PERTH Wildcats captain Damian Martin departed Perth yesterday in what has been a big week for the NBL franchise.
Martin left for the Olympic Games in Rio with coach Trevor Gleeson a day after the club announced the re-signing of American excitement machine Casey Prather.
Gleeson is travelling as an assistant coach with the Boomers.
Martin will be part of a 12-man team featuring six NBA players; four of whom are proud owners of NBA Championship Rings.
At 31, the five-time NBL Best Defensive Player thought he might have missed his Olympic opportunity.
Selection was a dream come true for the Wildcat who shared the “amazing” feeling with his wife and parents.
Damian Martin will be joined in the team by three-time Perth Wildcats MVP and now Sydney King Kevin Lisch.
“Every team’s different and special in their own way, but certainly for this team, we have a tremendous mix of youth, international experience, there’s guys playing in the best leagues around the world playing significant minutes,” head coach Andrej Lemanis said.
“So from that point of view we’re very confident in the group we’re taking over there.”
For Martin, selection in the Boomers side caps off a year where he led the Wildcats to its second championship in three seasons and was named grand final MVP.
He was named in the Boomers side for the Oceania Championships last year, but injured his calf, missing the series.
He played in the 2010 FIBA World Championships and captained Australia to its first ever gold medal at the 2003 Under-19 World Championships.
Prather, who was named the Wildcats’ Most Valuable Player last season, is excited to provide some more above-the-rim highlights this season.
“I loved playing in front of the fans at Perth Arena,” the 25-year-old said.
“The atmosphere is amazing and I’m really excited to put on a show for the Red Army again this season.
“I’ve been working hard throughout the off-season, trying to get better everyday.
“To win back-to-back championships with my Wildcats teammates would be amazing. I can’t wait to get back to Perth.”
Prather finished the championship season with averages of 16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
More recently, he was selected to play for the Dallas Mavericks at the NBA Summer League in Orlando.
In five games he averaged 11.6 points, shooting the ball at a solid 46 per cent, plus 4.2 rebounds per game, not to mention numerous signature athletic finishes.
He top-scored for the Mavs in their final game of the series with 23 points, shooting four of seven from deep, plus four steals.
Perth Wildcats assistant coach Matt Nielsen watched him play in Florida.
“The progression between what we saw Casey do at last year’s Summer League compared to this one only highlights how much work and effort he’s put into his game, and the development he made in his year in Perth,” Nielsen said.
“To have the opportunity to get him back is fantastic. The added bonus, that instead of getting someone new, which can be risky, is that Casey is a phenomenal teammate.
“What the fans don’t see is what he brings away from the game, which is invaluable. He’s a leader in his own way.
“His ability to cover ground, his defensive ability, he helps out teammates and takes pride in guarding his own guy. Those traits are a big factor to his personal winning record with the Wildcats.”
Prather stands at 198cm and weighs in at 94kg.
He was born in Jackson, Tennessee, where he attended North Side High School, graduating in 2010.
Prather then attended the University of Florida where he played under coach Billy Donovan for the Florida Gators.
He was a key scorer for the team, which made the final four of the NCAA Tournament in 2014.
The Wildcats first signed him one year ago at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.