The West Adelaide Basketball Club commenced in name in 1951 as a progression of the Kingston Basketball Club, which was established in 1946. The 'Bearcat' name was taken because of a close association with the University of Cincinnati in the USA. After occupying various stadiums over the years (including at Forestville, Bowden and Athol Park), in 1994 the Club relocated to the current Port Adelaide Stadium which is now our home.
The Club has a proud tradition as the State’s most successful senior club, winning many Men’s and Women’s championships now displayed proudly as banners inside our stadium (and listed below). Our Men’s team was a foundation member of the National Basketball League and gave the Club its finest moment when it won the NBL title in 1982. Our team still has the best win/loss record in NBL history! Our Women’s team was also a foundation member of the Women’s National Basketball League. The Club has produced many Australian and Olympic players, many of whom are displayed in our Hall of Fame.
There is more historic information in the 'Detailed History' which can be found below.
Kingston Basketball Club - the forerunner to the West Adelaide Bearcats
Notable Bearcats Team Achievements
West Adelaide’s success in the SA State League is outstanding: 19 men’s State Championships and 7 Women’s Championships - along with the 1982 NBL Championship - leaving the Bearcats as the standout club in South Australian basketball history.
NBL Champions (pictured, right):
1982 (d. Geelong Cats 80-74)
NBL runner up:
1980 (d. by St Kilda 113-88)
1983 (d. by Canberra Cannons 75-73)
The Bearcat Men have won SA State Championships in:
1948, 1949, 1951, 1952, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972,
1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1988, 1994 ,1996,
The Bearcat Women have won SA State Championships in:
1968, 1980, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1993, 2007
Our proud history of success does not stop with our senior
sides. The Bearcat junior teams have won many, many State
and National titles, provided countless State representatives,
Australian Institute of Sport Representatives and of course
players who went onto represent Australia at both a junior
and senior level.
NBL Championship winning team - 1982
Notable Individual Bearcats achievements
Keith Miller 1956 (Coach)
Alan Dawe 1960
Werner Linde 1964, 1968
Glenn Marsland 1972
Peter Ali 1980
Pat Mickan 1984, 1988
Michael McKay 1992
Rachael Sporn 1996, 2000, 2004
Erin Phillips 2008, 2016
Woolacott Medallists (MVP State Men's Comp)
Keith Miller 1947
Alan Branstrom 1949
Ginger Pearce 1954
Alan Dawe 1958, 1959
Werner Linde 1966, 1969, 1971
Ken Richardson 1975
Al Green 1982
Leroy Loggins 1983
Mike McKay 1987
Daniel Johnson 2013
Halls Medallists (MVP State Women's Comp)
Jacqui Aston 1965, 1967
Cass Pujals 1987
Cass Pujals 1988, 1989
Rachael Sporn 1989
Rachael Sporn 1993
Susie Batkovic 2002
Sam Woosnam 2006
Bearcats Club MVPs & Bearcats Medallists
The West Adelaide Bearcats competed in the National Basketball League from 1979 to 1984. See below for detail of that era.
NBL Most Valuable Player
1979 Ken Richardson
1982 Al Green
NBL Grand Final MVP
1982 Leroy Loggins
NBL 1st 5
1980 Ken Richardson
1981 Al Green
1982 Leroy Loggins
1983 Leroy Loggins
NBL Best Defensive Player
1980 Ray Wood
1981 Ray Wood
Most points scored by an individual in an NBL game
71 by Al Green (vs Frankston 25/05/84)
The Early Days
In 1946 the Kingston Tennis Club decided to enter a team in the Winter Men’s Basketball competition as a means of giving its summer tennis players a team sport in the winter and to keep fit during the cold winter months.
The Kingston Tennis Club courts were located in Kingston Avenue Richmond, now the location and home of the West Adelaide Football Club and Richmond Oval.
The Kingston Basketball team played in the “A” grade competition as a premiership team for the next few years.
The first Club Captain was a gentleman named Alan Branstrom, who just happened to be an All Australian Baseball player. He was renowned in those early days for his “baseball” style of passing the ball from one end of the court to the other. At the time, this style of passing was unique to the sport and enabled many fast breaks to occur. His free throw style was the then commonly used underhand style which was in vogue at the time.
Outside shooting often followed that style till it was proved rather easy to block by defenders.
The matches were played at the Unley Swimming Centre when the swimming pool was covered by a wooden floor during the winter months. Some of the major grade competitions were played at the Our Boys Institute basketball (OBI) court in Wakefield Street with Kingston winning several A and B Grade Premierships.
After a few years there was a dispute as to the rental being charged to the Basketball Association which caused a split between two groups, with one group retaining the South Australian Basketball Association while the other was called the District and Metropolitan Amateur Basketball Association which later became the forerunner to the Basketball Association of South Australia (BASA) and now Basketball SA (BSA).
The Clubs playing had to decide which Association competition they wished to participate in and Kingston elected to play with the latter. However one of the criteria imposed on the clubs was that they had to play under a “District” or location based name.
In 1951 the Kingston Club held a general meeting of its players to decide which name they were going to adopt. One faction of the club was in favour of West Torrens, the other in favour of West Adelaide. The meeting to decide which name was a long and heated debate with the meeting lasting until 1.30am with both sides arguing for their own selection. The deciding factor for the name then followed the then Men’s Coach, Fred Specht, who was a devoted West Adelaide Supporter.
The Kingston Basketball club which was derived from the Kingston Tennis Club now had a new identity. The West Adelaide Basketball club was then “Born”.
In those early days West Adelaide only competed in Men’s Basketball with a Women’s team following several years later. Games were played in various locations around Adelaide at the venues like the Kensington Army Drill Hall (Asphalt Floor), the Southwark Army Drill Hall (Asphalt Floor), the Norwood Congregational Church Hall (Wooden Floor), the Police Barracks Thebarton (Wooden Floor), the Thebarton Movie Theatre (Wooden Floor) and the Norwood Town Hall.
At this time the two associations were fierce rivals and debate raged as to who had the better teams. In the early 50’s the influx of the “Baltic” immigrants into Adelaide and eventually into the “OBI” competition bought further rivalry.
The West Adelaide Basketball club had Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian and Hungarian teams as opponents and in those days with the tallest West Adelaide player around 6ft1. The Baltic players where often much taller, especially the Latvian players who had giants in those days of 6ft6 and upwards.
West Adelaide players had determination, passion and pride in their performance. Not always the most skilful teams, but they had a raw endeavour that typified the characteristics of this great club.
As the years passed the West Adelaide Basketball club grew and prospered. It became a founding member of the Basketball Association of South Australia and had its home at the old Forestville stadium at Unley. It later moved to Bowden stadium where the club enjoyed its most powerful and dominant era of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
The NBL era
In 1979, the West Adelaide Bearcats became a foundation club in the newly formed National Basketball League (NBL). The club enjoyed outstanding success during the early days of the NBL which included Grand Finals in 1980 and 1983 but it was the NBL championship victory against the Geelong Cats in 1982 that stands out as a club highlight. Bearcats Championship Coach Ken Richardson was the Inaugural MVP of the NBL in 1979, a truly historic achievement.
During the 1982 regular season West Adelaide finished first with a 21-5 Win/Loss record. One of the Bearcats greatest-ever players, US-born Al Green won the NBL MVP award that season. Although he won the MVP award he was controversially not named to the All NBL Team. Leroy Loggins, another West Adelaide player and future Brisbane Bullets star was named in that side.
The club merged with the Adelaide 36ers at the end of the 1984 season to form one 'Adelaide' team in the NBL, with the Bearcats providing 6 players to the roster including Peter Ali, Ray Wood, David Spear and Mike McKay along with legendary NBL Coach Ken Cole and team manager Keith Woods.
West Adelaide’s history in national competitions didn’t end with the Men joining the NBL in 1979. Our women’s program was also a founding member of the historic Women’s National Basketball League where the then coach Ted Powell was instrumental in the formation of a new league back in 1980.
On October 4 1980, during the Australian Women’s Club Championship in Sydney, a meeting of delegates from six of the leading clubs in Australian women’s basketball was held. The clubs were West Adelaide, North Adelaide and Glenelg from SA and CYMS, Telstars and St. Kilda from Victoria.
The meeting resolved to form a 2 round competition between these teams to be held in July and August in 1981. The basis for the idea was that many of the top sides in both States wanted a varied competition from their standard State League as well as a suitable preparation for the Australian Club Championship, which was held on an annual basis for the top 24 teams in the country. There was also much excitement with the formation of the Men’s National League in 1979 and the women felt that one of best ways to develop the game was to provide more opportunities for the best players and clubs to play against each other more regularly.
A major consideration was finance and with this in mind the competition was formed with the six teams with a full home and away series between all teams with three games on one weekend to save costs. The NSW based clubs of Bankstown and Sutherland were not happy to be left out due to costs and offered to pay their own way to Melbourne and Adelaide where they would play each team once for double points.
In 1981 the Australian Institute of Sport was also opened and the men’s head coach Dr. Adrian Hurley (who was to lead the Australian Boomers in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics) contacted the clubs and asked whether the AIS could also participate in the women’s competition to commence later that year.
The competition commenced on June 19 1981 with the first ever game to be played in Adelaide between the West Adelaide Bearcats and the AIS.
The competition was called the Women’s Interstate Basketball Conference with each team paying the sum of $25 to be a part of the WIBC – giving a central fund of $200 to conduct the competition. The competition later formed into the WNBL. The West Adelaide “Lady” Bearcats later contested the 1984 WNBL Grand Final losing to the Nunawading Spectres 78 – 65.