Star Perth Wildcats import Bryce Cotton says his team can’t afford to get caught up in the growing hype about their chances of landing a rare Championship three-peat.
The Wildcats will start the NBL season as one of the title favourites following the surprise retention of Cotton, who turned down more lucrative opportunities in Europe in order to return to Perth.
Melbourne United loom as Perth’s biggest title threat, with the star-stacked outfit boosted by the signing of former Wildcat Casey Prather.
Cotton averaged 23 points per game last season and he shapes as Perth’s most critical player as the club attempts to win three straight titles for the first time in their history.
The 25-year-old, who scored 45 points in game three of last season’s grand final series, said he and his teammates weren’t focusing on the three-peat potential.
Only the Sydney Kings (2003-05) and NZ Breakers (2011-13) have won three titles in a row.
“Honestly I don’t think any of us think about it,” Cotton said.
“It was the same thing last year when I got here.
“There was a lot of people talking about, ‘Oh, can we repeat?’
“We just blocked that out. I don’t think that’s something you should play in your mind, because it can become distracting.”
The loss of Prather leaves a huge void in the Wildcats line-up.
Coach Trevor Gleeson is confident new imports Jean-Pierre Tokoto and Derek Cooke Jr will be able to fill the gap.
Cooke Jr hasn’t been able to play a single pre-season game because of visa issues.
But Cotton said that could prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Wildcats, who open their season at home against Brisbane on Saturday night.
“We have the upper hand because we know a little bit more of what he can do than they do,” Cotton said.
“Hopefully we’ll catch some of the other teams by surprise.”
Gleeson predicts Tokoto will become the best athlete in the NBL this season.
Cotton said Cooke Jr was also an athletic freak.