Imports aiming to jazz up Braves play 

WITH just one sentence,  new Bendigo Bank Braves import Jazz Ferguson yesterday signalled his intentions for the 2013 SEABL season.

“I can’t wait to fill this place.”

Ferguson, who arrived in Bendigo alongside new team-mate and Braves favourite Ivan McFarlin, wasted little time in setting the bar high for personal and team goals.

“I love playing in big games,’’ the point guard said.

“One of the reasons why I signed with the Braves is that Bendigo is one of the most respected teams in the SEABL and the fans get behind the team so well.

“I feed off the crowd and I’m looking forward to having some fun out on the court.

“I think we have a great team this year and we have the chance to win the title.”

Ferguson led the Albury-Wodonga Bandits to the SEABL national title last year, averaging 23.4 points, 5.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 31 games.

The 23-year-old surprised the Bandits when he quit the club to sign with Bendigo.

“Albury was a great place to play... but I just felt coming to Bendigo gave me a better chance to take my game to another level,’’ he said.

While Ferguson is chasing a second-straight SEABL national title, McFarlin has his sights set on his first.

The centre dominated the SEABL in his two seasons with the club in 2010 and 2011 winning a swag of individual awards.

The Braves won back-to-back east conference championships in 2010-11, but lost both national grand finals.

“I really enjoyed my time in Bendigo, but I haven’t experienced winning that final title game,’’ McFarlin said yesterday.

“It’s great to win the conference titles and the individual awards, but that last game is what it’s all about.

“This year it looks like we have the nucleus of a really good team, so that title is what we want.”

McFarlin, 30, said as much as he enjoyed his two years in Bendigo, he did come close to rejecting the Braves offer.

“It was a hard decision to leave my wife and three young kids’’ McFarlin said.

“It makes it hard on my wife to raise the kids, but we’re lucky enough to have plenty of family and friends to help us.

“Hopefully, they’ll be able to come out at the end of the season.”

Braves coach Ben Harvey has the luxury of having his imports available for a month leading into the season-opener against Knox on March 15.

“I’m really looking forward to getting the guys together,’’ Harvey said. “Ivan will fit straight back in and Jazz will connect with the group quickly.

“One of the main reasons we signed Jazz is his great leadership qualities.

“His combination with Kevin Probert gives us one of the best backcourts in the league.

“Ivan and Tommy (Garlepp) should complement each other in the frontcourt as well.

“On paper we have a very good side, but we still have to gel and we have a lot of hard work to do.”

The Braves’ pre-season schedule includes back-to-back home games against Sandringham on March 3 and the AIS on March 4.

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