate are also things people are going to love.
“He’s a passionate competitor so I think the fans will embrace the enthusiasm that he plays the game with.”
Along with Manek, the Wildcats added big man TaShawn Thomas and Corey Webster, giving their roster an injection of talent ahead of the upcoming season, where they will be looking to make amends for last year’s disappointing finish.