Anyone who has reached the ripe age of 30 years will tell you, whilst you may remain an active participant in sport, most will certainly see a decline in the way the body recovers and bounces back from setbacks. With that in mind, continuing in the rigours of professional sport after three decades on the planet is a definite achievement -- one that involves the overcoming of those obstacles of the body.
There is often plenty of attention focused on the rising stars of basketball, but perhaps the aging stars are even more noteworthy. Across the pond in the NBA we have seen an increasing number of elite players continuing to dominate well into their thirties -- think Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd. In our backyard, the NBL is no different, with a great array of stars still doing their thing in the years beyond where it is normally expected.
It’s a tough list to compile, with more than twenty players over the age of thirty still contributing to NBL squads, but let’s attempt to list the top ten, based on current season form.
10. CJ Bruton (New Zealand Breakers), 7.5ppg, 2.0rpg, 37 years
The savvy veteran guard has been around the block enough times to have seen it all. He boasts tenure as the oldest player in the league, being two weeks older than Breakers teammate Dillon Boucher. You may or may not have heard, he is clutch.
9. Adam Ballinger (Melbourne Tigers), 9.9ppg, 4.8rpg, 33 years
After starting the season injured, “Balls” has come into some decent form. Combining in the frontcourt with fellow veteran big men Seth Scott, Matt Burston, Liam Rush and Tommy Greer, Ballinger continues to be a solid player in this league after many years as a dominant force.
8. Glen Saville (Wollongong Hawks), 8.9ppg, 5.1rpg, 2.2apg, 37 years
Last season it appeared to many that “Sav” was slowly closing up shop on his NBL career. However as this season opened, it looked a lot like one of the league’s most versatile players of all time had turned back the clock. Individual highs of 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists so far in 2012/13 show what he can do.
7. Peter Crawford (Townsville Crocodiles), 10.4ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.0spg, 1.9 3PM, 33 years
The sharp-shooting Queenslander is not having the best season of his career and would ordinarily be much higher on this list, but the 11 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and two assists in Round 16 against Perth prove that he is still ready to explode at any point. As the Crocs rebound from a terrible season start, Crawford will be a key piece.
6. Oscar Forman (Wollongong Hawks), 11.2ppg, 6.2rpg, 2.6 3PM, .439 3P%, 31 years
Forman is one of the younger members of this thirty-plus group, and appears to be in the prime years of his career. He leads the league in both three-point baskets made and in accuracy from that range.
5. Ian Crosswhite (Sydney Kings), 9.9ppg, 7.5rpg, 30 years
Much of what Ian Crosswhite provides to the Kings does not appear in the box score. Despite turning 30 just late last year, it feels like Crosswhite has been a wise-headed league veteran for many years. As one of the premier interior defenders and rebounders in the league, he has proven in the past two rounds that he can also fill up the basket when he becomes a little more selfish.
4. Luke Schenscher (Adelaide 36ers), 9.5ppg, 6.4rpg, 0.9bpg, 0.8spg, 31 years
There are very few players in the NBL that boast the quality of global experience that Schenscher does. After experiencing the NCAA Championship game, two NBA teams, the NBA Development League, Germany and three NBL clubs, Schensch is always an asset. His imposing size, coupled with touch and smarts make him a tough matchup - no matter how old he grows.
3. Mika Vukona (New Zealand Breakers), 7.6ppg, 6.3rpg, 2.4apg, 0.8spg, 30 years
There is a reason that Vukona regularly appears at the top of NBL Players Poll results under categories that involve words like “intimidating”, “hustle” and “defensive”. He plays at a million miles an hour every game, giving the Breakers an almost unfair advantage on every loose ball and rebound. His statistics alone are relatively impressive, but it is the overall presence that the Tall Blacks forward provides on both ends of the court that makes him so valuable.
2. Seth Scott (Melbourne Tigers), 12.9ppg, 6.6rpg, 1.0bpg, 31 years
The Tigers big man is unique as the only import on this list, but at 31 years of age, he certainly looks like he is in prime form. His ability to either drill a three, dunk the ball or defend the paint is a rare package for an import that makes it downunder to the NBL. Along with Jonny Flynn, Scott forms perhaps the most lethal import combo in the league.
1. Shawn Redhage (Perth Wildcats), 14.4ppg, 4.9rpg, 2.5apg, 0.9spg, 0.9bpg, 32 years
Remember when Redhage was told by doctors that his career was likely over after the head of his femur was punched through his pelvis in January 2011? His 26 point, five rebound return to Adelaide less than ten months later showed exactly the type of MVP-like competitor Redhage is. However, the fact that the Wildcats forward still competes at the All-Star level he does should not be surprising, as he has done it during his entire NBL career.
Read more basketball analysis and opinion from Mookie Schiralli at ASternWarning.com, or follow on facebook and twitter (@ASternWarning).