South East Melbourne Phoenix commenced their official NBL21 pre-season on Monday morning at the State Basketball Centre.
The second-year club had their full host of local talent training together for the first time, including returning star Mitch Creek and new teammates Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi.
Star college recruit Yanni Wetzell arrived for his first day at the club and was involved in the session following two weeks of hotel quarantine in Sydney after arriving from Germany.
Wetzell undertook a medical screening before training and was full of life meeting his new teammates and coaches for the first time.
The Kiwi big was reunited with Reuben Te Rangi and Assistant Coach Judd Flavell, who he formed relationships with prior at the NZ Breakers academy prior to his four-year college career at San Diego State University.
The Phoenix will be ramping up the intensity over the next month to improve on the eight-placed finish in their inaugural NBL season last year.
Pre-season participants as of Monday the 2 October. Mitch Creek, Cam Gliddon, Adam Gibson, Dane Pineau, Yanni Wetzell, Kendall Stephens, Kyle Adnam, Reuben Te Rangi, plus additional training players.
Yanni Wetzell on his first day:
I’m stoked to be back on the court and now it’s just a matter of getting my legs back under me. I’m happy to be around the guys and the coaches…just overall stoked.
It’s a bunch of great dudes. You could kind of get the gist of things from social media and that, but obviously it’s great now being in person with these guys and seeing old faces like Reuben (Te Rangi) and Judd (Flavell) is always nice.
‘Juddy’ (Judd Flavell) kind of sparked my love for basketball five or six years ago, so it’s come full circle. That first year I was playing, I was playing with Reuben – I was in the Breakers academy and he was at the organisation. It’s a really full circle and just awesome to be back on the court with those guys.
My first impression (of coach Simon Mitchell) – awesome. He’s super enthusiastic, has a ton of energy, I was just standing there smiling and loving the situation, the energy he brings. The energy is there and it translates and filters down to the other guys. It starts at the top and he’s got the enthusiasm to back it up.
(Today) I did same game shots, some breakdown stuff, a bit of defence. Just a matter of getting my legs back under me and I’m sure it’ll be good to go live in a few days.
PHOENIX PLAYERS/COACHES ON PRE-SEASON STARTING:
We’re really excited, it’s been a long time coming. It’s been the world’s longest off-season it feels like so it’s just good to get into it and I’m so excited to have the whole crew here.
It feels like we’re getting closer and closer (to NBL21) so it’s good.
We’ve been going now for nearly six months of individual work on and off with coaches, so it’s going to be really good to actually have the group together and be able to get a proper session.
It’s been quite a few months in the making. Getting our asses kicked every day by the coaches and eachother is one thing, but now getting into team stuff – bit of chemistry, bit of cohesiveness – it’s what you play basketball for.
We’re all fit and healthy at the moment so we’re excited to get out there and play a little bit.
We’ve already built our culture year one. It’s something we’ve carried over – we had a culture and team values session on the weekend and we all take part in that for a few hours and put a road map down for what we expect of eachother and how we want to hold ourselves and eachother accountable. I’m expecting great things, we had a great first year of culture building so it’s now time to build upon that and translate it into great basketball.
When you’re on a basketball court you just forget about everything else, you just focus on playing. That’s the beauty of it, so it just feels good to hoop with the guys.
PHOENIX PLAYERS/COACHES ON YANNI ARRIVING:
He’s a good one. He’s spent the last four years over in college in the states and done really well. Prior to that we had a bit of history in the junior game (in New Zealand).
I’m just looking forward to getting him into this evniornment. He’s going to do well – he’s going to fit into this culture and add to it, and he’s a competitive guy.
It’s good to have another Kiwi in the house as well
To have Yanni in today is obviously fantastic. Another big guy for us is always a good thing.
We’re really excited to have Yanni on board, he’s a really athletic big and I’m sure going to like playing in the pick and rolls with him as well, that’ll be great.
I caught up with Yanni for the first time today and he’s a nice guy so I’m looking forward to playing with him.