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NBL1 West: Controversy as Rockingham Flames re-sign American All Star Jeremy Combs from Joondalup Wolves

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Matt ZisSound Telegraph
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American Jeremy Combs, an All Star with Rockingham last season, is back with the Flames for the remainder of 2024.
Camera IconAmerican Jeremy Combs, an All Star with Rockingham last season, is back with the Flames for the remainder of 2024. Credit: Bay Files

Rockingham has pulled off a major coup, re-signing game-breaking import Jeremy Combs from under the noses of one its main NBL1 West rivals.

Combs was electric for the Flames last season, teaming with injured league MVP Devondrick Walker to form one of the most dynamic tandems in WA basketball.

Without either, the Flames have been far less imposing in 2024.

Last week, head office pulled the trigger, parting ways with Combs’ seemingly replacement import Quinton Dove to bring back their All Star forward.

The move was a shock considering Combs had signed with Joondalup Wolves as far back as February but did not arrive back in Perth until this month due to immigration issues.

He was finally at Joondalup watching alongside other non-playing Wolves on June 8 but just days later he was in a Rockingham uniform, helping the Flames to their second win in a row, a three-point comeback victory over Perth Redbacks.

Combs had 10 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes after starting on the bench in his Flames comeback last Friday.

But the timing of his mid-season switch sets the scene for a promoter’s dream this Saturday as Combs and the Flames travel to Joondalup, taking on the Wolves in what will surely be a spicy affair.

The defection continues a string of line-up changes involving the two NBL1 West powerhouse clubs during the off-season that had included Combs and Dove effectively swapping places.

Rockingham also signed Joondalup’s women’s coach March Wong and a bunch of his stars followed, including Neseye Parker Williams and Shani Amos.

Joondalup quickly signed and this week suited up their own replacement American in 201cm, 25-year-old Jacob Wiley, whom the club described as a flashy, high-flying big man who dominates the court with speed and athleticism.

But in a statement on Friday, the Wolves also made clear that losing Combs to the Flames had not been in their planning.

“The Joondalup Wolves invested considerable resources in navigating Jeremy’s immigration challenges and understand that an alternate visa was issued shortly after Jacob commencing transit to Australia,” the statement read.

“We are disappointed that Jeremy has this week advised that he wished to immediately terminate his playing contract, and we understand he has an intention to sign a playing contract with an alternate NBL1 West club.

“The Wolves are reviewing all remedies that are available in response to the circumstances surrounding Jeremy signing with another team and will be seeking clarification from the league on the validity of the mandated standardised league contracts.”

Rockingham general manager Shannon Conrad was thrilled to secure the 29-year-old Texan for the rest of the season.

“Once we were aware that Joondalup had terminated his contract and signed another import instead, and Combs’ management let it be known of his availability, we were lucky enough to attract him back to the Hothouse.

“His performance last season was outstanding and we are confident that his return will greatly contribute to our success over the remainder of 2024. Jeremy’s experience and leadership on the court are invaluable and we look forward to an exciting run into the finals.”

Before the Joondalup blockbuster takes place Saturday, Flames fans get a chance to welcome Combs back when Rockingham (seventh with 9-7 record) host fourth-placed Mandurah at the Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Friday night.

The Flames will need Gorjok Gak to continue his hot form, after the athletic big man top scored against the Redbacks with 28 points.

New Zealander Jonathan Janssen continued his good season with 17 points while Justin Beard contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Walker, who hasn’t played for more than six weeks, remains out injured.

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