The Perth Wildcats’ development systems have been hailed as the key reason the club fielded four West Australians on Saturday for the first time since 1994.
Championship winners Greg Hire and Tom Jervis had already been joined by WA’s Rhys Vague on the main roster this season. But then the coaches called on Sunday Dech to replace captain Damian Martin in the squad when a calf injury ruled him out of action.
Vague and Dech played a key role in the 92-78 victory over New Zealand, coming off the bench to help turn the game.
Hire, Vague and Dech began their careers as development players. Jervis started as a training player.
Jervis said they had relished the opportunity to play together on Saturday.
“It’s a testament to the Wildcats and what they’ve done development-player-wise,” Jervis said. “Greg has come up through those ranks, the same as Sunday and Rhys. I’ve been a training player with the Cats. They’ve done a great job.”
Vague wasn’t born the last time four West Australians represented the Wildcats and Dech was only a baby. Dech played for eight minutes on court — more time than in two seasons as a development player.
Dech and Vague were on court with Bryce Cotton, Clint Steindl and Jesse Wagstaff when the Wildcats seized the ascendancy against the Breakers.
Vague said playing against Wildcats players in the SBL had shown him how much work it took to play in the NBL.
“It’s been good playing against them growing up because then you know the level that you have to be at,” Vague said.
“Greg was playing for Wanneroo and was averaging a triple-double almost. To know that you’re not there yet and have to keep working to get to that level has been really helpful.”
The Wildcats are on top of the NBL ladder and host Brisbane on Friday night.