JOSH Dean is ready to take on added responsibility as he enters his first Big V finals campaign.
The point guard produced season-best performances as Warrnambool Seahawks booked a home quarter-final last weekend.
Dean, 19, filled American import Sai’Quon Stone’s void when the influential guard suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on Saturday night against Melbourne University Black Angels.
He then backed it up with 19 points in the Seahawks’ narrow win against Blackburn Vikings on Sunday.
The key to Dean’s impressive performances? Forgetting about the “what ifs”.
“I came out early on in the game and didn’t worry about mistakes or anything and that’s what I have been doing this season, just worrying about if I do that pass then I will get dragged,” Dean said.
“But I came out free and it started working for me a bit.
“I hit some shots and got some steals, so it went well.”
Warrnambool snared a narrow two-point win against Blackburn to book its home- court advantage in week one of the division one finals series.
Dean said it was a buzz to play a significant role in such a momentous win for the club, which is preparing for its first final in three seasons.
“We had a little bit of a lead with about a minute left that we sort of let slip and it got really close,” Dean said.
“But it was really fun. I was a little bit nervous but at the time it was so much fun to be a part of a close game like that.”
The Deakin University student’s next challenge is to replicate his sizzling form in the Seahawks’ make-or-break clash against Chelsea Gulls — a side they defeated by 21 points earlier in the season — at the Arc tonight.
Dean is excited about the possibility of increased game time in the quarter-final but knows Warrnambool will have to work hard to cover Stone — the team’s second-highest scorer this season.
“That was frustrating,” he said of Stone’s injury.
“It was a big blow for the team really. We really need him, just his voice, power and strength, we just need all of that.
“But we have to step up. That is what we did without him and there is no reason why we can’t do that again.”
Dean made his Seahawks’ debut in 2010 but had to wait until 2012 to suit up for his next Big V game.
The past two seasons he’s established himself as a regular, playing all 19 matches in both home-and-away campaigns.
On top of that durability, Dean’s increased his output in all key areas this season — points, steals, assists and rebounds — making him a valuable contributor off the bench. Stone’s absence means he is a likely starter against the Gulls.
Dean credited coach Bobby Cunningham for his improvement.
“(I have a) lot of confidence. That’s gone up a fair bit and sort of belief in what I can do myself and we have just gotten stronger,” he said.
“Me, personally, I have gotten a lot stronger than last season and have grown a bit.”
Dean, who has lived in Alice Springs and South Australia, moved to Warrnambool in 2005.
He’s played the bulk of his basketball alongside current Seahawks teammates James Mitchell, Damian Gray and Liam Killey.
The chance to develop a successful culture with his close friends spurs Dean on.
“It is just great for Warrnambool in general just to see how good we are at a young level, really,” he said of the Seahawks’ rise this season.
“It is really good to see how far we’ve come, especially as we started down in under 12s together most of us.
“It has been good to play with them all the way through and now we’re finally getting some good results.
“It is one week at a time but there is no limit on what we can do as a group as long as we play as a team.”
Dean believes strong home- court support will give the Seahawks added incentive tonight.
“We’re hoping for a really big crowd,” he said.
“We thrive on that, just the crowd being loud and the atmosphere so that’s what I am looking forward to.”
Tip-off is at 7pm at the Arc