BENDIGO Braves coach Ben Harvey has urged his side’s home-grown players to embrace the challenge of becoming leaders.
The Braves will enter the pre-season for only the second time since 2003 without their 2016 national championship co-captain and club 336-gamer Taylor Bell.
They will however retain the services of fellow co-captain Chris Hogan, who has reconsidered his decision to take a 12-month break in 2018, and will add to his already club record tally of 397 games.
Harvey, who has one year remaining on his current contract, could not contain his delight at Hogan agreeing to suit up for a 16th season with the Braves.
He added it would be a sad day when neither Hogan nor Bell, who retired at the end of the 2017 season, featured on the Braves roster.
“To be honest, these guys (Bell and Hogan) are pretty much irreplaceable in what they bring to the club,” he said.
“I’m not looking forward to when Chris retires.
“Both are great on-court leaders and they bring completely different parts of the game to other players.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to coach Chris one more season.”
On the flipside, Harvey said the void left by Bell created a fascinating opportunity for the Braves’ locally-bred players to forge their own identity and take on more senior roles.
“They do need to step up and they are going to get their opportunities,” he said.
“Daniel Hansen is one of those guys. He works very hard and is a fantastic player.
“But we’ve got role players.
“Jake Lloyd went to Illawarra Hawks this year, but missed out on a development position, but stayed there for five months and worked on his game.
“That’s great for our program. This kid comes back, he’s 19 and he will be better.
“I am really excited about next season – we need to bounce back and we need to make finals.
“But there’s a balance between winning and development – I can’t wait until tip-off.”
The Braves’ roster is continuing take shape led by the return of 2016 national championship guard Jeremy Kendle.
The club is expected to announce the signing of its second import and an Australian point guard early in the new year.
They will however be without Jake Cowling, who has transferred to Shepparton, where he will work as a teacher.
Cowling had a breakout season in 2017, averaging career highs in points (4.2) and rebounds (2.6) and filling a key defensive role off the bench.
Harvey said it was unfortunate Cowling could not lad a teaching role in Bendigo and continue with the team, but wished him every success in the future.