SYDNEY were kings of the Tamworth court last year but the Cairns Taipans are keen to take that mantle from them this weekend.
The two will match-up at the Tamworth Sports Dome tonight and tomorrow night for the Schweppes Drury’s Cup.
The Kings won the silverware last year on aggregate after they and Gold Coast Blaze took out a game each.
This weekend they find themselves up against another Queensland side in the Taipans.
They will be making their first visit to Tamworth and are looking forward to it.
“I’m excited – it’s going to be fun,” Taipans co-captain Jamar Wilson said.
“We just went down to Port Hedland the other week.”
Wilson had never been to that part of Australia before, nor has he this area and he said it would be another thing he could check off.
The 28-year-old point guard joined the Taipans last season on a three-year contract.
He had a hugely successful college career back in the US, making the America East Conference all-conference team on several occasions, and was the first player at his school to have his jersey retired.
Coming down and playing in Australia was something he’d always thought about – and so far it’s been a great move.
He’s loved his time at the Taipans, with Cairns very much becoming a home away from home.
“I’m looking forward to the next two seasons being here,” Wilson said.
His first priority is this season and this weekend’s games against the Kings are an important part of the Taipans’ build-up for that.
“We’re trying to gauge where we’re at,” he said.
“It’ll be a pretty exciting challenge.”
The Kings beat them two out of the three times they played last season but the Taipans are confident with the hard work they’ve put in at training and the way the team is starting to come together that they can put it to the Sydneysiders.
“We’re definitely looking to win but we know Sydney will be strong,” Wilson said.
But they are also a fairly new roster, unlike the Taipans.
“We have the same core as last year,” Wilson said.
They’ve added to that a couple of “really good rookies” and a couple of new signings including Cameron Tragardh from Melbourne.
He’ll be a handy addition.
“He brings some offensive firepower and experience,” Wilson said.
“He’s been one of the top guys in the league for four or five years.”
Another big signing is American Shane Edwards, who will be having his first run for the Taipans against the Kings.
“He’s pretty athletic and strong,” Wilson said.
Edwards has also been on the brink of playing in the NBA and, with Wilson, will be one of several American imports on show over the two nights.
Another is Kings point guard Corin Henry.
Henry is one of the new faces on the Kings’ roster.
He’s been out here for about three weeks now.
“Everybody’s been welcoming and friendly, especially my team-mates, which makes it easier,” Henry said.
The 23-year old had held a desire to play in the NBL and when the opportunity came up he snapped it up.
“This is my second year overseas,” he said.
“Last year I was in Denmark.”
He probably couldn’t have picked two places more poles apart.
“It was cold and rainy – the total opposite to here,” he said.
Born in Maryland, Henry played his school basketball in Texas and is excited about getting out into the country.
“I’m definitely excited to see the countryside. I’ve only seen the cityside so far,” he said.
What he’s also really excited about is the prospect of seeing a kangaroo.
He is itching to get out on the court after spending most of his time since his arrival training.
“It’s coming together pretty well but it takes time and practice,” he said.
This weekend will be a good chance to really see how they are coming along.
“Playing a team back to back will be good.
“After the first game we know what we can do, and what they can do,” Henry said.
Tonight’s game tips-off at 7.30pm.