Perth Wildcats star Bryce Cotton has sent a clear reminder to the NBL that he’s ready for another massive season with a 36-point domination over Cairns in the opening game of the NBL Blitz.
After warming up with 20 points and 13 points in practice games against Adelaide last weekend, Cotton travelled to Darwin and put on a show as the official NBL pre-season began.
He scored 21 points in the first half and Cotton’s night included seven three-pointers as Perth won 98-80.
“Bryce was pretty special,” coach John Rillie said.
“What I’m trying to do is stay out the way and enjoy it because when a player is in that type of form, you’ve just got to watch and let them go. Tonight, we needed him to step up and he did. He carried us.”
Mitch Norton sent a scare through the team when he hobbled from the court in the third quarter. He didn’t return to the game but Rillie was confident it wasn’t a major issue.
With TaShawn Thomas (ankle) and Jesse Wagstaff (hamstring) sitting out the game and Majok Majok spending only four minutes on court in his return from an ankle injury, Perth can ill afford to lose another key player just two weeks before the opening game. But Rillie said the injuries had already produced a silver lining.
“Everyone who has had an opportunity has stepped up and made the most of their minutes,” he said.
“Ollie Hayes-Brown came in and did a nice job. Corey Shervill in his first minutes came in and knocked down a couple of threes. It’s great to see those guys dialled in.”
Luke Travers was again influential with 16 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Shervill finished with six points in his first game since recovering from a long term foot injury.
But import Brady Manek’s three-point shooting drought extended to 13 consecutive misses from two games.
Meanwhile, veteran Jesse Wagstaff has been named captain for a second season with Norton his deputy and both Cotton and Kyle Zunic also in the leadership group.
Wagstaff said electing Zunic as a leader in his first season on the main roster showed how highly he is respected. Zunic was a Development Player last season
“Zu came in really early last year and showed leadership qualities, he plays the right way, he’s defensive minded and he deserves it and hopefully he will grab the opportunity with two hands,” Wagstaff said.