Sharks player guilty of assault

BY NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 18/09/2010

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Promising Southland basketballer Andrew Wheeler has been sentenced to seven months' home detention following a nasty assault in Dunedin earlier this year.

Wheeler, 22, was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court on Thursday after admitting a charge of reckless disregard for safety when he struck a man in the face with a beer bottle at a Dunedin flat-warming party on March 27.

Wheeler threw the bottle at the victim after he had punched an associate of Wheeler's in the face.

The victim, New Zealand University rowing representative Scott van den Bosch, suffered permanent blindness in his right eye and has other ongoing complications, the Otago Daily Times reported.

Wheeler was a fringe member of this year's Southland Sharks basketball team.

He made his debut for the Sharks in their inaugural game against Hawke's Bay in March and made two other appearances off the bench.

Sharks general manager Jill Bolger said yesterday Wheeler had made the franchise aware of the incident soon after it happened.

The Southland Basketball Association board had then suspended Wheeler from playing or practising with the Sharks for the rest of the NBL season.

"The decision was made by the board and management of the Southland Sharks at the time that Andrew would be suspended from playing for the Sharks until the matter had been dealt with and resolved by the court system," Bolger said.

"While we in no way condoned Andrew's behaviour in this matter, we have attempted to support him through the necessary processes and have offered him assistance so he can rehabilitate himself and once again become an effective member of our basketball fraternity."

Wheeler did later return to the court, playing for Southland at the conference basketball league finals in July. Bolger said the length of time between the incident and the CBL tournament had been the determining factor behind him being selected.

Bolger, who was a probation officer before joining the fledgling Sharks, said home detention would rule Wheeler out of playing any contact sport while he was being electronically monitored.

The 2011 Sharks season would be under way when Wheeler's home detention ends, and a decision would have to be made on whether he would be involved.

"While we are now aware of the result of the court appearance, we are yet to discuss Andrew's future playing options. We will be keeping in touch with him and his family and will make counselling and support available if required to assist his rehabilitation."

While Wheeler's future was important, Bolger said it was also important to remember the impact of the incident on the victim.

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- The Southland Times

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