In Cam Tragardh's case, looks are deceiving. Take that massive, demonic-looking tattoo sprawled across his right shoulder. Combined with his slightly ruffled semi-mullet hairdo, Tragardh seems like he'd be more at home in black singlet and jeans, tinkering with a motorbike in his garage.

He's certainly not what you'd expect of the Australian National Basketball League's leading scorer and player of the month for December.

"That's funny, because it couldn't be any less like me," chuckles the laid-back Melbourne Tigers forward who will face the Breakers on Thursday.

Tragardh plays this game so well, averaging a tick under 20 points and converting 57 per cent from the floor this season, that he causes opposition coaches fits as they try to close him down. You can bet NZ Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis is pondering this very prospect as they prepare for the Tigers.


Lemanis is probably best placed to unlock the secrets to Tragardh's success. As an assistant coach with the Townsville Crocs for seven years, he tutored his young protege and helped mold the style that confounds rivals today. Tragardh's play only seems so unorthodox because it's so orthodox.

"I think I'm the last of a dying breed of real traditional post players," muses Tragardh (28). "If you look around the league now, 'four' men tend to be 6ft 6 hustle guys who can shoot three-pointers, whereas I don't think I've taken one this season. There's no real secret to my game - I stand in the post, I turn to face the basket and, if they're up on me, I attack. If they've backed off me, I'll shoot."

While Tragardh's career seems on the up right now, that hasn't always been the case. After languishing at the end of the Crocs bench for three years, he played just four games for Brisbane Bullets in 2006 and couldn't break out of their practice squad the following season, when they won the NBL title.

Tragardh got his break when another current Breaker (then-Brisbane guard CJ Bruton) reached out to the struggling Wollongong Hawks and convinced them to give the kid a chance. In 2008, Tragardh was the league's Most Improved Player and two years later, he was Wollongong's leading scorer as they defied expectations to reach the Grand Final.

He commissioned the tattoo soon after signing with Melbourne in 2010 and it perfectly illustrates Tragardh's up-and-down fortunes as a basketballer.

The image features two faces - a slightly crazed, happy face and a crying, sad face with the captions "Good Times" and "Bad Times".

"I'm not the deepest guy around, but basically, it says when things get really bad, something good is just around the corner. And vice versa - you might be making lots of shots and everyone likes you, but don't get too complacent. It's just a reminder to stay grounded."

Sure enough, his first season as a Tiger was a washout, with Tragardh hampered by injury and struggling to find his role in the team.

"I put in a brutal off-season at the gym and on the running track, adding some size and strength to compete in this league."

Bad times, good times. They're never too far removed.