The most effective player on the court is not always amongst your starting five!
Darcy Locke is proof of this in season 2021 for the NE Bushrangers. Having commenced with Bushies in 2014, he has see-sawed between the Big V and SEABL over the past 5 years in differing roles. Having sustained a significant shoulder injury in 2016, Locke’s playing career was disrupted, but he returned this season to add depth, strength and experience to the new Bushies’ lineup under Head Coach, Hayden Annett.
Darcy Locke (BV League photographer)
Finding ‘his place’ in that lineup took a few weeks but he is now quite often the spark that can ignite the fire in the Bushies’ belly! Coming into the program just before the season kicked off presented some small obstacles, and Locke reflects that it was a challenge, “There were guys I had never played with before and there were some pretty well-established relationships formed from having played with each other in their respective associations.” But he has now found his niche as an essential team member.
Don’t expect that you’re always going to see him in the starting line-up! Locke regularly starts on the bench as one of the first subs into the game, of course that is dependent on the opposition, and the game plan under the direction from Coach Annett. But it is from this position that Locke appears to be most effective!
He has a mature and experienced mindset going into games, and he shares that his “thought process is always around completing the 1% things like finding a body and being physical on the court. It is also important to me that I aid in creating opportunities for my teammates to get rebounds, assists and points. By doing this, I rarely find myself overwhelmed by the many things that sometimes I have no control over in a game, like how many points I will score etc.”
With a clear team goal in sight to make a maiden finals berth (which has now been disrupted due to a 6th Covid lockdown), Locke feels the team has settled into a consistent overall performance and efficiency that comes with familiarity and hard work.
Locke’s overall intensity and accuracy in offense is paramount to the team’s success, and while across the season, he’s averaging just 20 minutes of court time each week, his shooting percentage is an impressive 52.46% for his 10.92 points per game. But when looking at his more recent contributions, he has pocketed an average of 15.5 points per game over the last six rounds. When asked how he maintains his consistency, Locke stated, “My shooting percentage has only been so good because of the types of shots I’m taking. By doing the work in the background on the floor like getting up and down the court and hitting my spots, I’m finding myself open. Sometimes it’s important to take a leap and put some of the responsibility on your own back but when you’ve got some guys that have a role on the team as scorers, it’s balancing it out and stepping up where required.”
His tip for those budding bench warmers down the track, is to take a step back, reflect on what they do well and then slot that into the team’s plan. He’s well-grounded and reflected that, “Everyone would love to be the guy that scores 30+ a night but the reality is that there is maybe one guy that can do that in a team and the guys putting in the work around him, they are the ones getting him those points.”
But for Locke, who has been a consistent lead scorer across many of our games this season, playing his role has garnered the benefits for him as an individual as well as the team as they make a late surge for finals (Covid permitting). He added, “The best players, no matter their role, back themselves 100% to do what they need to do.”
As the 2021 season draws to its end, it’s also a time for the Club to be considering the recruitment process for 2022. Locke’s success outlines the need for depth and skill diversity within a team, and players should not be deterred from trying out for that higher level competition just because they won’t necessarily be in the starting line-up!
Published in Wang Chronicle and online Benalla Ensign (subscribers only):
Making the leap from Junior Rep basketball to Senior Rep is not as simple as just “turning up”! There are many factors to consider which include the commitment from the player (as well as their family) and the expectation of the coach to fulfil a role.
The NE Bushrangers trio of Charlie Young, Sam Maher and Brodie Paul have taken that challenge this year, stepping into development roles within the Big V North East Bushrangers Men’s team. While still juggling their final years of secondary college, junior rep and VJBL commitments for Wangaratta, these young men also manage their commitment to other sporting pursuits and casual work.
As they will all tell you, sometimes, you just have to miss one thing because you have too much going on, and quite often it is the senior commitment that suffers due to travel and time constraints. Charlie shared that, “Sometimes this involves doing homework on the bus to and from games.”
Between the three, and at just 17 years of age, they already have a long string of basketball accomplishments, having represented their association in the Victorian Jamboree, Basketball Academy, Golden Nugget Camp, NITP, Southern Cross Challenge, Country Cup, NZ Tour, Youth tours overseas, State team selection, VJBL, CBL and now Big V.
While in development roles, the expectation for each of them at trainings and on the court is nothing less than what is expected for the more experienced players. They have a role to fill, a job to be done, and are guided by Coach Annett and player mentors, Sartori, Hockley and the Wright brothers. Sam appreciates the regular “giving of feedback and advice on how to get better and what I should do in situations” to help integrate him into the playing group.
Sometimes their on-court stint is for a short burst to give someone a break, at other times it’s because they need to ‘do their thing’ and fill a void on the court. It’s difficult to ‘come off the bench’ late in the game when your body has cooled down, but you must be ready and take every opportunity that comes your way, it’s ‘that’ opportunity that will ultimately lead to the next!
Charlie mentioned that, “It’s been a huge learning process and really has taught me what my strengths are and what I need to put work into to improve to be an all-round player. Trainings are a lot more intense, going against the experienced players every training has made me a better player.” He added, “It’s a very professional environment unlike junior VJBL or rep and I love being around the older guys and trying to learn as much as possible off them.”
Taking the next step on from his 12 months in the Bushies development program, Sam reflects on how that has prepared him for playing in this State level competition, “I have learned to be able to score the ball, create for my teammates and defend bigger and more skilled players both at training and in games when given the opportunity.” He hasn’t been daunted by the leap to seniors and “would definitely encourage aspiring VJBLl/rep players to take the opportunity and challenge themselves to play, as I think it’s important and beneficial for them to start developing these skills at a younger age and to be around an older and more experienced basketball atmosphere is great to experience from a player's perspective.”
All three players have represented Wangaratta Basketball Inc for their entire junior rep years, climbing into the CBL Senior Rep program in recent years and have bright basketball futures ahead of them. And having now seen out much of the Big V 2021 season, Brodie feels that his key take-away from the program is that “you learn to be patient”, our offensive plays have a full 24-seconds in which to be executed, and sometimes the first option is not always the best! That’s a big learning curve for young players but he enjoys “playing the sport I love with a group of amazing and talented athletes” who guide him every step of the way.
Aspiring to head into the USA College system in the near future is high priority for these guys, which may lead to a more realist representation in the NBL and ultimately playing for Australia. Without question, they are all striving to make basketball a professional career, and there’s no doubt that a stint in the NE Bushrangers State League program will be a stepping stone in their development pathway, we wish them luck!
Big V returns to the courts this weekend after Lockdown-5.0 and our teams will be heading to RMIT for a double header on Saturday, followed by a home game for our Men vs Pakenham on Sunday. Unfortunately, for this return to sport, and for the next two weeks, no spectators are permitted.