The moment the Cockburn Cougars coaching staff discovered point guard Kieran Berry was thinking of not playing in the NBL1 West in 2023 they were quick to swoop, and now the 24-year-old wants to spend his career as part of the Cougar Family.
Berry has been one of the more exciting emerging point guards across the competition now since making his debut at the East Perth Eagles in 2017 having spent the majority of his basketball life there.
He had formed some lifelong bonds at the Eagles, but by midway through 2022 he decided to step away. He then made the decision that if no other NBL1 West club came calling for 2023, that he’d likely take a break altogether this season.
However, a chance meeting with his mother and Cougars assistant coach Damian Barr got the ball rolling, and from the moment Berry met up with head coach Andrew Cooper his decision was made.
Not only was Berry keen to start afresh with the Cougars, but now that he’s settled in at Cockburn and playing some impressive basketball including starting in Saturday night’s win over Lakeside, he feels he’s found a home he wants to embrace long-term.
Berry has now played 98 matches in the competition and while 92 of those are with East Perth, the fact he will get to celebrate 100 at Cockburn only makes him realise it’s where he’d like to play out the rest of his career.
“I know that I’ve played 92 of those games with East Perth and it will be only eight with Cockburn, but the club already told me that it would be my 100th game somewhere around the mid-season,” Berry said.
“So for the club to celebrate that for me when I would have only played eight games with them, that makes it special and it means a lot to me.
“We’ll see how my body holds up and see how many more I can play, and already at 23 it’s a bit sore, but I hope I can play a lot more games and the rest of them will be with Cockburn.”
Berry was part of his first win with the Cougars on Saturday night at home to the Lakeside Lightning where he started in the absence of Seva Chan and finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists in the 83-77 victory.
It was an emotional night following the passing of Vanessa Cooper during the week so for a lot of reasons Berry was delighted to be able to sing the song afterwards for the first time.
“I suppose it was a good game to get our first win in, a tribute for the Cooper family and Coops after what they’ve been through,” he said.
“It was just good to sing the song afterwards and pay tribute to his wife. I feel like everyone felt the emotion of it all and we just rode off the crowd’s hype and all that, and did it for Coops.
“I kinda knew the song because it’s like the Richmond song and they’ve just changed a couple of words so it was pretty easy to pick up once we started.”
Looking back to the off-season and while it was a chance meeting with his mum and Damian Barr that got the ball rolling, Berry couldn’t be happier with the way everything has panned out to begin his journey at Cockburn.
“It actually started with the assistant coach Damian reaching out to me,” Berry said.
“Him and mum are pretty close and they randomly bumped into each other, and then mum mentioned I wasn’t playing and not long after that Damian gave me a call. We caught up for a beer and one thing led to another, and here I am.
“My initial plan was when I stopped playing last year was to re-sign with East Perth and I thought I would just wait on it and things didn’t pan out there.
“I was just thinking that if teams reached out then I’d have a look but otherwise I wouldn’t play this year. Then Damian reached out, then I caught up with Coops for a coffee and after that first meeting I knew I would sign at Cockburn straightaway no matter what.”
While Berry couldn’t be happier to be where he is now with the Cougars, he’ll always be thankful for his time at East Perth and for the bonds he has with the people at the club who have had a big influence on his career and life.
“It was a big deal to leave East Perth and a lot of thought went into it. I was still a bit unsure if I was really going to leave because I’d never played anywhere else and people there like Tim (Symons) are like family to me.
“Luke (Coburn) gave me my first real opportunity to play and lead a team so it was a big decision but now that I’m at Cockburn I don’t regret it at all.”
However, from the moment Berry arrived for his first pre-season session with the Cougars, he felt embraced and welcomed. He’s never looked back especially to now get to share the point guard role with Chan, and be a teammate of 300-game legend Gavin Field.
“I settled in really well right from the first pre-season training. All the boys really accepted me straight away and accepted that I was here especially the vets like Gav and Seva. They embraced me from the start and have given me full confidence to come in and just play my own game,” Berry said.
“Seva’s made it real easy. He has a lot of knowledge and he helps me step by step, and he’s one of the most unselfish superstars we have. He doesn’t care if he’s getting 40 minutes or 10 minutes, or scoring or not, as long as we’re winning.
“He’s said that from the start that it doesn’t matter if he’s playing over me or I’m playing over him, none of us care and we just want to win.
“Then Gav just makes it so easy. The way he spaces the floor, no one can help off him and when we were at East Perth we had a plan just to never help off Gav.
“You know if he gets even a slither that it’s going up and he just makes the game so easy to play with him. To share his 300th with him that was special even though I haven’t known him that long. I still felt part of it.”
Now that the Cougars have their first win for 2023, they prepare to host the 5-3 Joondalup Wolves at Wally Hagan Stadium this Saturday night.
Berry is looking forward to that challenge and for his role of taking on more of a non-traditional point guard from the Wolfpack in Bryan Michaels.
“I look forward to going against the best point guards in the league, I don’t duck anyone. It’s a good chance to grow and to get better as a player. You just have to take on that challenge and see what happens,” Berry said.
“We always have confidence going into any game and on any night we feel like we can beat anyone, but especially after that first win where it was a team win really with five people scoring in double-figures we feel like we’re a good chance to pick up that second win and build some momentum.”