Basketball purists around the nation will be saddened by the news that Adam Ballinger is packing away his celebrated jump-shot and calling it a day.
The Wollongong forward will draw the curtain on his 12-year NBL career when the Hawks host Adelaide in the final game of the regular season on Sunday week.
‘‘It’s a bit sad, 35 years of playing basketball and it’s at an end,’’ Ballinger said.
‘‘I just feel like it’s time. I feel good about saying I’m done and I feel good about going on to do something else. I’m proud of my career and what I’ve done in this league.’’
Ballinger arrived in Australia in 2003 and played his first NBL season with the long-forgotten Victoria Giants.
He spent his next three years with Wollongong under former coach Brendan Joyce, averaging 18.7 points.
The 36ers lured him to Adelaide in 2007 where he became a fan favourite for five seasons. Melbourne was his next stop for two years before the former Michigan State University returned for a last hurrah with the Hawks.
Ballinger and his Australian wife Bianca will move back to Melbourne with their three children shortly after the season ends.
The man nicknamed ‘Balls’ said he didn’t agonise over the decision to retire.
‘‘It wasn’t incredibly hard. I’ve been thinking about it all year,’’ the 35-year-old said.
‘‘The hard decision was whether to move here from Melbourne and give it a try this year, and I’m glad we did it. I’m glad we had the guts as a family to move on short notice. It wasn’t easy, and now seven months later we’re moving back.’’
Ballinger averaged 15 points and six rebounds over his 12 years in Australia.
‘‘Coming out of college and coming here in my first year, I didn’t know what would happen or where I’d be,’’ he said.
‘‘I really liked the league and knew this was a place I’d like to be, and hoped that I could stay and have a career here. I had seven years as an import, which was pretty tough because it’s a cut-throat job.
‘‘I met my wife my first year out here and that’s another reason I’ve stayed. It’s funny how life works out and it’s worked out very well for me. It’s a good place to be.
‘‘My kids have all been born in Australia, all in three different cities. I tell them they’re half-American and they don’t believe me.’’
Ballinger’s textbook shooting technique is a thing of beauty and has left many an opponent admiring in envy.
He learned his picture-perfect shot back from his father.
‘‘I’m from Indiana, so you’re kind of born with a jump-shot,’’ he said.
‘‘Everyone in Indiana has a goal in their driveway and when you’re bored you go out and shoot. My Dad played basketball and he was a great shooter. He was the first one who taught me how to shoot, but I’ve also had the benefit of great coaches. I was taught the fundamentals early and grew up with the game.’’
Ballinger doesn’t take life too seriously and talks with self-deprecating humour.
He boasts a degree in adverstising and hopes the next phase of his life allows him to combine his college knowledge with his hoops nous.
‘‘We’re moving back to Melbourne and once we get settled I have to find a real job,’’ he said.
‘‘Maybe I could stay in basketball in a mentoring or leadership role, or an administration-type role. I don’t know yet. I’ll have to talk to some contacts. I’ve never had a real job so I’ve gotta figure that part out.’’