Following two large-margin losses in the Malaysia Hoops Challenge, new Westports Malaysia Dragons head coach Jamie Pearlman still remained optimistic and only took positives away from his first two games guiding the team.
“I came in with a new system [and] there’s a lot of young guys trying to learn it in a hurry you know,” said Pearlman, who only had roughly seven team practices prior to the tournament.
During the Dragons’ 18-point loss to Singapore’s Adroit, the team’s local Malaysian players combined for only 26 total points. The former ABL champions were only able to shoot 36 percent overall and committed a whopping 25 turnovers.
“I thought today the guys started to apply it, and it got a lot better, especially on the defensive end,” explained the Australian head coach following his team’s loss. “Every game is just a matter of getting better from the previous game.
He believes that with more practices and games, this group of players will only improve steadily from their current stage, which resulted in a one-win-four-losses tournament record.
When the conversation switched from the Malaysia Hoops Challenge to the upcoming ASEAN Basketball League season, Pearlman was quick to acknowledge the rising competitiveness of the regional league, saying, “It’s a really tough league and there’s some changes in the way imports are structured, so it’s a new thing to the entire league.”
After losing to an Adroit side led by Singapore national team players Leon Kwek, Wong Wei Long, and Toh Qing Huang, Pearlman acknowledge that “watching the Indonesians and Singaporeans, you know, you can definitely see a lot of talent in Asia.”
The pocket tournament also served well for the former Nelson Giants head coach in evaluating his current roster, as he was able to analyze and gauge what type of import players he should add onto the team for the ninth season of the ABL.
“We are definitely looking for a point guard, a scoring point guard who can score and run the team, and we also need some size, a big five guy,” said Pearlman.
He continued by saying, “Somebody that can be a huge presence on the defensive side, Chris [Eversley] has proven himself to be able to score 20 or 30 plus points in the league, so we know his capabilities.”
Pearlman went even further in describing the ideal imports who would match with his playing style for the coming ABL campaign.
“The point guard we bring in, hopefully, can put up similar numbers like Chris. About the big man, we need him to score, but we would need him more in terms of defensive prowess,” said the Dragons’ new tactician in a determined tone.
However, Pearlman also stressed the importance of finding the right guy with the right mindset. Instead of signing imports who are capable of just great on-court performances, he is also values off-court leadership that will compliment his young team.
“Look, it’s really important for this team to bring in the right personality as well as being a good fit. We need imports who come in here and embrace the team, and want to be part of the team culture. That’s very important to me.”
Even if it means sacrificing overall capabilities and skill, the head coach is willing to take the risk in order to tap into the right imports.
“Sometimes we need to sacrifice a little bit of talent to get that right personality,” stressed Pearlman.
As a former professional basketball player in the Australian National Basketball League (NBL), Pearlman certainly knows a harmonic, hardworking environment is what a basketball team needs to thrive in the long run. After all, the Dragons have been a bottom tier team for the past two seasons.
Hence, he is looking to build a whole new basketball culture in Malaysia, starting from the local players.
“My role, to be honest, I’m here to develop the young players. I’m here to make them better, improve and understand the game better, and also their skill level along with a professional attitude,” eluded Pearlman.
“The ABL is part of my role, but it’s a bigger picture for me to help this ball club from the grassroots all the way into the ABL.”