Writing an entry for the National Basketball League’s fan voice competition I somehow went about 250 words over and am now struggling to cut it down to 400 words. I always find it hard to make cuts especially when the piece is something that I’m passionate about, and something that I could literally talk about for hours! The topic is “Who will be the next big thing in the NBL” so as I try to edit and make sure the topic has been addressed here is my uncut answer, enjoy!
On February 24, 2005 the Perth Wildcats lost an elimination final to the Melbourne Tigers. At the end of the game the crowd at the State Netball and Hockey Centre in Melbourne were on their feet and led by Andrew Gaze a standing ovation was given and across the country a 14 year girl (and I can only guess countless others) was in tears in honour of the final game of one Ricky Grace. Undoubtedly for Perth it was the end of an era. In the years that passed the Wildcats tried and tried again to replace Grace with another import point guard but never managed find that one player. One of the many reasons that Grace was invaluable to the team was his ability get his teammates into the game as well as being able to step up himself when needed. The fact that he had a strong and deep trust in his teammates was something that the Wildcats were never going to be able to replicate with their revolving door of import points. Then along came Rob Beveridge.
Beveridge has built up a reputation as one of the better coaches in developing young talent. He coached the Australian men’s team that won the 2003 U19 World Championship gold medal, a feat still considered one of the greatest moments of Australian basketball. In that team were players the like of Andrew Bogart, Brad Newley, Matt Knight and captained by Damian Martin. The 09-10 NBL season saw the Wildcats pick up a new coach in Beveridge with Martin hot on his heels. Both had previously been at the West Sydney Razorbacks and then the Sydney Spirit. In his last year in Sydney Martin stats sat at 5 points per game, a 28 field goal percentage and just 19 percent from three. His first year in Perth, a championship season, saw those numbers jump to 8.3 , 46.7 and 49.4. This past year he was joined by former Loyola Marymount and Sydney teammate Knight and while Martin’s shooting percentages lowered his other stats across the board all increased above his career numbers.
Damien Martin has the ability to involve his teammates and help pick them up when they are on a slide, read the defence and make in game adjustments both for his team and individually. He knows when to sit back and facilitate and when he need to step up and score. Martin causes trouble defensively, able to body up with players much bigger than him and limit them to sub-par games. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another guard with the rebounding ability Martin has, in a season where the Wildcats lost most of their rebounding to injury a shot would go up and more often than not when the ball came down it would be #53 with the ball in his hands. He’s often jokingly called a “coach’s pet” but a close relationship with the coach is perhaps the most crucial trait of any good point guard.
Not to say he doesn’t still have bad days, he does manage to find an open Brad Robbins beyond the arc much too much for my liking, making four and a half thousand people cringe at the same time. With a championship, a Defensive Player of the Year title and a Boomers spot in hand it could be said that Martin is already a big thing. Despite all that he has only played four seasons in the NBL and I believe his best days are still to come, especially in a town like Perth that cherishes championship point guards. Having a point guard running the floor so in sync with the coach and his teammates while still improving his own game, and the success that brings has been something that Perth has missed since February 24, 2005.