From setbacks to captaincy, Adnam makes most of opportunities

FROM playing in the Big V, to being named Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the Kilsyth Cobras, enduring setbacks, coming out the other side to win a championship with Melbourne United, and currently captaining the South East Melbourne Phoenix. That’s the story of Kyle Adnam. Whilst has had many challenges along the way, Adnam has inspired plenty out there.

Adnam opened up firstly on what got him into playing basketball to begin with, sharing reflection of his journey so far, the challenges he faced, and overcoming them.

“Like most kids, I tried lots of different sports,” Adnam said. “I really loved being outdoors. My family always played basketball, my uncle, Tony, was a basketball coach and played a lot when he was younger, and then my older brother started playing.

“As most kids do, they kind of want to follow their big brother’s footsteps and the passion kind of came from there. The real love of the game started in the backyard. Me and my brothers had a little court and my older brother was six foot four and really strong, and my younger brother, Jordyn, was really tall as well – he’s about six foot six now.

“I was the short one and kind of struggled to get wins in my own backyard and that sort of built my determination and need to challenge myself in a way. I think that really drew me into the game and how to become a great basketball player when maybe I’m not that stereotypical player in a way.

“I’m extremely proud of my journey so far, all the little steps and things that have happened, the bumps in the road. The high of highs winning a championship, individual awards, all those things. They all play a little role in your journey and stepping stone in life in a way.

“I’m super proud to be a leader now, captain with the Phoenix after the journey I’ve had. I’ve had lots of experience with different coaches in different systems and I feel like, it’s actually ultimately made me the best player that I can be. All those different experiences and learning opportunities that have all merged into one to where I am now. I’m extremely proud of it.

“I think the United championship obviously really stands out, winning a championship in the NBL is extremely tough. Some guys go their whole careers without getting that opportunity so to have won one quite young in my career, I was very lucky to be a part of that and it taught me a lot about how to win and what a winning team looks like.

“Playing for Kilsyth was also a really really cool thing. I grew up playing for Kilsyth from Under 11’s all the way through. To play with a team that I played from 11-years-old and to win a championship with them, that was also amazing.

“That brings us to now, where I’m at the South East Melbourne Phoenix, which is my hometown and to be captain of that team is a pretty crazy thing that you have to pinch yourself sometimes to see where you’ve come from. As I said, I am really proud of my journey so far.”

Growth of the NBL, the Phoenix’s start to the season, interruptions, and the importance of not overworking as a player

Being in the National Basketball League (NBL) for a number of years, Adnam says the league has gone from strength to strength. The South East Melbourne Phoenix leader shared his reflections on the Phoenix’s start to the season, not getting on court after COVID protocols, and the importance not overworking after getting out of isolation.

“It sure has changed a lot over the last few years,” he said. “I feel like from a commercial standpoint, obviously they have done a great job of marketing the league. The talent and quality of basketball here in Australia has always been incredible. I think we’ve always had the talent. Our young kids coming through are great, our veterans are great, our coaches, all those things. We’ve always had the talent.

“I think to have a platform for that talent pool was really important too and I think that’s where the NBL has done an incredible job is getting the TV deals, into the papers, in the media and all those things that have done an incredible job of actually marketing the league. On top of that, that brings in better players and different things like that and people really want to play here now.

“The talent we’re getting over here now is incredible as well. I think it’s all helped itself but I think the talent of Australian basketball has always been there and they’ve just done a great job of really pushing that.

“The vibe around the (Phoenix) group is really positive still. Obviously, we’ve had two losses in a row after starting the season 3-0. Covid has had different things shine the light on us a little bit which we’ve had to deal with. One thing we’ve always kept together as a group is just no excuses and we’ve got to find a way.

“Every team is going to have challenges throughout the year with this pandemic and other things that happen in the course of the season. We’re staying together as a group, and we really enjoy each other’s company. We’ve got a great team. I really do believe we’ve got 10-12 guys on our roster that could potentially start on any other team and I think we’re really deep.

“Our talent is there, we’ve got great guys as well and our culture is great. Whilst we’ve had two disappointing losses in a row (against the Sydney Kings on December 18 2021 and Brisbane Bullets on January 15 2022), whether that would be COVID dependent or not, we just really want to make sure we are getting back on the bike this week against Tasmania and putting our best foot down again.”

“We’ve been playing a really great style. We’re high paced and high tempo. The fans are loving the way we are playing. We’ve just got to tidy up a few things internally. On game day defensively, making sure we’re locking in and on the other end, executing and having less turnovers.

“It’s great to be back out there for sure. A few of the boys are kind of hurting in the lungs a little bit but I think we’re all ok, all in all. I think the rhythm and timing after having a month off is obviously a little difficult but, it’s no excuse. We still expect to come out and play a great game. We’re professionals and we train everyday still. With the interruptions, we still feel like we should have come out and have a better performance but it’s definitely difficult when you’ve had time off.

“It’s a really important point especially as athletes, just as an athlete in general. It’s important to have that life balance and not overwork yourself. We do train really hard and trainings a really important part of what we do in preparation. You do want to get a good amount of training load in as an important aspect. There’s also that balance as well where you’ve got other things outside of basketball whether that’s family, friends and other stuff that is really important about keeping you mentally locked in.”

Being named captain, goals for rest of season, and enjoyment of the team environment

With Adnam being in his third season at the Phoenix, he shares what it means to be captain of the side, his goals for the rest of the season, and the enjoyment of being in a team environment.

“It’s been amazing to be recognised,” he said. “For me, being recognised by my peers and coaching staff really means a lot to me. I’m also really lucky to have a lot of great leaders on the team. We’ve got Creeky (Mitch Creek), Rowdy (Ryan Broekhoff), Glizzo (Cameron Gliddon), lots of guys who have experience of leadership. That really helps my role and makes it a lot easier.

“I’ve really relished that opportunity and I just want to be really that ‘bring the energy’. I want to do the same things that I’ve been doing in my career that’s got me to this point and haven’t had to change anything that dramatically. I’ve been recognised for the work I’ve done and I want to keep doing those things and want to hang my hat on being the first in the gym and always someone that guys can talk to on and off court things.

“With our style of play, it’s just holding guys accountable and making sure we’re playing the right way and holding ourselves responsible on and off the court. I’m just trying to lead the club more than anything in the right direction. We are a new club and any way I can help from a playing perspective and to push the club further and keep growing this fan base and community we have in the south east is definitely my intentions as captain.

“It’s bit cliché in a way but winning the championship is 100 per cent on the forefront of my mind. As a leader, to lead a team to a championship would be incredible and that’s something I want personally. That requires everyone on our team to be at their best. That for me is my personal goal. Theoretically, playing for the Boomers is number one for me as well.

“From the team perspective, just being able to hang out with the fellas every day, coaches and everyone, we do have a tightening group. To be able to go to work and to have 10 to 15, 20 of your really good friends around you is a pretty cool environment, lots of laughs going on and also to have all those people share a goal, a mutual goal and a passion, is really cool.

“From a training perspective, there’s the opportunity to get better every day. I think you go in there with a mindset of something you want to improve and staying fit. For me, just the opportunity to better yourself every day and share a goal with people that have a common interest is really really cool.

“The friendships you create over the years. You make plenty of great friends in basketball who will be lifelong friends. It’s awesome to have those friendships not only on a professional level, but also to the grassroots level. It’s a pretty special environment to be in a place where everyone’s working to achieve the same thing. When you win games and win championships, it’s an incredible feeling.

“You get to know the other teams pretty well being 10-team league. You get to know everyone pretty well and opponents as well. Sometimes that can be good and sometimes that can be bad but you do get to know everyone really well and you do create a lot of friendships and bonds over the years.”

The meaning of basketball, playing in the NBL, and role models

Adnam shares what the sport of basketball means to him, how the NBL has shaped him as a player and the role models that have helped along his journey.

“Basketball means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s been my life for over 20 years now. It has taught me a lot of things, not just dribbling the ball and shooting the ball, but it’s taught me a lot about resilience, dreaming big, how to be disciplined, all the different things that have filtered into my life and are helping me be the person that I am.

“It’s still shaping me for who I am. Every day is a new challenge in sport but the chance to push yourself to the limit is an incredible thing as a human being and I think basketball has given me that opportunity. I’ve got to figure out who I am in a way through sport and it’s been an incredible journey

“Sometimes I love basketball and sometimes I hated it, it’s been an incredible relationship but I would not change it for the world and I absolutely love it. It’s absolutely meant everything to me in my whole life.

“When I came into the NBL, I was a smaller player who had a bit of flair and tried to play a certain way. The NBL has really matured me into a leader and someone who can run a team. When I first came in, I was a bit of a scorer and a bit airy fairy and running 100 miles an hour everywhere. I think it’s matured me in my game and it’s taught me a lot of things on the court as well.

Playing with the likes of Bogut and all the incredible players I’ve had the opportunity to play with, it’s really helped me. The Pick And Roll is something I’ve always loved and that’s something I’ve tried to master and over the years, it’s a bit of a go-to part of my game and that’s something that’s developed over my time in the NBL.”

“I think my mum and my dad have always been my biggest influences and role models. My step dad, Claus, he’s been incredible. Between him and my mum, they’ve really helped me be who I am and the way I see them handle us driving us to countless games and all they have done for us, they are my heroes.

“In terms of basketball, I’ve always looked up to Steve Nash as a player. He’s a coach of the Brooklyn Nets now but he was an incredible player and someone who I’ve always watched and thought ‘wow, I love the way he plays.’ I love his flare, love the way he shoots the ball and all the things he did. That was someone I tried to replicate as a kid.”

Lastly, Adnam shares his wisdom to any upcoming ballers wanting to improve their game.

“Dream big, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t,” he said. “If you’ve got a dream, put it as big as you can and go for it. Self believe is really important. What I would say to younger people from a mental point of view is being okay with making mistakes.

You’re going to mess up, you’re going to turn the ball over, you’re going to make a mistake, you’re going to miss a shot, no one’s ever made a shot they haven’t taken. I think being okay with that and understanding you’re going to improve those mistakes. From a skill perspective, always keep working on your game. Lots of skill work and believing In yourself.”

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