Larsen and the Jets ready to soar
Manawatu Jets coach Darron Larsen is making sure the player net is cast far and wide for next season as he holds open trials next month.
The trials run from January 6 to 10, which is when they will start fully preparing in what is becoming their best pre-season buildup in years.
The NBL starts in April.
Larsen had a group of 23 players doing fitness testing last month, and even though they hadn't started this early before, he said there was still a lot of work to be done.
A couple of players from Wellington and Auckland have shown interest, so there should be a good number on display during the trials.
The Jets already have five good players on the books for next year in Jeremiah Trueman, Nick Horvath, Troy McLean, Arthur Trousdell and Alonzo Burton.
"Having JT and Nick back is huge," Larsen said of the two forwards. "But signing Arthur means we'll be able to have three Kiwi bigs rotate those two spots."
Not having an import in those two positions is "amazing" and it gives them diversity and depth, Larsen said.
This means they should be able to use their two imports, once they sign them, in the back court as guards or as a point guard and a centre.
"I don't think that's ever been done before, it's pretty exciting for me," Larsen said. "There's a lot of pressure on Arthur and Alonzo, coming from very good programmes and not being huge parts of the team.
"This year they'll be big focuses for us."
Larsen will need a point guard for next season, and he is unsure who will fill the role yet, with Chris Hagan and Zane Meehl filling the spot the past two years.
Americans Hagan and Marcel Jones are both playing overseas and Larsen said it was a matter of fitting them into the team.
Hagan is playing for the Shreveport Bossier Mavericks in the American Basketball Association in Louisiana, and Jones is playing for Pallacanestro Cantu.
Both are not expected to finish their seasons until the middle of April, meaning they would miss a decent amount of the Jets' season, which could count against them.
Larsen said they weren't rushing into anything, with plenty of time to sign imports before the season starts.
There was one young player in the United States Larsen was keen on, and he had seen video of, but he had to pull out because of family reasons.
Larsen is looking at a couple of Australia players as imports who have played in the NBL before.
"Every day an agent sends me about 10 players to look at," Larsen said. "I'm trying to weed out the weeds and find something that's half decent."
Kiwi veterans Kaine Hokianga and Matt Te Huna are expected to be signed once the Jets have the funds, while Dier Manyang Makoi is trying to get his citizenship sorted first.
Trials will be at the at the Ballroom at Arena Manawatu from 5.30pm to 7pm.