Tom Jervis was in a favourable situation in Perth.
He was with an organisation that has been to 30 consecutive postseasons and, in Jervis’ three seasons, won two championships and maintained a Trevor Gleeson-coached core of Damian Martin, Jermaine Beal, Matt Knight, Jesse Wagstaff, Shawn Redhage and Greg Hire.
The Kalgoorlie native was playing in his home state and the city where he went to high school.
And he was filling a backup centre role that allowed him to produce league-leading numbers on defence.
But Jervis left the Wildcats for a job across the country with a team that’s been defunct for the last eight seasons. As was announced last month, he signed a three-year deal with the reborn Brisbane Bullets.
“This opportunity to do something brand new and experience something different in my own career is kind of something I couldn’t pass up,” Jervis told Downtown.
He had many conversations with his wife and agent prior to making the decision, and said leaving the Wildcats was “extremely difficult.”
“Staying at the Cats would’ve been a fantastic thing, but at the same time you’ve kind of got to see what’s best for you and your career,” he said.
There was an option for 2016-17 on Jervis’ Wildcats contract, which he signed in 2014, but he went with the three-year Brisbane deal. The value and length of the contract were presumably part of the appeal of a move to the Bullets.
Jervis didn’t enter the NBL until more than four years after the conclusion of his senior year at Troy University, where he spent two seasons. He joined the Wildcats as a 26-year-old for the 2013-14 season and won the league’s rookie of the year.
Current Wildcats assistant coach Adam Forde was Jervis’ head coach at the East Perth Eagles of the State Basketball League before Jervis made the NBL. Wildcats managing director Nick Marvin has said Forde “was critical in convincing me to sign Tom.”
Jervis, who acknowledged Forde as a big reason why he got a chance in the league, said the assistant coach gave him a call after he made his decision.
“It was a tough conversation, but he’s a very good friend as well, so he obviously understands my reasoning behind it and what I want out of my own career.”
Jervis is hoping for an increase in playing time with the Bullets. He was the backup centre to Matt Knight from 2013-15 and to Nathan Jawai last season. In his rookie year he averaged 16.6 minutes per game, then 16.3 the following year, and 14.6 last season.
Starting at centre in Brisbane for coach Andrej Lemanis would be a step toward more minutes and responsibility for Jervis. He has experience in the role—the big man started 18 times as a Wildcat according to RealGM, including the first two games of his career as an injury replacement for Knight—and he wants to start for the Bullets.
“I’m pretty comfortable in my skillset, and I think Andrej and the coaching staff really feel like I’m able to do it, so if the opportunity arises I think I’ll relish the role and try and really excel at it,” he said.
Brisbane, which is financially supported by the league until an owner is found, has also announced Anthony Petrie, Adam Gibson, Mitch Young, Reuben Te Rangi, Shaun Bruce, Torrey Craig and Daniel Kickert as signings.
Jervis, who’s 6-foot-11 and mobile, is a logical candidate to be the Bullets’ primary centre.
He averaged 6.7 points, 5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks last season with 51.4 percent shooting from the field. According to RealGM, his defensive rating of 97.8 was behind only Charles Jackson’s, and his block percentage of 7.5 was tied with Jordan Vandenberg for the NBL lead.
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He’s a 64.8 percent free throw shooter for his NBL career, but hit 74.6 percent of his free throws last season, numbers which will allow him to play late in close games.
Jervis and Kickert, a stretch-four who made last season’s All-NBL first team and was one of Brisbane’s first recruits, should complement each other’s games as the starting centre-power forward combination.
Kickert last season averaged 14.8 points on 52.2 percent shooting from the field, 46.9 percent from three, and 89.6 percent on free throws. His scoring and range mean he could play next to Jervis, who only took nine shots outside the paint last season according to crunchtimeshots.com.
On the other end, Jervis could provide the rim protection and rebounding that Kickert hasn’t brought in his two NBL seasons so far.
Separate from his own on-court role, the Western Australian is excited about helping to restart the Bullets, a foundation NBL club that won three championships before folding.
One cause for excitement is the people the team already has in place, including chief operating officer Richard Clarke and Lemanis, who together helped the New Zealand Breakers to three consecutive championships. Their task now is to build a successful club from nothing.
“They’re putting together a fantastic group of people who have been around the league before,” Jervis said of Brisbane.
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