While Corey Maynard was making his way through the college basketball ranks in America, there was always a sense of purpose that drew him back to the sport he grew up playing in Australia.
Maynard will make his debut for Melbourne in Saturday’s match against GWS, only 12 months after initially signing as a Category B rookie. He played his first game of footy in almost a decade at the beginning of 2017 in the VFL.
The 25-year-old’s basketball wasn’t finished, with the NBL, Europe and even the NBA D-League available as options, and Moldovan was confident Maynard’s career was still in an upward trend when he made the decision to switch codes.
But an AFL career has been on Maynard’s radar for a while with AFL clubs keen to secure his services for a similar period of time.
“It was always an itch that needed to be scratched,” Daniel Moldovan, Maynard’s basketball agent, told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“With his family history in the AFL, there was this special place in his heart for the sport and I always had this inkling he’d head back and give AFL a go at some stage because we spoke about it every single year during free agency.
“Even after college there were AFL teams contacting him, fast-forward 12 months and they were still contacting him and another 12 months after that.
“We questioned if it was time each year. AFL Clubs have been chasing him pretty much his whole life and it was always in the back of his mind.”
The Demons were at the forefront of the three clubs interested in Maynard.
A decision was made because the strongly-built midfielder was still young enough to adapt and make an impact at the top level.
The timing was right and Melbourne’s interest meant Maynard was most comfortable choosing them as the place to make his mark as a footballer.
There’s been many examples of basketballers transferring their skills across to an AFL field with decision-making skills in confined spaces a common trait among those who dabbled in the round ball code.
Maynard is athletic. He’s stocky but has clearly trimmed down since his basketball days. Endurance won’t be an issue.
The point of difference for Maynard is his competitiveness — something which every elite athlete has — but Moldovan believes the brother of Collingwood’s hot-headed defender, Brayden Maynard, has more than most.
“There are competitors and then there’s Corey Maynard,” Moldovan added.
“I’ll never forget Corey nearly getting into two fights on the court against Nathan Jawai, the largest man in Australian basketball history. Big men wouldn’t even do that and here’s this point guard coming in and not taking a backwards step.
“Corey is going to be the heart and soul of any team whether it’s basketball or AFL because his competitive nature is a rare thing. He’ll be a fan-favourite if he gets enough of a go.”
Moldovan describes Maynard as a fiery and intense character on the field of play but a softly spoken and analytical thinker off it.
The thing that separates the two personalities is losing. It’s something the AFL industry has seen with little brother Brayden more than happy to throw his weight around on the field.
If Brayden is the benchmark, Maynard’s parents suggest Corey is the tougher and more intense character of the two — he’ll fit in well in the cut and thrust of an AFL game.
And the world — yes, the world — will be tuning in at on Saturday to see how the basketball convert will go, with Moldovan set to watch his former client and friend from his Los Angeles home.
“I’ll be watching from the US. We get AFL on one channel so I’ll be tuning in around 8pm on Saturday night.
“I knew he’d make the AFL if he wanted to give it a go but to see it happen 12 months after making the move has even surprised me.
“It proves he definitely has the ability and I’m really excited to see how his game goes.
After a college basketball career, a few years in the NBL and a stint in Europe, Maynard’s AFL journey starts in Canberra this weekend.
And being years in the making, that footy itch is only beginning to be scratched.