I think we all knew it couldn’t last, deep down, and last week the Rocks confirmed the departure of Kieron Achara from the team.
As devastating as this news was, on reflection it feels like the right thing for both parties; the Rocks couldn’t build around a player who could be off at any time and Achara, quite simply, at the peak of his career should be playing at the highest level he can.
Having a local hero and – I can’t stress this enough – genuinely lovely guy get through his post-Olympic comedown to help open the Emirates was a massive coup for the Rocks, but it couldn’t last and there was no point pretending otherwise. Maybe a deal could have been done to keep him for the season, but at what cost to both he and the team?
Achara staying at the Rocks, even for a season, would have been the basketball equivalent of keeping an albatross for a pet; a metaphor that the more ornithologically minded will appreciate on both a giant wingspan level and the fact that he needs to fly. There’s no doubt he’ll land on his feet with a team in a strong league.
But what does it mean for the Rocks? A radical change in playing style probably. Achara – a big with an unattractive but deft shooting touch – really showed his abilities in the recent away road-trip double header against Plymouth and Surrey, stretching the court to knock down shots of his own and create more space in the paint for others.
Owen has a decent mid-range game, but not to the extent of Achara, and stats would suggest that Mike Ringgold is more of a banger in the paint and board crasher than a shooter. We might even see Sterling play more at the five like he did in the playoffs last season, as his shots seem to be dropping. Defensively, as good as any of those players are they’re not a 6’10” Olympian.
There’s no doubt that the team will miss the quality of Kieron at both ends, and there may be some adjustment period while they find a system that works. But the team have proven that even without him the quality is there for the Rocks to compete for silverware, and a Trophy Final appearance at the Emirates must be the next target.
And for Achara himself? Well, I’m sure I speak for all Rocks fans when I wish him all the best in finding a new club that enables him to fulfill his personal goals. It’s been a genuine privilege watching him play the past couple of months and – to extend the albatross metaphor further – we can only hope that he comes back again to these shores after his years at sea.
Duane works on digital stuff for the BBL. He knows some words and occasionally strings a few together to make ill-informed basketball articles. He thinks he once saw an albatross in New Zealand, but on reflection it might just have been a big seagull.