The best little Basketball League in New Zealand starts in a couple of weeks – here’s Sportsfreak’s quick guide and a few rough predictions – get a ticket and get along to a game or three.
“Supercity” ?! Waitakere Rangers
This year’s version of the Auckland Pirates have assembled an All-Star cast including seasoned veterans Dillon Boucher, Casey Frank and Breaker Rueben Te Rangi and with Basketball raconteur Jeff Green pulling the strings with the whiteboard and pen anything could happen. Throw in Jason Cadee and three-ball guru Josh Bloxham and they will be hard to stop in the regular season.
Our tip = top 4 but no game on Sunday.
Hawkes Bay (aka Bay Hawkes)
The post Tab Baldwin ‘era’ has started with the recruitment of highly rated former Nelson Giants Coach Liam Flynn (who took Nelson to two consecutive finals series). Throw in Tall Black Jarrod Kenny and team Talisman ‘the Bishop’ Paora Winitana and they will compete strongly. This team will be tough at home but probably hasn’t the depth of the past couple of years to win consistently on the road and likely won’t be seen this year at finals weekend.
Our tip = a credible 5th
Taranaki Mountain Airs
So much to like about this team which is always one of the gutsiest going around and never stops trying. As usual this team will be relying on their imports and if pre-season results are anything to go on they will upset a couple of the bigger names without troubling the post season. Look for a young kid with plenty of swagger called Jackson Stubbins to provide some swish off the bench as well.
Our tip = 8th
The North Palmerston based outfit will as usual base its attempt at another push for the playoffs on continuity with Coach Darron Larsen calling on veteran Nick Horvath plus Jeremiah Trueman and Troy McLean to steer a franchise that has a lot to like about it this year. The abundance of seasoned professionals among other teams might make their road trips a bridge too far although we reckon they won’t be out of the top 4 for all of the season – just the most important part of it.
Our tip = 6th
Wellingtons most successful sporting franchise never re-builds, it simply re-loads with owner Nick Mills kissing -and-making-up with Basketball Royalty Pero Cameron as they reunite to assemble a championship calibre roster (yet again). This year’s ace has been recruitment of Cairns Taipans ANBL star Torrey Craig who really lit up the recent finals series with the Breakers. The second import slot is still open while currently being occupied by veteran Kareem Johnson but look for some similar moves to 2014 (remember the impact Bowman and Davis had) as the Saints look for another overseas superstar to compliment what is mostly a supporting cast of locally developed Hoops talent. No Corey Webster will hurt them.
Our tip = Champs.
This most unlikely of Basketball Powerhouses welcomes back Breakers legend Mika Vikona for a full season and this, coupled with an imposing home court and local support base plus promotion of Assistant Coach Tim Fanning to the top job will see it compete and make the playoffs (as it usually does).
Our tip = beaten semi-finalists.
Boasting one of New Zealand’s best stadiums and large home crowds, the Rams New Coach Mark Dickel (up the road from Dunners) has a former NBA player Mikel Gladness and will be fun to watch. However like a couple of other teams, we think there simply isn’t enough depth there to get the road dubs and this will see them fade down the stretch.
Our tip = 7th
Any team with Paul Henare running the cutter that boasts a trio of the highly underrated Duane Bailey, Kevin Braswell and Tai Wesley has to be taken really seriously. This team has a lot to prove after last year’s well documented melt-down and we think they have all the tools to do it.
Our tip = beaten finalists.