Yes, his team is stacked. And yes, they’re led by one of the finest coaches in the land. But it is Gliddon that carries the responsibility – and burdens the expectation – of delivering in key moments for Cairns this year.
And he loves it.
In fact, the ability to make big plays in decisive moments has made the Taipans captain one of the most important players in the NBL this season.
He did it in the pre-season, he did it in Round 1 against Illawarra and he did it again last night in the season’s first Reptile Rumble.
Gliddon scored 12 of his game-high 16 points – and made two crucial steals – in the decisive final quarter to lift the Taipans to victory over Townsville.
“That’s the player that he’s developed into,” Cairns head coach Aaron Fearne said post-game. “To take on that responsibility to make plays and help us win games.”
In the absence of last season’s standout import Scottie Wilbekin, Gliddon is now that guy for the Taipans down the stretch of close games.
“That will be the expectation of him the entire year and the pressure that will be there, as it is for any key player in the world that plays in that type of role,” added Fearne.
After struggling to have his usual all-court impact in the opening three quarters, Gliddon opened the final period with renewed vigour. With the Taipans trailing by three on their home court, he didn’t hesitate on the opening possession, splashing a triple from the corner to tie it up.
It was a confident shot from a guy who had, to that point, connected on only one of five attempts across the evening. Was there any element of doubt to be found within?
“Nah, no doubt,” Gliddon said post-game. “I’ll shoot it. 0/10… I’m going to shoot it if I’m open.”
Sure, but there was definitely an increased sense of purpose about Gliddon in that final quarter – you could see it in the way he moved around the court.
“I needed to lift,” he noted. “I wasn’t happy at half time and I knew I needed to make a statement on the game if we were going to have a chance to win. I play too many minutes to not do anything.”
Gliddon’s next fourth-quarter trick was the sweetness – a quick-release dagger off an ankle-breaking double-crossover. Hey Brian, may I have this dance?
— NBL (@NBL) October 17, 2015
That clutch shot immediately answered a Mitch Norton three at the other end that had put Townsville up by 4. There were still six minutes remaining but make no mistake, the game was well and truly on the line at that point.
The Taipans’ very next possession… down three… this:
Like Roger Federer trading forehands or Scott Pendlebury shaking loose from a tagger, Gliddon often appears to have all the time in the world on the court. Within the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a close fourth quarter – when most players tend to rush their play and make crucial errors with their decision making – Gliddon will happily shot fake you, re-set his feet and tie up the game.
He’ll also happily accept the ball, if you’re willing to cough it up.
— NBL (@NBL) October 17, 2015
“A couple of those steals just fell into my hand, I felt a bit lucky,” Gliddon told Fox Sports analyst Derek Rucker after the buzzer.
That’s true, but boy he has a knack for taking advantage of situations when his team needs it most.
Despite his clutch fourth-quarter play, the 26-year-old spoke post-game about holding himself accountable to his own lofty expectations.
“I’m pretty hard on myself this year, I want to have a great year,” he said. “I’ve been here long enough now that I shouldn’t be a passenger, I should be one of the leaders which I am. My play’s got to show that so when I’m not playing how I want to be playing I’m not very happy.
“For me, that was a good game I guess, but I probably only played one and a half good quarters which isn’t good enough.”
Cairns arguably has the deepest team in the league this season and Aaron Fearne’s cupboards are stocked with big-game performers. On any given night, it could be any combination of Taipans that rises up and make big plays down the stretch. That’s what separates them from most other teams.
Against Townsville, it was Shaun Bruce and Alex Loughton who joined in and stepped up late, both hitting super-tough shots to help ice the win.
But there’s one guy who is likely to be involved more times than not. One guy, in particular, who is developing a reputation for revelling in the pressure and heightened expectation of big moments.
Clutch Gliddon wants to have a great year and he’s off to a flying start.