Wagstaff called into Boomers squad

SHAYNE HOPE

An injury to Aron Baynes has opened the door for Perth Wildcats young gun Jesse Wagstaff to join the Boomers camp in Perth.

The Boomers are preparing for their upcoming three-game series with Argentina, which begins at Challenge Stadium on Friday, but suffered a blow when Baynes rolled his right ankle at training on Monday night.

Wagstaff, 24, received a late call-up to join the squad as Baynes' replacement for training at the new WA Basketball Centre.

The reigning NBL Rookie of the Year is an outside chance to be selected in the final team of 12 for Friday's series opener against the world's no.1 ranked team and said he was keen to make the most of his opportunity.

"I just got a call-up late last night saying 'turn up tomorrow', so I turned up. I'll try to fit in and see what I can do," Wagstaff said.

"There are some phenomenal players here who are playing overseas and around the world.

"There's some phenomenal talent and skill here and I'm just trying to learn as much as possible.

"I was definitely surprised and certainly wasn’t expecting it, but it was a real privilege to be invited into the group.

"It's extremely exciting to be involved. It's a different level up again from the NBL and the guys are all a lot faster, bigger and stronger.

"They are obviously skilled and talented players, and just to be on court with them was a massive honour."

Wagstaff will benefit from training alongside some experienced forwards, including Cairns Taipans big man Alex Loughton and Nathan Jawai, who is a free agent after finishing the NBA season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"Training was good. There was lots to take in obviously and I had plenty to catch up on, but I enjoyed it," Wagstaff said.

"I know most of them from around basketball circles and obviously (Wildcats teammates) Stevie (Weigh) and Damo (Martin) were there, so it was nice to have them help me learn the ropes.

"I'm just taking it one step at a time, 24 hours ago I wasn’t even in the squad at all. I'm just happy to be there in the camp and I'll take whatever I can out of it."

Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge is one of Wagstaff's biggest fans, having picked him to win NBL Rookie of the Year honours at the start of last season - before most basketball fans knew a great deal about the youngster.

Beveridged isn’t surprised to see Wagstaff added to the Boomers squad and feels that he has all the tools to make it at international level.

"If I was the coach I'd want Jesse involved," Beveridge said.

"To me he is a Mark Worthington type of player. He has the ability to play inside and outside, and he's only young.

"His time will come and right now he will continue to work hard and there's no doubt he'll represent his country in the future.

"Physically he needs to get bigger and stronger, and that's the emphasis. We've got him in the gym so he can become stronger, more athletic and able to play multiple positions.

"From a skill development perspective, he's got to be able to handle the ball better so he can be a perimeter player as well as a post player."

Wagstaff has spent his off-season playing with the Perth Redbacks in the WA State Basketball League and is currently sporting a black eye suffered during the Redbacks' upset win over Lakeside Lightning on Friday night.

But he insists preparations for the Wildcats' NBL title defence are on track ahead of the 2009-10 season tip-off in October.