By Trevor Jackson
AS the seasons begin to turn, winter sport is on the horizon and the Pioneers Basketball Club has prepared hard for the upcoming NBL1 season, which tips off on April 17.
The Pioneers men will take their place in the South conference, with Richard Hill back as head coach and Kurt Russell his assistant.
But a lot of new faces will take to the floor.
Just Tom Daly and Erik Burdon return from the last game the team played – a losing final in the Adelaide Premier League.
However, Kane deWit – who played against the Pioneers in that final – is back, along with Kyle Tipene and Mony Makoi to provide some cohesion to the roster.
Adelaide players Nikolas Desantis and Tom Kubank will also return, having been signed for the last season which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They will be joined by Nick Marshall and a Sudenese player out of Melbourne by the name of Duom Dawam.
The club has also managed to secure the services of an import who will be familiar to many in the region.
Titus Robinson is expected to take the court early in the season, after his basketball commitments in Cypress are finished.
While import players will be hard to secure this season due to the COVID-19 restrictions, Robinson married a Mount Gambier woman and can therefore return without any special exemptions.
“Titus played for me and the Pioneers in my second year at the club,” Hill said.
“He might get here in time for the first round but it depends how his playoffs go in Cypress.
“He will have to quarantine for a couple of weeks as well but he is a good fit for us.”
Hill said he is pleased so far with what he has seen but expects a huge challenge to pull it all together.
“We have pretty much signed a whole new team,” he said.
“We have been training really hard for a long time – since November we have had camps every second weekend.
“But we haven’t played a game for nearly 20 months.”
Despite the lack of match fitness, Hill said he expects plenty of hard work ahead as the season fast approaches.
“We won’t have the star quality we are used to having in our team but I like the lads we have been able to bring in,” he said.
“We have some good young talent coming in.
“We had the whole group together for a camp all of last week and by the end of the week we were starting to look a bit cohesive.
“I like that.
“But we only have two guys who have really played together.
“They haven’t played with the new guys and the new guys haven’t played together.
“It will be a pretty sharp learning curve.”
It will be all put to the test this weekend, with two pre-season games at Millicent on Friday and Saturday night against Woodville.
It kicks off a busy run for the team, which then heads to Portland to face Geelong, Melbourne for an NBL1 South conference pre-season tournament, before a break for Easter and then a trip to Ballarat before the season opener against Bendigo at the Icehouse.
Overall Hill said the players and staff were “pumped” for the start of the season.
“The training level is really good and the guys are really excited,” he said.
“I am looking forward to Millicent to get a couple of games under our belt and have a look at the guys to see how they function together.
“It is an exciting time really.”
This weekend’s games will also see Matt Black, Toby deWit and Duncan Reid take to the floor.
Friday night’s game will tip off at 8.15pm, with Saturday’s at 6pm.