New recruits ready to blaze
GOLD Coast Blaze coach Joey Wright went on a shopping spree and was happy with what ended up in the trolley.
Not baked beans, corned flakes or frozen pizza, but two outstanding basketball players who are destined play a huge roles for the Blaze as they burn their way through the National Basketball League this upcoming season.
The new campaign starts for the Blaze next Friday when they host New Zealand Breakers at "The Furnace"- the Gold Coast Convention Centre - where basketball fans will get the opportunity to run their eyes over Wright's buys.
This particular shopping trip didn't involve a drive down to Tweed City Shopping Centre, but a flight to Las Vegas where life is always a gamble on the gaming tables.
But Wright's gambling took place on basketball courts during the annual two-day Import Camp where talent scouts and basketball officials from all over the globe converge to run their eyes over American players who are keen to be snapped on for overseas playing contracts.
Like all good shoppers, Wright inspected the products, noted the price, was satisfied with both and then forked out to secure two men who will be vitally important cogs in the Blaze machine as they campaign in the NBL this season.
Winging their way back to Australia with Wright were vastly experienced Mike English (194cms) and tyro tall timber, Will Hudson, whose size (206cms/106kgs) will be a tremendous asset to the Blaze under the basket.
"I went over there with specific players in mind," Wright said.
"I was looking for a leader, a man with aggressive intelligence who was prepared to do what it takes to attack the goal and fight for possession - Mike English fitted the bill perfectly.
"I saw Mike in action at the camp and it was hard not to miss him but as for Will, I was given a video of him playing for his college and he took my eye with his strength and aggressiveness under the hoop.
"Fortunately he was in Vegas at the time, not at the camp but with a friend who was trialling for one of the (American) NBA teams, so I was able to snap him up as well."
For the 22-year-old Hudson, this is his first trip outside the United States and first job since graduating with a communications degree from Oakland University where he starred for the Golden Grizzlies in the powerful college league.
"I keep pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming," Hudson said.
"Here I am living in a wonderful country, living beside the ocean, meeting friendly people and playing basketball for a living - it can't get much better than this."
Accompanying Hudson to Australia was his younger brother, Andrew - the duo shares a Meriton apartment at Broadbeach where their next-door neighbour is the much-travelled Mike English.
English has plied his considerable talents in many countries since becoming a professional in 2002.
After starring for the University of Missouri, he's played in Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Spain and most recently in Slovakia where his brilliant all round play steered Astrum Levice to the national championship.
English was named the MVP of the playoffs, Eurobasket Player of the Year, Eurobasket Guard of the Year and Eurobasket Import Player of the year.
He is thrilled to be in Australia, living on the Gold Coast and playing with "a tremendous group of teammates".
The 27-year-old predicts the Blaze will be a real force in the NBL this season.
"This one of the most professional outfits I've been associated with," he said.
"The chemistry here is huge and runs right through the entire club.
"I think Joey (Wright) has assembled a cohesive and well-balanced squad which is certainly good enough to go all the way this season."