May 16, 2024
Home » Hyrum Harris is the Wildcats’ key

Photo: Perth Wildcats (Twitter / X)

Written by Jackson MacDonald (@JMacDonald91 on Twitter/X)

No Comment Column – Round 6

Coming into this past round of NBL action, the Perth Wildcats were in disarray, having four losses on the trot across the previous three weekends of basketball. Home losses to Brisbane, Melbourne United and on the road to the Sydney Kings and in particular the new Dejan Vasiljevic led Adelaide 36ers.

The boos of 13,000 strong Red Army members rained down on the team and mainly coach John Rillie. That four-game losing streak was the second of his very short reign as head coach of the NBL’s most successful franchise and it took Perth’s record to 2-5.

They were more than just punched in the mouth, they were shot in the leg and the warm Wildcats’ red turned into the bitterly freezing blue of RAC Arena.

If they lost their next home game to the Adelaide 36ers, John Rillie would have had his second five-game losing streak in only a season and a quarter, a low that a Wildcats coach hasn’t made in over a decade and a half.

Something had to give. Whether it was drastic or small, Perth was forced to evolve.

It came in the form of a change to the starting five.

A very similar thing happened last season as the Wildcats were heading to Auckland to face the Breakers, with Corey Webster and Luke Travers entering the first group for Mitch Norton and Todd Blanchfield.

This, along with a certain Breakers social media post, would spark Webster and the Wildcats into a great second half of the season.

Corey Webster off the bench (NBL23): 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists in 22 minutes per game

Corey Webster starting (NBL23): 17.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists in 31 minutes per game

Perth were 5-7 before this change and went on to win 10 of their last 16 games of the season after this point, finishing the season in sixth place and into a play-in game.

Fast forward to where we are now, and John Rillie has injected Tall Black Hyrum Harris into the starting five for import wing Jordan Usher.

Usher after an electric 35 points on debut in Round 1 against the Tasmania JackJumpers, has struggled to play a consistent level of basketball, and his rushed shot selection has cost Perth some major opportunities while playing.

In comes Harris, a player who unlike Corey Webster, you won’t see the difference he makes on a box score. His averages of 3.3 points, 3 rebounds and an assist per game are extremely sub-par when you compare them to every other starter in the league.

However, his one-percenters, playmaking and traffic control on offence make Perth a far superior team to that of a week ago.

Hyrum is cut from the same cloth of four-time Wildcats’ champion Greg Hire. A hustler, a physical body that does the dirty work and gets the job done without the praise or numbers of a star, but he is what makes Perth a winning basketball team.

The six-seven forward played large stretches of both games this weekend as the team’s point guard. Bringing the ball up the floor, slowing the tempo down and creating major plays for the Wildcats even if he wasn’t credited for any of the work he did.

Even when off the ball, Harris would play make for the team, directing them where to go like a coach on the court (not in the Dan Shamir sense).

I did say earlier his numbers didn’t match that of his on-court performance however, this one does. 144, this is Hyrum Harris’ offensive rating which is the best for Perth and third best in the entire league. The next best for the Wildcats is 118 by starting centre Keanu Pinder.

He also has Perth’s highest offensive rebounding percentage (14) while having the team’s smallest usage at 11 per cent, which is in the 10 smallest in the league.

It just shows that roles and hustle, beat talent and individual brilliance… unless you do this.

All stats from Spatial Jam

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