Kouat Noi of the Taipans in warm ups during the Round 19 NBL match between the Adelaide 36ers and the Cairns Taipans at Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide, Saturday, February 8, 2020. (AAP Image/Kelly Barnes)
Kouat Noi of the Taipans in warm ups during the Round 19 NBL match between the Adelaide 36ers and the Cairns Taipans at Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide, Saturday, February 8, 2020. (AAP Image/Kelly Barnes)

Snakes rookie will be NBL finals X-factor

Rookie Kouat Noi looms as the Taipans post-season x-factor with the emerging forward another option for coach of the year Mike Kelly to throw at the defending champions.

While Mirko Djeric filled Noi's shoes well in the early stages of his injury lay-off, the Serbian Sniper has not had his usual influence over the past few games.

Combo-guard Djeric has only gone past three points once in his last five games and struggled to find the same rhythm from distance that he showed in the middle part of the campaign.

Noi, who was coming back from ankle bone bruising, has received more game time in each of his three comeback games and should be primed for a big finals series after a long lay-off in the middle of the season.

Taipans co-captain Nate Jawai believes Noi's energy and rebounding ability will be key against Perth, starting Friday night.

"He plays hard, his effort is phenomenal and he is always going to the boards," Jawai said.

"You can always rely on his energy.

"He missed a huge chunk of the season but he has shown in practice that he is still the athlete he has always been.

"He is young, he has recovered well and I think he will have a crucial role in this finals series."

NBL coach of the year Kelly now faces the tough decision of whether to stick with Djeric in the starting unit or revert back to Noi, who commenced the season in the first team.

With all three of Cairns' meetings against Perth being in the first half of the season, Noi was in the starting group for all three games, in which the Snakes claimed the season series 2-1.

The rookie forward had one of his better games for the regular season against Perth in late November, going for 19 points and six rebounds.

"We are trying to keep the groups on the floor that are playing well and Kouat has shown flashes over the last weeks as he has come back," Kelly said.

"We want to keep playing at a high level as we have done over the last few months.

"Kouat is getting better and better every day at training.

 

 

Kouat Noi of the Taipans in warm ups during the Round 19 NBL match between the Adelaide 36ers and the Cairns Taipans at Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide, Saturday, February 8, 2020. (AAP Image/Kelly Barnes)
Kouat Noi of the Taipans in warm ups during the Round 19 NBL match between the Adelaide 36ers and the Cairns Taipans at Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide, Saturday, February 8, 2020. (AAP Image/Kelly Barnes)

 

 

"He will be a big plus for us."

Noi, who finished second in rookie of the year voting, claimed the Snakes' commitment to community award at their end of season dinner last week.

 

 

Noi return

The Snakes went 8-1 while Noi was on the sidelines, with swing-man Mirko Djeric elevated to the starting group and the Serbian sniper did not miss a beat for the most part.

 

Cairns are 1-2 since Noi came back into the squad, with the rookie forward returning via the bench, and Djeric staying with the first five.

 

In each of his three games back, Noi has slowly built up his minutes, going from 8 to 12 and playing 20 in the blow out defeat to Brisbane in Round 20.

 

The 22-year-old collected seven points and six rebounds in the defeat to the Bullets.


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