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Pond excited to benefit from hard work in 2024

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There are plenty of exciting new faces joining the Cockburn Cougars for the 2024 NBL1 West season, but Nathan Pond is going to be a whole new weapon too with the work the powerful big man has put in over the off-season.

Pond has been around the Cougars since making his debut back in 2019 and his talent has never been questioned with what he can offer in terms of his size and power on top of having the ability to impact the game in so many ways with his basketball talents.

It’s just been the ability to stay out on the court for long enough that’s held him back, but Pond has now put in an enormous amount of work this off-season, has dropped plenty of weight and is raring to go never feeling better coming into the 2024 season.

Incoming Cougars coach Mark Clayden couldn’t have been more impressed with the way Pond has committed to getting himself ready for the upcoming season.

“He was set a challenge in preseason to give himself the best chance to play NBL1,” he said.

“He has accepted the challenge and is in the best shape ever. He is moving great, he has passed all fitness requirements. I feel 2024 will be good for Nate.”

Now that Pond has put in the hard yards on and off the court in the off-season, he can’t wait to start to feel the rewards of it during the 2024 season.

“I’m very excited about what this season will be like,” Pond said.

“I always felt I could change some things in a game with my physicality and things when I came on, but definitely being able to stay on the court for a lot longer now is going to be exciting.

“Even if it’s only another extra one or two minutes, just to bring that energy off the bench and hit some people, and slowly wear them down is something that will be a lot more fun being out on the court a bit longer this year now.”

It was a frustrating year in 2023 in a lot of ways for Pond. Before the NBL1 season started, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to play and as a result come into it underdone and was playing catch up the whole way.

He then injured a knee to top it off and only played 13 games, but the glimpses he showed on the court was enough to make him realise that it was time to really throw everything into getting the most out of himself.

Pond’s talent has never been doubted with the physical impact he can have on the game and then his basketball gifts including a nice shooting touch for a man his size, but it’s just a matter of being able to stay on the court for longer.

That’s why he has knuckled down so much this off-season and put in the hard work to get ready for 2024.

“I’m definitely feeling a lot better than the last couple of seasons. I was injured the year before and then came into last season a bit unfit, and I wasn’t certain about playing until about two days until the season actually started,” Pond said.

“I decided to give it another crack, but because of that I started off a bit late and not fit and wasn’t really able to do much to help the team.

“Then I had a bit of a knee issue throughout the season so I didn’t play a lot and the team didn’t do that well, but already coming into this season I feel so much better.

“I have started to take my nutrition and everything a lot more seriously, and I started that even before we started our pre pre-season training.

“I’ve lost about 12 or 14 kilos over the last few months and I’m definitely feeling a lot better coming into the season, and a lot ahead of where I’ve been the last couple of years.”

Pond is already feeling the double benefits of the hard work with the way he’s able to be more nimble and agile out on the court while maintaining his physicality, but more importantly he’s able to stay out there for longer.

“I feel a little bit more agile out on the court. I never have been, and never will be, the quickest of fastest person on the court, I’m usually just the biggest and strongest, but I think this year I’ll be more able do more switches off the ball and things like that,” Pond said.

“I’ll never fully be able to contain the guards, but I think I can definitely move my feet a bit better than I could last year and stay in front of the ball a bit more, and hopefully not foul out as much trying to take on the guards.

“But even rebounding, that’s never been my strength and my second jump’s always been pretty bad, but already that’s got a lot better in the pre-season.

“Things are already looking a lot better and everything is feeling a bit easier on the court, and I’m able to get up and down and stay on the court a bit longer.”

Not only is Pond excited for what he’s going to be able to produce this upcoming NBL1 season, but the team that the Cougars have put together for 2024 is one that he can’t wait to be part of.

While there are still the veterans Gavin Field and Seva Chan to lead the way topped up by the arrival of Kyle Armour, it’s the players joining in between those leaders and the youngsters like Hunter Clarke and Rhys Vague along with import Demetris Morant that has Pond especially pumped.

“I’m extremely excited about our team this year. I think the last couple of years we had a big age gap where we had our younger guys and then our older guys Gav, Seva and Belly, but not that many guys in between,” Pond said.

“But this year with Rhys coming back, Morant coming in and Hunter Clarke as well, that gives us some experience but guys in their prime so that’s going to be crazy. The culture already is obvious and at training I’ve never seen anything like this since we had Pascal (Chukwu) and Carter (Skaggs) part of the team.

“Those training sessions were amazing and last year didn’t quite go to the plan, but now the energy those guys bring and especially with Kyle too after playing against him my whole career, it’s crazy how good things are feeling.

“With our depth now, it’s hard to know who our starters will be and I think it’s one of the better teams Cockburn have put together now for a while.”

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