Back to the drawing board for the Jets

BASKETBALL GEORGE HEAGNEY SPORT@MSL.CO.NZ
Last updated 12:00 04/07/2014

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Jets are seeking to work out how they can go one better next season. 

Manawatu Jets coach Darron Larsen wants to keep his team together for a shot at the title next year.

The Jets finished the season fifth, out of contention for this weekend's final four playoffs, despite a strong finish to the season when they won five in a row and seven of their last eight, making up for a poor start.

Larsen thought they were a final four team even though they didn't get there, so he wanted to keep most of the team to try to win the competition next year.

"I want to keep the main core of the group because when you chop and change all the time, you have to rebuild," he said.

Individual player meetings started this week and they were working to find where they can improve. Perimeter shooting was where they may need to strengthen.

Larsen would like to think imports Brandon Jenkins and Paul Jones will come back next year, but it depends what Kiwi players they can retain and where the gaps in the roster are, because Kiwi players are harder to find than overseas ones.

Manawatu had nine wins and nine losses, but it took a resurgence in the second half of the season after centre Nick Horvath returned from injury, where they had seven wins and three losses.

Larsen said there were a couple of games they should have won earlier in the season regardless.

But Horvath made a difference more than just with the way he plays and with his rebounding ability.

It helped having three bigs in their rotation and not having people play out of position.

"The confidence people have in Nick when he's playing, everything changed when he came on board," Larsen said.

Even though they were two points out of the top four, Larsen felt it would have taken two more wins for a spot in the playoffs.

The away 91-83 loss to Southland Sharks was a hard one to take when they shot two from 20 three pointers and missed 11 free throws.

Larsen said the worst one was the 101-92 overtime loss to the Canterbury Rams in Timaru, as well as narrow away losses to the Bay Hawks (81-72) and Waikato Pistons (73-72).

"Those games are the ones you look at and say ‘shit, if we had won those'. In saying that, I'm really pleased with the way we finished and the things we accomplished off the court."

This is Larsen's second stint coaching the team, after a spell from 2005-2007, and he wanted to come back next year.

"I think we've started something pretty good and it would be a shame to do it just once. Obviously we need to sit down and make sure everything's in place for next year to get ready to put a competitive team in."

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He said it would be up to the Jets board if they want to re-appoint him, considering they didn't reach the playoffs.

He predicted a Wellington Saints-Bay Hawks final, where the Saints should have more depth.

In the Jets' end-of-season awards, club man went to manager Terry Bristol, who has been with the team for 12 years as a volunteer; players' player was retiring guard Kaine Hokianga; coach's player was forward Jeremiah Trueman; defensive player of the year and most valuable player was American point guard Jenkins.

Horvath was player of the week in the final round of the NBL for his 22 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in the 112-76 win over the Super City Rangers.

Horvath led the league in rebounding in the 10 games he played, averaging 15.9 boards per game, making it the third time in four seasons he's won the rebounding title.

- Manawatu Standard

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