Paul Vandenbergh – No Loose Cannon
At just 25 years of age, Canberra Cannons star Paul Vandenbergh is already making his mark in the NBL, Australia’s leading basketball competition. Earlier on in the season Paul was scraping to make it into the squad, but with dedication and a few extra training sessions he finally got the break he was aiming for.
“Defence is my strength in basketball,” says Paul, who plays in either the point-guard or off-guard position. “It helps with my big reach and that’s what I try and concentrate on most. If your defence is good, then your offence will come.”
Paul was born in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, but grew up in the South Australian town of Ceduna, where he was a keen AFL player. When he was 11, however, he discovered the thrills of basketball and has been slam-dunking ever since.
Cannons coach Kal Bruton, who used to play with Olympic basketball great Danny Morsue, has told Paul he’s looking forward to working with another talented Aboriginal basketballer. “Kal is deadly,” he says. “He gets so excited that he yells at us from the sidelines non-stop during games! I love him to death. He’s a very encouraging and positive coach.”
Standing at just under two metres tall and weighing 92 kilograms, Paul is still one of the smallest guys in the team – not that it worries him, though. “That’s OK, I make up for it with my speed,” he laughs. “I also have a rather long arm span, which helps my defence. Actually, I think it’s good for people to underestimate me because it makes me work harder to show them what I’m capable of.”
Nicknamed ‘Reggie’ after his favourite basketball player, Reggie Miller, whom he says he tries to imitate, Paul’s heroes include Aboriginal AFL legends Nicky Winmar and Michael Long, and his parents. “I love going back home to visit them,” he says. “My parents have probably influenced me more in my career than anyone else. I owe them so much.”
With basketball being a full-time job, Paul spends his days either shooting hoops or sweating it out at the gym. “I don’t get a lot of free time during the basketball season. Training starts at 8:30am with a team run and goes until 12:30pm. Then it’s a light lunch followed by either a weights session or an individual shooting session with our coach.”
This year the Cannons’ goal is to win 11 games and be placed in the top 50 per cent of teams in the NBL, and with that kind of training regime it shouldn’t be difficult.
Paul says that his ultimate goal is to play for Australia in a world championship, like Danny Morsue did. “It’s pretty rare for an Aboriginal person to play for Australia.”
So what does Paul Vandenbergh get up to in his spare time?
“I hang out with my roommate David Patrick, who also plays with the Cannons. We usually grab a movie or go out for a bite to eat. My favourite movie would have to be Friday. I also like to read autobiographies of interesting people. In fact I just finished Cathy Freeman’s book Above And Beyond.”
And finally, does the Canberra Cannons star have any advice for Deadly Vibe readers?
“Believe in yourself. If you work hard enough at something, it will pay off. I didn’t start playing first division basketball until I was in my late teens and all my mates were playing when they were 14 and 15. But I got here in the end!”