Gamblin thriving as ‘the man’ in new Meteors set-up
WHEN Mitch Gamblin went to the line to spare the Meteors' blushes on the road in Rockhampton, coach Joel Khalu joked his was not the steadying hand first picked to do that job.
But after defying the pressure and making that clutch moment his own against the Rockets, Gamblin has firmed as one of the leading lights in a team seemingly poised to run the ConocoPhillips CQ Cup table.
On opening night in Rockhampton, Gamblin was sent to the line needing three-from-three to send the game into extra time.
As his coach watched through fingers on the bench, Gamblin cooly saluted and the Meteors went on to escape with an important win.
He then led the team in scoring the following week in a first return to The Crater in more than 12 months, as the Meteors ran up the score on a hapless Bundaberg Bulls.
Then, in the first of the Meteors' round three road games at the weekend, Gamblin again led all comers with 29 points in the hard-fought 74-64 win over a much-improved Bulls.
Previously shoehorned as a bit-part cog in the Meteors set-up, Gamblin has now become one of "the guys" for Mackay.
In a team missing its usual smattering of star international imports - because of COVID-19 - he has carved out a role as the dominant man in the paint, much to Khalu's enjoyment.
"I think Gambo has always had that ability," the coach said.
"I think he's sacrificed a lot at the QBL and NBL1 level to be a really good role player on teams - Rassy (Brad Rasmussen) has done similar. Now that they're 'the guys' they've had to step up.
"Gambo has always had that ability to be really, really good and having the confidence at this level to go out and do it, he has proven that. Again, same with Rassy.
"Those two guys are showing their class at the CQ Cup level, that's for sure."
The pairing of Gamblin and Rasmussen dragged Mackay over the line against the Bulls on Saturday night, combining for 52 points and 29 rebounds in the 10-point win.
Perhaps even more pivotal has been the veteran pair's role in guiding the next generation of Meteors.
Seventeen-year-old twins Riley and Lachlan Inkson have captured headlines in recent weeks for impressing in their early senior starts for Mackay.
Lachlan hit threes for fun in the final quarter of Sunday's win over Gladstone - his four triples helped will the Meteors over the line after a long weekend on the road.
"The older guys have really helped with the mentoring of the younger guys," Khalu said.
"That's the culture of this group which is cool from a club perspective to be able to manage that.
"We're a club that's about winning and setting that benchmark and being the yardstick."
Down on players and twice tested by well-rested teams with Brisbane-based imports in their mix, the Meteors were able to still pull off a perfect weekend and reaffirm their status as one of the best basketball programs in Queensland.
With guys like Gamblin and Rasmussen leading the way, it is of little surprise.