Brian Conklin put a exclamation mark on his return to the court with two ferocious slam dunks in the Southland Sharks' 94-83 National Basketball League win over the Nelson Giants at the ILT Stadium in Invercargill on Saturday night.
The American import had missed five games because of a hamstring injury but returned in impressive fashion on Saturday night with a game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Conklin gave the vocal Southland crowd a glimpse as to how important he is to their team as the Zero Fees-sponsored Sharks banked a second win over a competition title contender in a matter of weeks.
The 24-year-old was pleased to be back on court after a couple of months on the sideline and do what he does best - winning games and entertaining the crowd.
"To still be able to jump and give the crowd that electrifying dunk to pump and hype them up, it's fun to be able to do that again," Conklin said.
Conklin's replacement over the five games he missed, Dave Gruber, provided good cover and Conklin felt he needed to deliver in his return because of that.
"Dave showed me up last week by getting 17 points and 15 boards so I thought if I don't play well Paulie [Henare] is going to want him back."
Realistically though that comment was made with a touch of tongue and cheek.Conklin was a huge contributor when the Sharks won their first ever NBL title last year and he again looks to be a key link as they mount a shot at back-to-back titles.
Henare was delighted to have Conklin back and playing his role in the Sharks setup.
"It was awesome, it was great to have him out there running the floor. But I think more it importantly it was good for him mentally to get that mind right because he's been sitting down for a long time watching a lot of basketball and wondering whether he is right," Henare said.
"For him to get through thirty minutes and do some of the things he did on the floor was great. A couple of dunks he was able to explode and test that hamstring and I think after that he proved to himself and everyone else he is back and raring to go."
It was Nelson who started the best on Saturday as they looked to honour a franchise legend in Phill Jones with a win in Invercargill.
Jones was playing his 350th game for Nelson on Saturday night and at the end of the first quarter held at 29-23 lead. However the hometown found their mojo in the second period and in the wash-up won the game.
The Sharks won the second quarter 29-10 which included going on a 20-nil run.
They led 52-39 at halftime and while Nelson traded shots in the second half, every time they looked to be making a surge Southland quashed it.
Southland Sharks 94 (Brian Conklin 21, Kevin Braswell 17, Reuben Te Rangi 16) beat Nelson Giants 83 (Josh Pace 20, Phill Jones 16, Josh Bloxham 12) 1Q: 23-29 HT: 52-39 (29-10) 3Q: 78-64 (26-25) FT: 94-83 (16-19)
- The Southland Times