We assess where each club is at heading into the start of the new season. How will last year's Premiers, Southern and Norwood, cope with the loss of key players? Are North's men and women heading in opposite directions? Which teams are stuck in the middle? Read on to find out.

MEN

Staying up: Norwood

The Flames finished the regular season in second position last season, but missed the Grand Final after being overrun by Sturt in the Preliminary Final. The loss came in spite of beating the same opponent in the Qualifying Final. The Flames have managed to retain the majority of their core from last season, including Matthew Lycett, Andrew Webber and Daniel Webber. The loss of Jacob Holmes should be more than catered for via the inclusions of imports Jerrell Sanders (a journeyman out of Ferris State University) and Ahmad Starks (formerly of Oregon State University and the University of Illinois). Another top three spot beckons.

 

On the rise: North, South

The Rockets missed the finals last season, following a run of 15 losses from their last 18 games. The previous season, Aric Miller led them to a top five finish, and the Rockets will be buoyed by the former NCAA star’s return. What is more, the Rockets have added another import in Alexander Starling, whose two-season Premier League record includes two championships, a regular season MVP, and a finals MVP. On paper, the Rockets are the team to beat in 2017.

The Panthers suffered another lean year in 2016, as illustrated by their poor return of five wins. With imports Eian Davis (formerly of the Baltimore Hawks of the American Basketball Association) and Afam Muojeke (formerly of the University of Wyoming) joining a team filled with plenty of veteran experience, the Panthers should be able to improve on their winning percentage from last season, although finals may be beyond them.

 

On the treadmill: Woodville, Forestville, West

After hitting the highest of highs with a premiership in 2014, the Warriors have been on a shallow decline since. They were eliminated at the Preliminary Final stage by Sturt in 2015, before losing to the same opponent a round earlier in 2016. New import Jason Luhnow (formerly of Lewis and Clark University) has big shoes to fill, as fellow import Nathan Kirksey, the Warriors’ star of last season, has moved on. Aside from the addition of Christopher Clausen and Daniel Carlin, who gives them quality big men, the Warriors have a relatively similar team to last season. They should be in the mix to play finals again, but they do not look like premiership contenders.

Following an ultra-rare bottom five finish in 2015, the Eagles were back in the postseason last season, albeit for only one week, as they were ousted by Woodville. The Eagles have made some nice additions, reacquiring 36ers listed Majok Deng (who played his juniors at Forestville) and adding import Antonio Garrett (formerly of the College of Idaho). They have also promoted a host of juniors. On the other hand, they have lost a lot of experience, including star Adam Doyle, former club MVP Brad Gerlach and Kyle Howe-Tipene. The new additions should blend in nicely with the likes of Jake Rios and Trent Fildes, but it is hard to see them making it much further than another Elimination Final.

Despite finishing with a winning record last year, the Bearcats had to sit out the postseason for the first time since 2006. The additions of imports Darius Oldham (formerly of Chattanooga College) and Harold Ridgeway (formerly of Midland University), combined with the core of veteran clubmen Anthony Spadavecchia, Blake Truslove and Tristan Braithwaite should have them in the mix for finals once again, but whether or not they can make any noise if they get there remains to be seen.

 

On the fall: Southern, Sturt

The Tigers cannot go any higher, following their 2016 championship campaign in which they won 22 of 23 fixtures. They have been hit with some major personnel losses, including 36ers Captain Mitchell Creek, fellow star Alexander Starling, and key rotation players Samuel Johns, Codey Ellison and Todd Davies. While the acquisitions of 2016-17 NBL Rookie of the Year Anthony Drmic and import Michael Nwelue (a player with experience competing in Europe) should help the Tigers push for another finals appearance, the team is significantly weaker on paper than the one that dominated last year’s competition.

The Sabres had monster finishes in 2015 and 2016, reaching the Grand Final on both occasions, despite finishing with the fifth and third seeds in those seasons. The midseason signing of Daniel Johnson gave the team a boost late last year, but the 36ers star has not signed on for the start of 2017. That said, the core of Isaac White, Jacob Rigoni, Tim Klaosen and Jan Warbout remains, while you can always count on the young Sabre cubs being ready to compete when called upon. The Sabres probably have the third best team on paper, but another key signing or two may just move the needle enough for the Double Blues to earn their first title since 2010.

 

Staying down: Centrals; Eastern

The Lions won just three games in 2016. While they have signed two imports in Ricardo Martin (formerly of Lander University) and Sai'Quon Stone (formerly of the University of Southern Mississippi), the remainder of their roster lacks the quality to get them out of the bottom two.

The Mavericks produced just two wins for all of last season, and despite the addition of import Michael Hundley (formerly of Ashland University), they are set to continue their drawn-out rebuild for another.

 

Pre-season Power Rankings:

North Adelaide Rockets

Norwood Flames

Sturt Sabres

West Adelaide Bearcats

Forestville Eagles

Woodville Warriors

Southern Tigers

South Adelaide Panthers

Central District Lions

Eastern Mavericks

  

WOMEN

Staying up: Norwood, Southern, West

The Flames – the reigning back-to-back premiers – have lost some key players from last season’s squad. These include Jessica Foley, Stephanie Talbot and Taylor Ortlepp. That said, with the likes of Jessica Good and Marisa Stabile leading the way, there is still enough talent on show for the red and the blue to be in the mix for a third consecutive flag.

The Tigers soared up the ladder to finish the last regular season in second position, before just missing out on a Grand Final berth. Alexandra Green replaces Ta’Rea Cunningham as the lone import, but other than that, the Tigers have a similar roster to 2016. With Mollie McKendrick, Tara Dodman, Denelle Fawcett and Teresa Kinross leading the way, the Tigers are well in the hunt for the 2017 Premiership.

A balanced attack and a stifling defence were critical for the Bearcats during their unprecedented run to the 2016 Grand Final. The additions of import Brielle Ward (formerly of St. Francis University), Hajnal Nagy and Ieva Nagy should offset the losses of Teonna Campbell and Tahlia Fejo. With Sky Langenbrinck, Ashlea Vordermaier and Stana Zecevic returning, the Bearcats should once again be among the top sides in the competition.

 

On the rise: Woodville, South

The Warriors faded heavily in the latter half of last season, ultimately winning just seven games. The Warriors have traded import Tavarsha Scott for two more imports in Ashley Claussen (formerly of Southern Oregon University) and Jennifer Monroe formerly of Anderson University), but otherwise offer similar personnel to last year’s team. Should the new players gel with star Katherine Perkas, avoiding back-to-back bottom five finishes is not beyond the realms of possibility.

The Panthers had a bitterly disappointing 2016 campaign, emerging victorious on just a couple of occasions. This was on the back of a successful 2015 journey, in which they reached the Preliminary Final. The signing of former Bearcat Teonna Campbell should help the Panthers finish with a better winning percentage than last season, although to say it will be an uphill battle to return to the finals is an understatement.

 

On the treadmill: Sturt, Forestville

For much of last year, the Sabres appeared on track for a finals berth, only to collapse down the stretch for a second consecutive season. The Sabres are one of the few teams with an all-Australian squad. However, with returning star Amy Shaw joining the likes of Hannah Richards, Caroline Burgess and Kate Gladstone, the Sabres should once again find themselves in the race for the top five.

The Eagles reached the Semi Final stage last season, where they lost to Southern. They have a very young roster this year, with only one player over the age of 24. That said, their roster is filled with talent, led by Olivia Thompson and Samantha Defrancesco. Another finals appearance beckons.

 

On the fall: North

After winning the premiership in 2014 and reaching another Grand Final in 2015, the Rockets were in poll position to push for another long campaign in 2016. Then, it all came unstuck. The Rockets dropped home contests with West and Southern inside the final three weeks of the season, causing them to fall from second to fourth. When they lost their third straight home game, to Forestville, in the Elimination Final, the Rockets’ premiership quest was unexpectedly over. Although they have added import guard Norrisha Victrum (a player with experience competing in Europe), and Jo Hill has come out of retirement, the Rockets have relinquished last season’s top scorer in Shannon McKay, meaning the late drama in 2016 may just be the beginning of the end of one of the great club era’s in women’s basketball.

 

Staying down: Eastern, Centrals

The Mavericks won five of their 21 games in 2016, giving them an eighth placed finish. Although they will be buoyed with the talented WNBL player Alex Wilson being back on their list, it is tough to see the Mavericks moving up the ladder.

The Lions suffered through a winless 2016 campaign. With no major additions, a fifth consecutive wooden spoon is almost a certainty.

 

Pre-season Power Rankings:

West Adelaide Bearcats

Southern Tigers

Norwood Flames

Woodville Warriors

Forestville Eagles

Sturt Sabres

North Adelaide Rockets

South Adelaide Panthers

Eastern Mavericks

Central District Lions

 

But…

For whatever reason, there is never a season that goes exactly as expected. Maybe a team that looks good on paper fails to gel? What if a contender loses a key player to injury? Could there be some in-season activity on the free agent market? Stay tuned for another season of unpredictability. 

By James Woite. 

Photo Credit: AllStar Photos. 

Latest News

From player to coach, Kaye-lee continues to stand out for SA.

Kaye-lee Stuart has enjoyed an impressive playing career, but now the spotlight turns to her coaching…

Read more

SA Under-20 Women's State Team Announcement

Congratulations to the following athletes on their selection with the 2019 Under-20 South Australian…

Read more

Stay up to date with Basketball SA news

Basketball SA Partners

Spalding Government of SA - Office for Recreation and Sport 19668017 10156743880874848 30855650 N Nuskope Viva Logo Web Fw Tgl Resized Aussie Hoops Logo For Web Adelaide 36Ers For Web Adelaide Lightning For Web