SYDNEY Kings coach Shane Heal is taking this weekend’s two-game Schweppes Drury’s Cup series in Tamworth very seriously as he tries to whip his team into shape ahead of the National Basketball League season.
The Kings take on the Cairns Taipans at the Sports Dome tomorrow night and again on Saturday night.
Sydney has a vastly different side to the one that came to Tamworth last year and a new coach in former Boomers star Heal.
“These two games are really important for us because six of our 10 players are new,” Heal said yesterday.
“We’ve had a lot of changes from what we had last year.
“It’s a new mindset and a new style and we’ve only been together for three weeks.
“So it’s really important for us to work on our systems and get them right.”
Heal is implementing a completely new structure at the club.
Converting that from training to game day is his focus this week.
“We’ve got to teach them a new philosophy,” Heal said.
“They’ve worked really hard in the pre-season.
“The players have put in a big effort and we’re fit and ready to go.
“It’s a good test for us to play a team like Cairns because a majority of their side have been together for a few years.”
That is a big advantage for the Taipans.
Heal said they would be a tough opponent and had some handy players.
“The way the NBL is now, first and last will be pretty close,” he said.
“They’ve had the same coach for three or four years and the majority of the team has been the foundation for a few years.
“That makes it a good test for us just from that point of view.
“I think their point guard is one of their keys, Jamar
“They’ve signed him for three years I think, so that shows how good they think he is.
“It will be a test for our American point guard.
“Another key is Cameron Tragardh who was one of the leading scorers in the whole competition last season.
“It will be a test for us to contain his scoring.
“And the third one is Alex Loughton, who is a veteran who has played everywhere and is a very good player.
“He will give them leadership,” Heal said.
The player turnover at Sydney has brought some new imports and a couple of signings from other NBL clubs, including the Gold Coast Blaze, the now defunct club Sydney played in Tamworth last year.
New and old players alike are out to impress the new coach and some have already done so.
“We signed James Harvey from the Gold Coast so he was on the opposition last year,” Heal said.
“He’s been very good.
“He’s a good three-point shooter.
“Our two new Americans, one is a guard (Corin Henry) and the other a big bloke (Darnell Lazare).
“They’ll have to adjust.
“And Aaron Bruce has been excellent so far and could be in for a really big season.
“And (Ian) Crosswhite is a veteran and will be playing against his old side for the first time because he’s been at Cairns the last few years.”
The Kings split their games with the Gold Coast last year but won the Schweppes Drury’s Cup on aggregate.
The teams arrive tonight, with game one tipping off at 7.30pm tomorrow.