American guard John Roberson is enjoying life with expansion franchise South East Melbourne Phoenix after almost shooting his way into the record books in just his second NBL appearance.
Having played extensively throughout Europe during his professional career, Roberson became a priority signing for the Phoenix with coach Simon Mitchell seeking the experienced floor general to lead them in their inaugural season.
And the 31-year-old American has made an immediate impact, claiming the most outstanding player award for the NBL Blitz pre-season series before guiding the new franchise to a 2-0 record.
After overcoming foul trouble to score 20 points in the Phoenix's debut win against Melbourne United, Roberson exploded for 30 points in Sunday's victory over the previously unbeaten Brisbane Bullets.
"It was pretty fun," Roberson said after sinking nine three-pointers in the 113-93 rout of the Bullets at Melbourne Arena, falling just short of Jermaine Beal's NBL record of ten triples in a 40-minute game.
"I had it going tonight but on this team, anybody can get it going. We have multiple guys who can score 30, who can score 25, who can make multiple threes in a game."
Phoenix drained 18 triples against the Bullets but Mitchell was equally pleased with his side's ability to execute their game plan of shutting down Brisbane's outside shooters (7-25 from long range).
While the NBL new boys are hoping to build a reputation as a tough defensive team, the first-year head coach was always confident they would click on offence with the attacking weapons at his disposal.
"We've got good shooters and we're trying to put them into positions where they can get good looks," Mitchell said.
"There's synchronicity there between the guys at the offensive end and I always thought that was going to be it because we've got high IQ guys, guys that can shoot the ball well and guys who are prepared to play their role."
The Phoenix drew a league record crowd for an expansion team's debut home game with Roberson's hot shooting sure to make him an instant fan favourite.
"They gave us the energy that we needed," Roberson said of the 6019-strong crowd.
"This is amazing to be a part of a first-year franchise and to see that many people in the stand. I mean, it's crazy."
"Hopefully more people come out and see that type of basketball we are playing."
Mitch Creek showed off his versatility as he filled the power forward role for the injured Tai Wesley, finishing with 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Wesley's hamstring will keep him off the court for the foreseeable future with Mitchell hopeful a replacement import player will come into the squad in time for Saturday's home clash with the Illawarra Hawks.
Australian Associated Press