The Townsville Crocodiles have made the difficult decision to release both Jason Forte (196-G/F-84, college: S.Mississippi) and Curtis Withers (203-F-84, agency: Court Side, college: Charlotte) for the coming NBL season, before the regular season has even commenced.
After an extensive off season search the club was convinced that Jason Forte and Curtis Withers would be the right players to supplement their existing Australian players.
After a month of preseason training and five preseason games it was decided that this was not the case, and they have been released from their contracts to return to the USA.
Coach Paul Woolpert while openly disappointed believed that he was left with few options.
'After such a successful season last year we made the decision to retain as many of our players as we could to give ourselves the best chances of winning in the coming season,' said Woolpert
'For me it was then about finding the pieces that fitted perfectly into the existing team. Unfortunately, while being great players Jason and Curtis have not quite been the fit I thought they would be and I need to change this.'
Crocs CEO Ian Smythe also shares Coach Woolpert's disappointment but believe it is the right decision.
'Jason and Curtis have been working hard on their game since they arrived and it was a difficult decision to make,' Smythe said.
'At the end of the day we have to ensure that we take every step, make every decision possible to give the Crocs the best chance of winning a championship. Sometimes that means making the tough decisions but that is what our members and sponsors expect us to do.'
Smythe is fully aware that the decision may not be fully appreciated by all involved with the club.
'I know that we will be criticized for making the call so early, but there is no sense in us looking at this issue half way through the season. By then the damage may be done, Smythe said. It was a decision that needed to be made sooner rather than later, and we did,' said Smythe.
The club has immediately begun the search for replacements for the two released players. While not 100% certain on the direction, the club has identified a point guard as their number one priority.
'We need to ensure that the right guys have the ball in their hands at the right time. We have two great young guards in Mitch Norton and Chris Cedar and to add some experience and leadership with these two will certainly give us the edge we are looking for," Woolpert said
'I am happy with the pieces I have in place so far, I just need the last two to finish the puzzle.'
Paul Woolpert believes that both Forte and Withers will do great things in the future.
'Just because it has not worked out here for them, does not, mean we won't see them show up somewhere else. They are both great players who have a lot to prove in their future basketball careers," Woolpert added.
Smythe indicated that the club will also be looking at the Australian players who have yet to secure a contract for the coming iiNet NBL season.
'We have been really impressed with the growth we have seen so far from our eight Australian players and they are giving us a lot more than we planned on. Ben Allen in particular has shown real maturity and has shown already that he can compete with the best in the NBL,' Smythe said.
The Townsville McDonalds Crocodiles will hold a press conference at 12pm, September 27, at their training facilities at Wulguru to answer any further questions from the media. CEO Ian Smythe and Coach Paul Woolpert will be in attendance.