Rainbird backs new-look Magic

Expectations may not be high, but Marlborough Magic coach Mark Rainbird knows there is still plenty of value in his team's match against club side Nelson Rhythm and Brown at Marlborough Lines Stadium in Blenheim tomorrow afternoon.

The curtain-raiser to the NBL pre-season clash between the Fico Finance Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams, the match is the first of the season for what Rainbird called "a new-look Marlborough team". Just five of last year's team are back for 2014 and it is for that reason Rainbird was not putting too much onus on the result of tomorrow's match. Despite that, he said it was still a good opportunity for his side.

"I haven't got high expectations, it's more about giving experience to the younger guys and looking to the years ahead and even further on this year, building towards the Seddon Shields tournament . . . this is basically a development team, we are rebuilding and testing a few new guys in the team.

"We'll be trying to play to our strengths. We are a reasonably small team with one big guy and lots of little guys, so we're going to try and run the court and shoot from outside, we've got lots of good shooters. They will be reasonably big and experienced, but maybe a bit on the slow side, so hopefully that works to our advantage."

Along with captain Matt Pigou, Hamish Penlington, Dan Paul, Donny Clarke and Ollie Baker are the players returning from last year who will be expected to lead the way. With the team lacking height, Penlington is likely to provide assistance to the team's only true big man Greg Lindstrom. A rep player in 2012, Ben Payne is back, while Ben Christian and youngsters Lewis Davidson, Jake Southey and Sam Cootes are newcomers to the side.

The Marlborough men's team will once again come up against Nelson, West Coast and Buller in the Tasman Cup tournament, this year hosted in Westport on June 20 and 21. Rainbird said tomorrow's match was an important part of their preparation.

"The biggest thing about being here [in Marlborough] is the isolation. We don't play very many games throughout the year, so any game experience we can get against real teams gives us a benchmark to work from. It will be a good indication of where we are really at."

A Rams player for seven years, and winner of four national league titles with the Canterbury franchise, Rainbird was looking forward to catching up with former team-mates and Rams coaches Dave Harrison and Pete McAllister. He was also pleased to see Canterbury back in the NBL after a three year absence.

The players expected to lead the Rams in their comeback season are foundations members captain Jeremy Kench, Ethan Rusbatch and Marty Davison, along with US imports Matt Rogers and Glenn Dandridge. Both Rogers and Dandridge flirted with the NBA and should add a lot to the Canterbury roster, while Inga Solofuti, Josh Paurini and Sam Crozier all have NBL experience.

Nelson are bringing a 14-strong line-up to Blenheim, highlighted by veteran three-point expert Phill Jones, American forward Jamal Boykin and young guards Brook Ruscoe and Josh Bloxham, who is a former Marlborough player. Australian import AJ Majstrovich, an ex-ANBL player and the 2004 MVP of the NZ NBL, flies into the country tomorrow morning and gets one training session with the team before they head across the Whangamoas.

Tip-off times for the two matches are 4pm for the curtain-raiser and 6pm for the main game. Door sales are cash only, with ticket prices very affordable at just $10 for adults and $5 for children. HOW THEY LINE UP

Fico Finance Nelson Giants v Canterbury Rams, 6pm tip-off

Nelson Giants: Phill Jones, Brook Ruscoe, Josh Bloxham, Jamal Boykin, Sam Dempster, Bronson Beri, Finn Delany, Chris Duthie, Angus Riley, Adrian Majstrovich. Development players: Nathen Manuel, Oliver Shallcrass, Ashton McQueen, Justin Wehner. Coach: Liam Flynn.

Canterbury Rams: Jeremy Kench (c), James Anson-Holland, Matt Campbell, Sam Crozier, Glenn Dandridge, Marty Davison, Brent Fisher, Shou Nisbet, Josh Paurini, Matthew Rogers, Ethan Rusbatch, Inga Solofuti, Joel Stratford.

Marlborough Magic v Nelson Rhythm & Brown, 4pm tip-off

Marlborough Magic: Matt Pigou (c), Hamish Penlington, Jake Southey, Donny Clarke, Greg Lindstrom, Daniel Paul, Lewis Davidson, Ollie Baker, Sam Cootes, Ben Christian, Ben Payne. Coach: Mark Rainbird.

Nelson Rhythm & Brown: Scott Bradley (player/coach), Mark Innes, Brodie Hanna, Jimmy Walker Tahana, Morgan Nelson, Andrew Hayward, Tejas Arn, Drew Matheson.

The Marlborough Express