Written for NBL1.com.au by Roy Ward
Damon Bozeman needed a screen and the ball – the rest would come naturally.
The Frankston Blues import has made a strong introduction to NBL1 this year after several years playing in various state leagues including with Bulleen in the Big V and Toowoomba in the Queensland Basketball League.
But last Saturday night was a big night in his career, and his club’s season, with the Blues knowing a win over Melbourne Tigers would be a major strike towards securing a finals place.
Opposed to Bozeman was Tigers import Mike Wells who has proven one of the most explosive scoring guards in the league and someone who knows Bozeman’s game better than most given the pair played for multiple years together at Saginaw Valley State in US college basketball.
Wells spent the night going off scoring 39 points and keeping his scrappy Tigers side in the race as the seconds counted down.
The Blues had the ball on the baseline with just seconds left trailing 96-98 and Bozeman stood at the top of the three-point arch, looked at teammate Iggy Hadziomerovic, who was inbounding the ball, then to centre Majok Majok who was just days from being announced as the Perth Wildcats’ latest NBL signing.
Bozeman ran hard at Majok and was rewarded with a typically broad screen that forced Wells to break off and go around giving Bozeman just enough room to catch a pass and let a corner three-pointer fly and stylishly fall backwards out of bounds after releasing.
“Oh yeah as soon as it left the finger tips I knew it was good,” Bozeman said with a laugh.
His shot gave the Blues a 99-98 win.
“It was really all Majok, he rolled up and set that screen,” Bozeman said.
“It was such a good screen that it freed my up from Mike who was guarding me so I was wide open.”
That win, plus a victory over Southern on Sunday, means they are now as little as one win from securing a top-four spot and a home quarter final but other sides are still within reach of them with two games left in their season.
So that game-winner over the Tigers could prove vital.
“We lost to them earlier in the season and that game was just going back and forth – plus Mike Wells was my college teammate and he had a great game,” Bozeman said.
“It was good to see him going and to watch how his game has grown and play at this NBL1 level is unbelievable considering where we were just three or four years ago playing in college.
“It came down to that last shot and after the game we just said we love each other and laughed it off.”
Bozeman said he was surprised to learn post game that Bendigo guard Daniel Hansen had nailed a game-winning three that same night and he and his teammates watched it soon after their game ended.
Bozeman’s shot was the most viewed Instagram post for the NBL1 season up to now.
“I’m still hearing about that shot to this day – it was crazy,” Bozeman said.
“It’s a credit to the league that they can get that video up so quick, I’m happy that my people back home can see it and support me.”
At state league level Bozeman has been a superstar, a big scoring guard on teams who were grateful for every point.
Bozeman can score at this level too as shown by his average of 20.7 points per game this season, good enough for ninth in league scoring heading into this round.
But Blues coach Andrew Harms put some big challenges to Bozeman this season and they were based around scoring more efficiently and playing as a true point guard who gets his teammates involved in the game.
The Blues have some serious talent alongside him including players with NBL experience like Hadziomerovic, Lachlan Barker, Majok and power forward Daniel Trist, so Bozeman couldn’t take up too many shots.
“He’s been amazing and helping me be more efficient with less shots,” Bozeman said.
“Sometimes I tell him to trust me but he does have a lot of trust in me and lets me play – so when it gets down close in the game he gives me a few tips and lets me go out there and play.”
Trist was talking up Bozeman’s NBL prospects on The NBL1 Show recently and Bozeman was rapt to hear his teammate talk him up – he would love the chance to show what he can do at NBL level.
“He’s legit, I think he’s an NBL guy definitely,” Trist said when asked about Bozeman.
“He’s a great character guy, he plays his arse off and you would not want to play with anyone else from a competitive standpoint.
“You look at what Jeremy Kendle has done the last few years, it might be early to say, but he could be the next Jeremy Kendle.”
Bozeman would love his chance at NBL level and he valued the chance to train with Brisbane Bullets for parts of last season and play games with Melbourne United in pre-season the previous year, as it helped show him where his game was at.
But he knows that one thing will be vital to any hopes of playing in bigger leagues and that is taking the Blues deep into the playoffs.
“To keep moving up is what I’ve always wanted to do, so when I was at Big V I wanted to show I could play at the next level, same in Queensland,” Bozeman said.
“To have this opportunity here and showcase our talent and win – that could definitely show a lot of [NBL] teams that I can play at that next level.
“I think this will be huge for Frankston, especially if we can get a home final as we haven’t been to the finals for eight years or something so to get to the finals and host the game would be real big.
“Us finishing off these last games strong will be big too so we can get some momentum before the finals.”