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Dech signs with Eagles in NBL1 West

25 Mar
9 mins read

Written By

Chris Pike

Sunday Dech returns home to join East Perth for 2024 NBL1 West season

Sunday Dech returns to where it all began for him for the 2024 NBL1 West season rejoining the East Perth Eagles as one of the country's best defenders and having proudly represented South Sudan on the world stage.

The signing of Dech for the 2024 NBL1 West season is a significant coup for the Eagles given how highly sought after his signature was across the country and even across the Tasman, but it was the pull to return to where it all began at East Perth that won out.

Dech is fresh off another NBL season at the Adelaide 36ers where he continued to cement himself as one of the best defensive players in the competition, a strong leader and a more than capable scorer and playmaker.

As he prepares to make his return to East Perth, he does so having now played 156 games in the NBL, has become a key player in the rise of the South Sudanese national team, and he is one of the most respected all-round players in the game.

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It was a significant decision for Dech where to play this NBL off-season because it is his final preparations to be ready to be part of the historic South Sudan appearance at the Paris Olympic Games.

"I’m super excited to be home and to be at East Perth almost a decade after leaving. It’s a full circle moment," Dech said.

"It was no brainer when I decided to come back home this off season. East Perth is my junior club, I grew up there and it's a full circle moment to come back to East Perth a decade after we won the championship. I still know so many people at the club and It's pretty cool to see what is building at the club as well.

"My short term goals for the next couple of months is to enjoy my basketball and be in the best possible shape mentally and physically before heading to the Olympic training camp in July.

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"There are always the obvious goals and the ones that come naturally being an athlete. Over the next couple of months my goal is to push the boundaries and reach peak mental and physical awareness. That to me is being a complete athlete."

Just because Dech is now a well-established NBL player, it wasn’t always the case and he's only got to where he is through his sheer hard work and determination.

"I’ve been fortunate to experience different programs from Perth, Illawarra to Adelaide. To play in one of the best leagues in the world comes with many highs and lows," he said.

"From winning championships, missing finals, playing with NBA players, it's something I don't take for granted. Playing at the highest level I've really improved my skills on the court as we compete every day in training and then go to battle against some of the best players in the world also.

"For me it's the relationships you build along the way and the lifelong friends you make off the court that makes the NBL so special."

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Tracing right back and Dech fondly remembers first heading down to Morley Sport and Recreation Centre which is where his love of basketball began.

That makes it only fitting that as he returns to East Perth this season that the Eagles return to playing at the venue as well for the 2024 season, but those early days as a youngster weren't still without their challenges.

"I first got involved in basketball back in 2011 when my brother invited me down to Morley Rec to play pickup," Dech said.

"I’d always been an outdoors kid, playing footy, skateboarding, soccer and playing anything but basketball. The Perth summers get quite hot so I took up the offer to head down to Morley with Solo and have never looked back.

"The biggest challenges I faced when I started playing would have to be self-doubt as I felt everyone was so much better than me. We have state team players, guys who went to the AIS camps and quite a stacked East Perth juniors program for my age group.

"I always thought that I wasn't good enough so I worked harder than everyone to try and catch up. This drove me to try and win every drill, every race and eventually my progression curve started to take off as well.”

Dech also reflects on two critical moments which have helped to set him on the basketball journey he's been on and how easily it could have been different.

But he will always be thankful to two of his childhood friends who made sure he came along to join in some off-season sessions, and then it's his 2014 SBL championship winning coach and current Cairns Taipans NBL coach Adam Forde who will always be enormously grateful towards.

"There's so many situations looking back now that if i had made another choice I’d be in a completely different situation," Dech said.

"For me I'd have to say it was that first week when I started playing basketball, I met some East Perth legends at Morley Rec. Guys who are now my lifelong friends."

"Joe Swaka and Ollie Sherratt, two juniors who invited me down to the off season sessions they were doing with Steve Williams down at Ballajura Community College. I guess the choice looking back was to make the bus ride with Joe the next day to that session or not.

"Thankfully I made that bus ride which allowed me to get introduced to great coaching right away and also tough competition. Allowing me to see what it took to get to where I wanted to get to.

"The second part would be a year later where I met Adam Forde through the SBL program. Fordie has helped me throughout my entire career. From coaching me at the junior national championships, SBL, at the Wildcats and to this day."

Winning has followed him too winning a NZNBL championship with the Wellington Saints in 2019 and in the NBL1 Central with the North Adelaide Rockets in 2021, where he was also named Grand Final MVP.

When you throw in the role he's played in helping South Sudan play at the World Cup for the first time and now qualify for the Paris Olympics on top of his time in college at Metro State and Barry University, and it provides Dech the chance to reflect on where it all started.

"My journey to the NBL is an unconventional one, and one that had a lot of luck on the way. I believe you create your own luck by always putting yourself in the best situation to seize the opportunity," Dech said.

"Starting basketball later was a blessing in disguise as it made me work harder and never be satisfied with what I had accomplished.

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"That led to many doors being opened, ones that may have looked closed. That sums up how I became an NBL player. As I just looked one step ahead of me at a time which led me to great coaches and great environments.

"From playing U18 div 2, then playing U20, SBL, development player with the Wildcats, College and then back to the NBL. I have learned so much on my journey and have tried to implement those learnings everywhere I've gone.”

As for what keeps him occupied away from basketball and to try to take his mind off the life as a professional basketballer too, it's doing some writing and more recently playing golf that he's found provides a good escape.

“I’m pretty laid back outside of sport. It consumes my life so it's only fitting that everything revolves around it,” he said.

“Outside of basketball I like to play golf, write and watch movies. I picked up golf in Adelaide which was a good way to play another sport badly.

“I started writing when I was in high school and it's something that's really helped me throughout the years. It's a good way that's helped me think clearly over the years.”

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As for the 2024 NBL1 West season with the Eagles, Dech joins an exciting looking East Perth roster already featuring Jerami Grace, Taylor Young and Sebit Reath and he can't wait to get on board and join the group.

“To be my best this upcoming season is to build great relationships with my teammates, coaches and people at the club,” Dech said.

“In my time thus far playing I feel that when you have great relationships with the people you're around everything works better and is clearer.

“Coming in late is always a challenge but it's something that will be an opportunity to add to the foundation the boys have already started. We will work hard on the court and push each other, which is a given when you want to be a great team and win.”

East Perth start their NBL1 West campaign on Thursday night when the Eagles travel to Warwick Stadium to play Warwick Senators.

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