Former American college player Jaleel Williams is Shepparton Gators’ first import signing for the Big V basketball season.
A power forward who stands at 201cm, Williams played for San José State Spartans in Division One of the NCAA competition from 2011 to 2015.
Gators coach Leigh Bathman said the club had targeted Williams, 24, as far back as November 2015, and was pleased to finally snare him.
Last year’s imports Reggie Fuller and Deshawn Gibbons won’t be involved with the Gators this season.
‘‘We’ve been in discussions with Jaleel for more than a year and he was probably ahead of (former Gators import) Reggie (Fuller) at the time,’’ Bathman said.
‘‘But Jaleel got a lucrative deal in Argentina that he couldn’t turn down and we couldn’t progress any further in those discussions.
‘‘We’ve been in regular contact with him even during the season and he’s keen to come to Australia now and play with us.’’
Williams is set to arrive in Shepparton on January 31 and could not wait to get started with his new team. ‘‘What I look forward to the most is becoming a better team-mate and player, as well as a better leader, so that my team can look to me in adverse situations,’’ Williams said.
‘‘My goal is simple and that’s to win as many games as possible.’’
In his final year at college, Williams scored more than 300 points and brought down 130 rebounds.
Williams’ stint in Argentina was short-lived, but the league is of a high standard and somewhere between the SEABL and NBL in quality.
‘‘To be playing in Argentina speaks highly of his ability because it’s a good league and he’s done well to get a contract over there,’’ Bathman said.
‘‘He’s had a bit of time out of the game recently, but we’re fortunate to have secured his services because we can find it hard to compete with the bigger associations in Melbourne when it comes to quality imports.
‘‘He’ll offer us the sort of flexibility and agility we’re looking for and it’s so important our imports can play a variety of roles.’’
There will be opportunities for young players to have individual coaching sessions with Williams.
Bathman is hopeful of announcing further signings in the lead-up to the season starting in March.
The Gators are shaping to be a different looking team following the shock departure of former captain Matt Bartlett.
A regular member in the team since Shepparton’s return to Big V action four years ago, Bartlett has switched to play football with Girgarre in the Kyabram District Football League after signing with the Kangaroos last week.
But the Gators have managed to hang onto the experienced Rob Sartori, along with rising star Bailey Michel.