If basketball games were won on effort alone, the Nelson Giants would be championship-bound.
A gut-busting two-day camp concluded yesterday with new coach Liam Flynn thrilled with the commitment shown.
"I'm very proud of these guys," Flynn said. "There was a huge amount to absorb and an awful lot of energy burned up over four sessions here, but they were going just as hard after eight hours as they did in the first."
The Fico Finance Giants have hired Flynn from Townsville, where he is the assistant coach with the Crocodiles. The Australian national league took a break this week for its Allstar festivities, Flynn grabbing the opportunity to check out his new team and new town.
While a few likely squad members were unable to attend, the camp attracted the likes of experienced Giants Phill Jones, Darryl Jones and Sam Dempster, alongside promising players, some as young as 15. Others came from as far afield as Melbourne and Auckland to try out.
Flynn hit them with everything, the four two-hour sessions designed to assess the players' ability to learn and run plays while building chemistry under pressure.
"It was a lot to take in - time is precious and I had a lot of things I wanted the guys to take a look at," Flynn said. "They were incredibly willing to buy into it."
Flynn's systems are built from the defence forward ("you can't keep your home safe if you let the burglar in through the front door") and the group spent time adjusting to his expectations.
"It takes a thousand small steps to win a championship, this weekend was a couple of those steps, that's all.
"I hit these boys with a lot of information but the payoff will come when we tip off in April."
One of Flynn's cornerstones was vocal centre Rory Fannon, who flew in from Auckland for the weekend. The big man will shore up Nelson's defence and offers an imposing presence at 2.06m tall and 105kg.
Although he knew Jones and Dempster before the weekend, he was pleasantly surprised by the level of talent across the group.
"I didn't think it would be this intense," he said. "I saw guys working outside their comfort zone and stepping up to do what Coach [Flynn] asked.
"That young guy Finn [Delany], he should be aiming for the Breakers or the US college system. He has talent and he's not the only one, at all."
Fannon flew home last night to train with the Breakers today, while Flynn was due back in North Queensland this evening. He will entrust the next phase of squad development to assistant coach Tony Rampton and to Phill Jones, who has played more games in the NBL than any other basketballer.
The weekend's sessions were filmed as a reference point while Rampton will travel to Townsville early next year to spend time with the Crocodiles and Flynn there.
A cut is due to reduce to group to a manageable number, with six or seven potential Giants still to add to the recipe, but Flynn said Nelson basketball should look to build through its base of juniors.
"My job is preparing the Giants, giving them a chance to win a championship but it shouldn't just be about the senior men. Nelson has players who can win through the age grades. This group will be instrumental in that."
- The Nelson Mail