SEABL review | Season ticking away for Albury-Wodonga Bandits

To say that the Albury-Wodonga Bandits have battled through an inauspicious start to the season is to say it all of their first 11 games.

A reasonable start soon gave way to a series of home losses, broken only one road win.

Stranded at 4-7 and at serious risk of dropping out of the finals picture, it’s time to take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the first half of season 2018.

  • Deba George (19pts/4reb/4ast, league 2nd in steals, 4th in turnovers) Grade: B

It’s been a hot and cold start for the former All-Star.

George’s assists are down from last season’s career high, but that was perhaps to be expected without backcourt running mate Daniel Sepokas not available for most of the first 11 games.

His shooting splits have been good, he hasn’t lost any of his patented zip – by and large, Deba has still been Deba.

Defensively though, the enigmatic guard needs to lift.

He’s not the only culprit, nor always the cause, but miscommunication, particularly on the perimeter, has killed the Bandits of late.

  • Lamar Mallory (18/10/1.5, 57%FG, league 3rd in fouls) Grade: B

Mallory hasn’t disappointed in his return to the Border, but it would be fair to posit that he hasn’t excelled either. 

His stats are solid and his shooting has been better than expected, but like George, there is room for improvement on defence.

The springy forward ranks third in the league for fouls, an undesirable stat by any stretch, and one he must improve on. 

That’s no easy task – Mallory is frequently tasked with guarding some of the league’s top players.

His goal for the second half of the season must be to prove he’s up to it and find a way to lead this team to a finals push.

  • Rashad Hassan (18/7, 56%FG) Grade: B+

Rashad Hassan has been solid, if perhaps unspectacular in his first season on the Border – more or less as advertised.

That’s a good thing, as his post defence has been good, his low-post scoring has been near unstoppable at times, and he’s been a valuable veteran presence.

Though sharing the frontcourt with Tevin Jackson and Lamar Mallory might be impacting his rebounding numbers, if he can grab three or four more defensive boards per game it would be a positive.

Hassan doesn’t need to be the Bandits’ most dominant player for them to be successful, but he is required to be their most reliable – and he has been just that so far.

  • Tevin Jackson (11/6/3, 36%FG, 27%3PT, league 2nd TO) Grade: C+

A brutal three game stretch, in which Jackson turned the ball over 19 times, hurt his overall grade, but the last few games the NBL hopeful has shown some improvement.

Jackson has been thrust into a point-forward role at times, to varying degrees of success, and the best version of this roster probably has Jackson creating good shots for others.

His biggest issue has been his shooting, particularly from three – they just aren’t falling for him at the moment.

If he can tighten his handle and passing, reduce his turnovers and pick his spots better, Jackson might well be the most important piece of the puzzle for this team.

  • Jack Duck (7/3/2.5, 30%FG, league 2nd FLS) Grade: B

The longest tenured Bandit on the squad has done an admirable job in the starting five in the absence of Sepokas. 

Duck may not be the star of the team, but he is the heart of it – a snarling, occasionally unsociable veteran who sets the tone. 

Defence has been the problem for the Bandits and Duck is one who can dictate the degree of success they have on that end.

Discipline has to be the name of the game as the season wears on.

  • Mitch Donovan, Grade: A

Donovan has done more than could have been expected of him so far this season.

His stat line is far from gaudy – just over one point and one rebound per game, but with the teenage rookie it’s all about the intangibles.

When he handles the ball, he makes the right play and doesn’t turn it over.

He hustles hard on defence and keeps mistakes to a minimum.

Though somewhat by necessity, coach Brad Chalmers deserves some credit for giving him a tick over 10 minutes a game.

  • Chris Thompson, Grade: C

Thompson has earned more minutes as the season goes on, and could be a valuable piece of the bench once the Bandits are fully fit.

The swingman is still finding his feet at SEABL level, but can hit a three and isn’t shy of taking a big shot.

  • Derrick Scott (3/3, 40%FG) Grade: C

Arriving at the club a few games into the season, Scott has shown glimpses of potential as a big off the bench. 

Much like Thompson, Scott is still adjusting to the pace of the league, but shapes as an important reserve to the big trio of Jackson, Mallory and Hassan.

Having an impact defensively and setting strong screens will be how Scott can continue to improve.

  • Head coach Brad Chalmers, Grade: B

It’s terrifically hard to judge the Bandits based on injuries that have kept starting guard Sepokas and sixth man Sawyer Dearborn out for, more or less, the first half of the season.

Sepokas is a crucial cog in the machine, but Chalmers hasn’t been able to find the right formula in his absence.

As it was last season, defence has been the biggest issue, but perhaps more worrying is the fact that the offence hasn’t fired.

Chalmers has lamented a lack of energy and desire from his team at times, and it’s clear the defence has major issues.

Their strategy has been to switch heavily on the perimeter, but this has led to Deba George being taken advantage of in the low post and Rashad Hassan being forced to keep speedier guards in front.

Switch-heavy defence will become more prevalent as more and more big men extend out to the perimeter, so Chalmers deserves credit for rolling with it, but the execution has been lacking.