Where Are They Now? Andre LaFleur

We managed to get a hold of one of the greatest point guards to every play in the NBL. The great, Andre LaFleur!

Andre played 5 years in the NBL. 3 of them with the old Gold Coast Rollers and 2 of them with the Illawarra (Now Wollongong) Hawks. He was one of the best point guards of his time, winning the ‘good hands’ award in 1991, 1992 and 1993. 4/5 seasons he averaged 20 points or more. He perhaps had his best year in 1995 when he averaged over 22ppg, 6.7rpg, 7.4apg whilst shooting the ball at a huge 50% from the field!

In 1994 he left the Gold Coast Rollers with about a month left to go in the season, the Rollers were out of the playoff race and Andre’s departure was surrounded by controversy. He was left without a job and only a few positions were open. At the time the only spots open were at Illawarra, Geelong or Hobart. He had a deal with one of those teams, but it feel through on the 11th hour, so Andre left Australia and returned to America to get married. He came back to Australia (obviously) and made it clear to then Illawarra Hawks coach, Alan Black, that he wanted to play for the Hawks. And the rest is history…

I got a chance to have a chat with one of the most respected college coaches earlier this week.. here’s some Q&A with the great Andre LaFleur!

Q: When you got the call about playing in Australia in 1991, what did you  know of Australian basketball at the time?

AL: I played two seasons with the Mt. Gambier Pioneers (SEABL) before moving up to the Gold Coast. I didn’t know that the SEABL was the second division to the NBL until I arrived.

Q: What is your fondest memory from playing for the Gold Cast Rollers?

AL: My fondest memory of the Rollers was a win at Brisbane at the buzzer. Mike Mitchell inbounded a pass to Ronnie Ratliff and followed his shot for an alley oop dunk at the buzzer. One of the best plays I have ever seen anywhere. Incredible!!!

Q: What was the basketball scene like on the Gold Coast in the early 90s? Was there many hardcore Roller fans?

AL: It was an incredible atmosphere at Carrara stadium in the early ’90’s. The Gold Coast had a new franchise and the city was a buzz. Sunshine Ford Steve Kelly and Roscoe Tanner were ahead of there time. John (bonjovi) Hunjadi and Cocktails and Dreams was home to the NBL. It was and exciting time.

Q: Do you stay in contact with any former Rollers or Hawks players still?

AL: I’m still in contact with many players and coaches from my NBL days. Dwayne McClain, Joe Hurst, Peter Hill, Mike Mitchell, Steve Woodbury, David Patrick, Ken Henry… too many to list.

Q:  What’s your favorite memory of your time in the Illawarra?

AL: My oldest son Adrian was born in Wollongong which is my fondest memory of Illawarra.

Q: You teamed up with Marcus Timmons for the 1996 season to become one of  the most exciting duos in the league at the time. Did you guys click right away on & off the court?

AL: I played in some great import duos. Mike and I at the time on the Gold Coast was the longest tenured duo. He was the best before suffering the arm injury. Still he was one of the best of that era. Melvin Thomas may have been the best scorer I ever played with. Unstoppable in the post and pure from 17 feet in. Marcus Timmons was a young and talented import in my last year. Tough year for me…but it was the rookie year of Saville and Campbell. Timmons was so long and athletic…I knew he would do well-plus he shot it and defended.

I played for some great coaches in Oz. Mark Lampshire – Mt Gambier; Dave Claxton (my favorite ) Gold Coast; Alan Black- Illawarra. Brendon Joyce-Illawarra. I’ve taken something in my own philosophy from all of them

Q: Where did you play after you left the NBL at the end of the 1996 season?

AL: I was at UCONN for the last 10 years as an assistant and recruiting coordinator to Jim Calhoun (Hall of Famer) and we have had a few Aussies over the years. I was fortunate to recruit some of Uconn’s all-time greatest such as Kemba Walker and Hasheem Thabeet. I was a part of three Final Four teams and Two National Championships (04-11). I moved to Providence College after this years 2011 NCAA Championship as the Associate Head Coach under an up and coming young star coach – Coach Ed Cooley.

Q: You’re a assistant coach at Providence now, are there any stories about Australia or leasons you learned from your time in Australia that you tell your players?

AL: I often tell the guys about my time in Australia and I am both happy and proud when the young aussie guys come to the US and do so well in our NCAA. Australia develops a very high calibre student-athlete in the sport of basketball (both men and women) right now that it’s know wonder they are so highly sought after.