It’s not the sounds that haunt Jason Cadee. Or even the visual recollection of the darkest time in his life. It’s the smell.
“The smell of the brakes. The smell of broken glass. It’s very hard to explain but that’s what I remember most,” he said.
“I’ve only been in one car accident since. I was in a car with Mitch Creek and someone hit us from behind and it was like I got transformed back to that place all over again.”
It’s a place the 23 year-old never wants to return to. July 12, 2010. Cadee had been driving on Sydney’s M7 Motorway when things went horribly wrong.
“I’d played a game in the ABA the night before and ended up staying the night at a mate’s place. Mum and Dad had a bank meeting and needed the car by 10:30am so I was driving back to meet up with them.”
Jason never made it. When his parents walked out of that meeting, they both opened a text message at exactly the same time.
“A random lady who was one of the first on the scene had sent them a message from my phone telling them I had been in an accident,” he said.
Their son was lucky to be alive. Extremely lucky.
A semi-trailer had veered out of its lane and pushed him off the road. His car went into a spin and parked itself at right angles across one of Sydney’s busiest highways.
“I looked up and a semi-trailer was about 20 metres away headed straight for me,” he said.
“I remember thinking I’m done. I thought that was it.”
In an instant, Cadee was crumpled against the middle console of the car. After being trapped for 90 minutes, somehow, Jason escaped with just a broken pelvis.
“They think it’s because I went into shock and passed out, that’s what saved my life. Because my body went limp and didn’t try and fight the impact.”
Since then, every moment on the court has been a blessing for Cadee.
“There are times when I think back on that and wonder how I managed to get out of that.”
“I’ve been pretty arrogant at times about my recovery. I had to go and see a psychiatrist to talk about things and I didn’t want to go. I’ve had a couple of bad dreams since. There was one time I thought I was paralyzed because I couldn’t move my legs but apart from that I’m all good.”
The accident put a cruel stop to an international career that was just beginning, having been called into the Boomers squad for a series against Argentina just weeks earlier.
“That was a very, very proud moment. I always wanted to play for my country as a junior but to actually make it at senior level just took that to another level. I really had that feeling of representing the entire nation,” he said.
It also completed a rare feat for the Cadee family. Jason following in the footsteps of his mother Debbie (nee Lee) who played for the Opals and father Robbie who played for the Boomers at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and coached the Australian women’s team in Seoul.
“Yeah I don’t know how many families can say they have done that,” Jason said.
“I was a very sporty kid and tried mostly everything. Mainly soccer and Little Athletics. Then I gave basketball a go and fell in love with the game.”
“Dad was the CEO at the Western Sydney Razorbacks so I was around the basketball scene a lot and pretty much decided then that I wanted to play in the NBL. That’s all I wanted to do.”
College offers came but they were swatted away as Jason pursued a contract with the Gold Coast Blaze under the tutelage of his current coach at the 36ers Joey Wright.
“At the time I had a few big Colleges talking to me and it was just one of those things. I just wanted to play in the NBL,” he said.
“For me College wasn’t a big thing to do. People ask me if I regret it. Do I regret? Not one bit.”
But that horrific accident would delay his long-awaited debut in the NBL. A game that was so close to never eventuating.
“I remember it was a long time coming. That accident really put me back. I mean I had to learn to walk and run again. Never mind trying to play basketball as well,” he said.
“The day of the game I was so nervous. But all day I was getting text messages from guys like Mark Worthington and Adam Gibson assuring me everything would be okay. And there was a lay up and I had my first points and things just went from there.”
And sound advice is never far away.
“Yeah we talk a lot of basketball in our family. Probably too much. I probably talk to Dad more than Mum. Mainly because Dad doesn’t just say stuff to pump my tyres up. He tells me if I’ve played a bad game.”
“But when Mum says something I listen because it’s worth listening to. For her to mention it something has obviously caught her eye. They both have an amazing insight into the game.”
Now in his fourth season in the NBL and on the verge of his 100th game in the League, Cadee is determined to add to his CV.
“I’d like to be one of those guys who builds a long career in the NBL. I love this league. It’s tough and there are no easy beats. You’ve got to be at your best every game or you’ll get beaten.”
“It’s exciting. This year the crowds have been unbelievable. We spoke about it early in the season. We want to be a playoff team but now we want to win a Championship.”
“We have got ourselves in the top group of teams. Now we want to stay there. We’re not going to be happy to just be there making up the numbers. We are all good mates at the 36ers and we have a point to prove.”
An NBL Championship is on offer. They call that, the sweet smell of success.