By: Cole Shelton
The Saint John Riptide, like most teams in the NBLC, had quite a bit of roster turnover from last season to this. But, that doesn't mean it is a bad thing as teams can find new players to become stars in the league like the Riptide have done with Frank Bartley. Bartley is in his first professional season and has been outstanding, but it wasn't so easy finding a team to sign with.
"Really I didn't have many offers to play anywhere else," Bartley said. "I heard about it last minute so I took it and ran with it. Just an opportunity to play, to be honest. I knew I wanted to play pro ball and they gave me a chance to play. They invited me to training camp and I showed that I belonged. Now the rest is history."
In his first year as a pro, Bartley headed north and made his debut with the Riptide. Although it is just basketball there were many challenges to be had. The first off is the three-point line being farther back as well as the physicality of the league has made Bartley adjust the way he plays.
"I would say the physicality is probably the biggest difference. The pace is faster, but after the first few games, I got adjusted to the pace. Mostly the physicality," he said. "The guys are a lot older, stronger, wiser, and know how to use the body, you just have to learn how to game plan and perfect it.
"Obviously the line is a little further back but I just worked on it all off-season and all season last year," Bartley continued. "I was ready. I just shot a bunch of shots over and over the course of this summer."
However, it appears Bartley has adjusted quite well. Currently, he is averaging 19.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game being a major focal point of the Riptide offence. Plus, he is shooting the ball well with a clip of 43.2% from the field. Although the numbers may surprise onlookers, Bartley was quite confident he had what it took to have success as a pro.
"Yeah, to be honest. The way I work in the off-season I was preparing for wherever I was going to go," he said. "Mentally I was prepared and I was so focused on proving so many people wrong. I was able to be a pro and a good pro, I was confident. I was ready from the jump."
As well, Bartley is having success because the coaching staff decided to let him play a big role. He knew he was ready for it and is comfortable being a focal point of the offence.
"Coach told me that before I got here he wanted me to come and score points, and play defence," he said. "That is what I did in college last year which was score the ball and guard some of the best players. That is what has helped me early in training camp and early in this season is that I am able to guard at high-level and the offence will just follow suit."
Not only is Bartley scoring well, but being a shutdown defender is also crucial. The rookie has always had a defensive first mindset and frankly that shows.
"It is really important to me. I pride myself on defence and offence just comes and it is extra," Bartley said. "I work on it but I take pride on defence and guarding the best players because I know
that is what keeps me on the court. That is what kept me on the court when I had to play other guys who were a lot better or scored more so I had to find a way to get on the court and defence is that."
Ultimately, Bartley has a shot to win Newcomer of the Year for his play on the court. But, ask any Riptide player or coach and they speak volume of the man off the court as a leader. That is something Bartley is used to being and glad he can do it in Saint John's.
"I mean I have been a leader everywhere I have been so I don't think it has been anything different," Bartley concluded. "I think I came into training camp with the mindset where I was going to one of the better players and I think the guys respected that. They respect me as a teammate and a player. My coaches and my teammates trust me with the ball and like I said I have been a leader everywhere so this is nothing new to me."