Altona Gators got caught on the hop last season, lurching from one disaster to another and finishing with a dismal 0-22 record that led to relegation.
Despite the record, coach Des Radoslovic rode it out and is back to lead a Gators’ revival in the Big V basketball division 2 this season.
“Before last season started, we lost our two co-captains, who traveled overseas,” he told Star Weekly. “Two other players we recruited – one started the season and only played a couple of games; the other left before the season started.
“Joey Mausar, our captain, played only half a season with injuries. We had a number of things that stretched us really thin,” he recalls.
The Gators should have no such worries this season. They have a much deeper squad that can snap the painful losing streak dating back to 2014 and maybe make a play-off push.
“We want to be a good team in round one, but we want to be a great team come finals,” Radoslovic said. “We’ve got five returning faces and seven new players. It’s almost like starting with a clean slate.”
There’s a bit of mystery about the new brand of Gators. Can a small-ball game plan thrive? Will a rookie point guard offer the team the direction it needs for a bounce-back season?
Without a dominant centre, the Gators will be forced to deploy the small-ball strategy, which uses a smaller but faster-paced line-up.
“We feel it’s to our advantage to be playing small ball,” Radoslovic said. “We’re going to play very high-pressure defence, try and push teams off what they want to do.
“We’ve got some strong veteran guys, who can defend bigger bodies in the other team. I think any big guys lacking mobility in other teams will struggle.”
The Gators will hand the keys of the point guard role to recruit Patrick Green, a youth league all-star guard with Whittlesea.
“He’s been one of the leading scorers in youth league for a couple of seasons, and it’s time for him to step up and play men’s basketball,” Radoslovic said.
“He’ll be our starting point guard. He’s a smart player, reads the game well and knows when to shoot and when to pass.”
The potential wildcard for the Gators is Rasmus Wurr. It was just pot luck that Wurr, a former professional player in Denmark, was recommended to the Gators.
“He’s an athletic perimeter player and an excellent defensive player as well, which will help us a lot,” Radoslovic says. “He gives us another solid, experienced player in the mix.”
The coach is also looking forward to seeing the chemistry on court between captain and guard Joey Mausar and forward Justin Eckhart.
Eckhart, once listed with the Perth Wildcats, played the final six games of last season but didn’t play with Mausar, who was injured.
Youngsters Arop Bolang and Jordan Lino will be pushing for minutes, while Brent Radoslovic and Milos Trkulja return after being hampered by injuries last season.
The Gators will hit the road for the season opener on Sunday to face Western Port Steelers at the Steelerdome in Somerville.
At the Swamp on Sunday, the Gators will hold their season launch, with the youth league tipping off against Sunbury Jets at 1pm, followed by the Lady Gators, the women’s team reintroduced this season, against Casey Cavaliers at 3pm.