Perth a divine play for U'u

Shayne Hope
Perth a divine play for U'u

American guard Drake U'u spent the off-season in limbo, not knowing whether he would be allowed to return to his "second home" in Perth this year.

Back in Sacramento, he worked hard on his outside shot and ball handling in a bid to develop his skills at the point-guard position.

Then came the call the 24-year-old had been waiting for.

U'u, who qualifies as a local player because his mother was born in Tasmania, had challenged his NBL player points rating and won, successfully getting his rating cut from three points to two.

The re-rating meant he could squeeze on to the Perth Wildcats' roster and the club had no hesitation in asking U'u back for another year.

U'u's agent had fielded interest from rival NBL clubs, understood to include New Zealand, Adelaide and Wollongong.

But U'u knew exactly where he wanted to play.

"There were a couple of options on the table, but I prayed about it and I love Perth," he said.

"It's become a second home to me and the guys on the team have become part of my family. It was a pretty easy decision."

U'u played a small, yet important, role in the Wildcats' run to the championship last season.

He appeared in all but one of the team's games and had several good performances, including 13 points off the bench against Townsville in round 13.

This season, U'u feels ready to have a bigger impact.

"I have a better idea of the league and the situation that I'm in," he said.

"Last year I had a couple of break-out games, so I'm hoping that I can build on that.

"I had a really good off-season and put in a lot of hard work, so I'm definitely ready to take that next step within the Wildcats."

The Wildcats know winning successive titles won't be easy.

If they needed a reminder, it came when they were beaten in two of three pre-season games against NBL opposition last week.

Their next task is a three-game pre-season series against the rebranded and much-improved Melbourne United - formerly the Melbourne Tigers - in WA.

"Last week was a reminder that we can't just show up this year," U'u said.

"The rest of the league has definitely stepped up their game and a lot of the teams are looking better than last year, so we've got to show up every single night."