Since this interview, The Cairns Taipans-our National Basketball Team, secured a spot in the finals AND finished second on the ladder for the ’17 season after defeating Adelaide 36’s in an exciting game in Adelaide last night.
The Man Behind Number 40
Alex Loughton, or ‘Loughzy’ to his teammates, boasts a huge seven consecutive seasons with the Cairns Taipans. The 33-year old is currently the second leading rebounder, and fourth leading scorer in the club’s history, and is about to embark on another thrilling finals series. This top 2 finish on the NBL ladder according to Cairns Taipans management is only ‘the second time in franchise history’
Notorious for sinking big 3’s and a dynamic triple fist pump when he’s fired, he’s often a crowd favourite, enticing them to raise the roof of the 5000 seat convention centre which he says inspires the team to lift even further.
Capturing Cairns was lucky enough to catch up with Alex and chat with him about this seasons success, his pick for MVP ’17, and life after basketball as he sees it. Is retirement looming? We’ll see.
CC: So you won the game last night against Adelaide, are the Taipans in a position to make the finals this season?
AL: There are a few different scenarios. If other teams win and we tie with them, then we go into a mini pool. If there are three teams all tied then it’s who has won the most games. If there are just two teams tied, then it’s split. If we tie with Illawara or New Zealand, we’ve won the series, but if its a three way mini pool, there are a few different scenarios at play. Obviously if we win both games, we could finish second, or no worse than third, if we lose this one then there’s a chance it’ll be one of those mini pools happening. But we have a huge chance of doing well now because we won last night. We are in a strong position.
CC: That’s as clear as mud Alex.
AL: It’s complicated.
CC: Ronald Dorsey, 2010 playoffs. Do you remember that game?
AL: Oh yeah. Of course. It was my first year in Cairns, and there were issues with the security of the Taipans future as it was during the Global Financial Crisis. I joined the team and instantly recognised it’s potential believing that anything less than a top 4 finish would be under performing. I announced this publicly at an event, and everyone just laughed at it. However, we really started rolling by the end of the season. We beat Townsville in three games to qualify for the grand final against New Zealand.
I remember the game you are referring to well. Ronald Dorsey had the ball, we were down by 3 with a few seconds to go in overtime, and he fumbled it. He recovered, dribbled down the court, and shot 2 metres out from the 3 point line. A player flew past him, so he hesitated and then immediately sunk a big three on the buzzer. It tied up the game and then we won in overtime.
That 3 was so huge at that point. The stadium just went OFF. I have never heard the Cairns Convention Centre so loud, it was unbelievable.
CC: I was at that game, and I will never forget it. There wasn’t a single fan left in their seat. The whole crowd erupted. When the crowd fires up like that, how does it effect you as a player?
AL: Most of the time, the crowd firing up is after good play, so it does feed itself. You get a couple of good energetic plays, or a good score, the crowd goes off, and then you lift again. It magnifies the ramifications of that good play, so you want to do it more, and conversely, the other team is feeling the pressure and the weight of the crowd in Cairns’s favour.
The crowd really has been huge for us. It’s a 5000 seat stadium which isn’t bad, but it’s by no means the largest. Perth is 13, 000 seats which gives it a different atmosphere. Cairns crowd is small but quite intimate and extremely vocal. It feels a lot like college basketball back in the US. 5000 screaming Taipans fans is really strong in a venue of the convention centre’s size, and for a small community, we pack a punch.
CC: In your opinion, who is the most talented import you’ve ever played with while you’ve been in the Taipans?
AL: It’s very hard to go past Scottie Wilbekin. He won a lot of games off his own bat. He really carried us.
CC: Was it because of his leadership?
AL: I think more due to his inspirational basketball play.
He is the quickest guy I’ve seen move laterally as well as up and down the floor with the basketball. It’s a bit like a salsa dance. He is extremely coordinated and flexible in a sideways or lateral direction. He could get over screens by just being really slithery. Often when a big and a small play defence together we’d have to switch, but with him, we didn’t have to because he was so good defensively. Offensively, he was just as dynamic as Travis Trice is now, but as an overall package, Scotty excelled. We were minor premiers that season.
CC: Who would you say is the best Australian player in the NBL right now?
AL: Well it’s an import/point guards game right now. I think one of the stand out Australian performers has been Brad Newley from Sydney Kings. His aggression and his attacking of the hoop is exceptional. He’s been injured for the last 4-5 weeks and Sydney have dropped off a bit. I really feel like he was challenging to guard.
CC: MVP for this season?
AL: Jerome Randle. His skill set is through the roof. He should probably be NBA. HE can’t believe he’s not NBA either! I did seven or eight workouts with NBA teams, but there are so many incredible athletes coming through, its’ really tough.
CC: Take a basketball away from you and who is Alex Loughton?
AL: I’m a creative kind of guy. That’s why I do my video’s (Tropic Zone) that’s why I draw posters of the team every year, (the cartoon version) and that’s why I’m into music. I was into music when I was growing up. Anything that involves creating something. On the court, you do have an opportunity to be creative. I’m not regimented, I’m not big on routines. I’m easy going. I am really big on encouraging people, and being the glue guy. I’m the glue guy in the Taipans. So there’s one or two per team that you kind of need to be glue guys and that’s the role I fill so I kind of try to bring everyone together.
CC: The crowd love it when you sink a big three at an important moment and you pump your fists in the air. It really fires them up. Has that always been your thing?
AL: It’s strange, because I never used to do it, but I did it a couple of times in Perth and one of the players told me they wanted to see more of it because it really pumped up the crowd. I was surprised because I didn’t really notice, and I said that it felt a bit cheesy, like its not something I would normally do, but I figured that if I could use it as a tool to motivate my team and the crowd, then maybe it could work. It’s a learned behaviour. Actually, sometimes I see myself as carrying the weight of everyone’s working week on my shoulders, and its like that fist pump gives everyone a release from their work stress. Well that’s the vibe I get anyway. I do it for the people.
CC: Describe Aaron Fearne.
AL: Aaron Fearne is very black and white, very methodical, very processed driven. His strength is evaluating video footage and working out how he can prepare the team moving forward. It’s a tough league because there are only 8 teams, and you have to continually work on how you are going to evolve throughout the season. Aaron’s a master of that process.
CC: So if you’re an easy going, relaxed kind of guy, what drives you to keep achieving at an elite level?
AL: The feeling I get when the team does well motivates me. It’s so hard to keep going sometimes. I’m training in the same four walls day in day out, and it’s a grind. Training can really be a battle, but we do it for the game time. Fans are often disheartened when we don’t perform. They question what it is we are doing, but if they saw what we did behind the scenes and saw the work we put in, they may understand that we are definitely putting in the hard yards and trying our best for them. So when it’s hard like that, and then we have a good game and we all play well as a team, it’s all worth it. It’s a great feeling when your team does well. I get a lot of enjoyment out of team success.
The other thing that keeps me focused and motivated are the fresh players that come in every season. They all bring with them something new. An example is Sean Bruce. His ascension into the NBL was really good to see and be a part of and then new personalities come in that are just characters like Tori Craig. He was a real character and a happy go lucky guy. Ayinde Ubaka was hilarious. He was a happy, funny dude who was great to work with. Throughout your career you work with some good locker room guys, and then there are those that you respect more on the floor- everyone plays a different role. I think as a glue guy I am pretty good at reading what a team needs on the court. Like when we need more energy from the energy guys, or whatever it may be.
CC: When your Basketball career finishes up, what are your plans?
AL: It’s a good question. It’s the golden question. I guess it’s pretty close. I have one more year on my contract. I’m not making a decision at this point, but I think I’m pretty close to hanging up the boots and moving onto the next phase. I have a lot of interest in multi-media stuff and social media brand awareness. I have a business/administration degree with a marketing minor from college in the US.
CC: Coaching? Commentating?
AL: No not coaching, but commentating on the side would be something I’d enjoy.
CC: Would you stay in Cairns?
AL: At this stage yes. Wifey is settled, the kids love their school, we’d love to stay in Cairns , there are roots here. There are sponsors and various people involved with the club that I’ve got to know from the business side of things, so I don’t think there should be any problems with job opportunities, it’d just be which way to go. There are a few different options out there that I’d be weighing up. I definitely have to start moving into that phase of mindset.
CC: Are your parents tall?
AL: Mum’s 5 foot 8 and Dad’s 6 foot 1.
CC: So what the heck did they feed you then?
AL: Lots and lots of Weet Bix. I was always really tall and skinny. I have three older brothers. Two of them are 6 foot, maybe 6 foot 1 and the next one closest to me is 6 foot 4 or 5? I’m the youngest and the tallest. I think I might have a great grandfather that was 6 foot 3 or something which was tall back in the day.
CC: What do you eat for breakfast now?
AL: Now days not that much. Sometimes poached eggs on toast will be all I need.
CC. There is a hairdressing salon just down the road called REDS- Apparently Stevie Weigh has the same hairdresser as me.
AL: Yes we all know Matty down there.
CC: Do you?
CC: So Matty styles Stevie Weigh’s hair, and I reckon it’s pretty close to perfect. Is it true Stevie Weigh has the best hair in the league?
AL: In the whole league?
AL: No. He has the best hair in Australia. I think there are definitely no follicle faux pas’s with Stevie Weigh. He keeps his luscious locks perfectly cropped.
CC: Thanks for giving us your time Alex, and all the best for the remainder of the season. Cairns is behind you all the way.
AL: Not a problem and thanks to Cairns for all the support.