Todd Blanchfield: The Next Big Thing

27/12/2014 NBL: Adelaide 36ers vs Townsville Crocs at the Adelaide Arena.Where will Todd Blanchfield be three years from now?

Will he be still running around with the Townsville Crocs? Will he be a Boomer? An Olympian? A European star? Even an NBA player?

Those who are closest to Blanchfield, especially Crocs coach Shawn Dennis, believe the sky is the limit for the Mackay native who at just 23 year old is quickly moving to the front of the cue as the “NBL’s next big thing”.

In the Crocs’ surprise win over Melbourne United on Australia Day weekend Blanchfield staged a surprise coming of age party.

He scored a career-high 27 points matched by a career-high 13 rebounds while keeping NBA draft pick and United leading scorer Jordan McRae to just 14 points.

On reflection, Blanchfield has done everything right since coming into the Crocs’ development system as a teenager.  Each year his scoring average has gone up along with his minutes and his seniority.

Those who saw him play for Australia’s 2013 World University Games team in Russia, which won a silver medal, were impressed with his scoring and moves to the basket, especially in the tournament’s knockout games.

Against United, Blanchfield’s best assets shone, he stands 200 centimetres tall and is wildly athletic, he can dunk with the best Australian players and his shooting stroke is efficient, especially from the corners.

He scored points early and late with his steal and breakaway dunk effectively ending United’s late charge – he would notch season highs in shots (18) and minutes (35:55).

This season, as the Crocs’ starting shooting guard Blanchfield is averaging career bests of 14 points per game and five rebounds per game – surprisingly his three-point percentage of 33 per cent doesn’t fully reflect his shooting prowess and should improve in years to come.

When asked about Blanchfield following the United game, Dennis revealed he had met with Blanchfield to demand his young star take more shots and develop the “self belief” other leading shooters possess.

“He is 6’7 playing the two guard. Tell me which other Australian is playing is 6’7 with that athleticism at that spot?” Dennis asked.

“He is a Boomer, he is 23 years old. The kid is a Boomer. There is no other athletic [Australian] two-guard playing in the NBA or anywhere as athletic as Todd Blanchfield.

“[Ryan] Broekhoff’s not, but they have all got good profiles, this kid is only 23 and the only reason he is not at that level is that he doesn’t have a selfish bone in his body.

“That is probably the difference between him and a guy like Chris Goulding – I’m not saying they are selfish, I’m saying they have an arrogance and a belief in themselves.

“Todd misses a couple of shots and he thinks he is doing the wrong thing by the team by shooting the ball.

“We have to explain to him that he is actually doing the wrong thing by not continuing to shoot and he is starting to learn to not just rely on the jump shot but to continue attacking the basket.”Lay upDennis said Blanchfield worked hard on his game and still had much development to come.

But what will define his chances of playing on the world stage will be how the mental side of his play develops.

“I think he is potentially a Boomer but he needs to become a more thinking player on the court and understand the small breakdowns are the only thing that is stopping him from taking the next step,” Dennis said.

“He needs the hunger, the arrogance, the belief in himself to say “Shit, I’m good. It doesn’t matter if I miss 10 shots, I’m taking the 11th.

“It’s up to the coach to pull you out and give you a rest – it’s not up to him to decide not to shoot.”

Crocs import centre Mickell Gladness has played all over the world including the NBA and he admits he didn’t expect to see an athlete like Blanchfield playing in the NBL.

“Especially with his age and how young he is. He is special,” Gladness said in Melbourne.

“Coming over here I didn’t think there would be that kind of athleticism in Australia.

“He has it and with his height…I don’t think there are many people who can stay in front of him, especially over here and over in Europe too.

“If he keeps his head on straight and, like coach said, gets that arrogance about himself then he will be fine, he will go far.”

Blanchfield won his first NBL player of the week award for his exploits in Melbourne and he told the Townsville Bulletin he was working hard with Dennis and Crocs assistant coach Mike Kelly, a former NBL guard and defensive ace.

“I’ve been working a lot with Mike on reading screens and on different ways to get looks and when you are getting open shots you are going to knock a lot more down,” he told the Bulletin.

“It’s really the first ever year I’ve had that role as one of the go-to-guys so it’s something new to me but I’m having a lot of fun and to be right there behind Conk [Bryan Conklin] is pretty special.”

In the offseason Blanchfield will join with New Zealand NBL powerhouse Southland Sharks and look to continue being a “go-to man” for his new side.

Hopefully Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis hears Dennis’ words and gives him a look in for one or more of the Boomers’ winter camps.

But Blanchfield’s domestic future is uncertain with his contract with the Crocs’ up and other NBL clubs sure to come calling.

He wants to stay in Townsville but there is no guarantee their offer will be the best on the table.

“I really like Townsville, they’ve looked after me since I was 17 years old and it’d be great to come back next season,” Blanchfield told the Bulletin.

But expect every NBL club in need of a shooting guard to have a contract offer ready as well.

So back to the initial question – how good could Todd Blanchfield be?

Dennis thinks there isn’t an answer for that question yet – at least in the mind of the player himself.

“No one knows…he doesn’t know yet,” Dennis said.

Finding out will be the fun part.

 

Author of the article

After leading my under-18 side in baldness and bench minutes I realised my basketball talents were best outside the court. I’ve covered basketball and other sports for Fairfax Media and Rural Press, I’m proud to have met and told the stories of many of Australia’s best basketballers both in country and overseas. I love basketball in all forms and all levels. Follow me on twitter: @downtownball

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