Sharks taking time to rebuild their squad

MWAH! Kevin Braswell receives a congatulations kiss from Sharks Fan Lisa Tou-McNaught.
MWAH! Kevin Braswell receives a congatulations kiss from Sharks Fan Lisa Tou-McNaught.

The Southland Sharks haven't officially locked in a player for the 2014 National Basketball League title defence, with general manager Jill Bolger saying they were not rushing the recruitment process.

The Sharks produced a stunning upset last month to win the NBL title for the first time in what was just their fourth season in the national competition.

Bolger has spent the past month wrapping up the 2013 campaign, which has included visiting sponsors who helped fund the successful season.

The focus will now turn towards the defence in the new stadium in Invercargill next year with a couple of player announcements expected in the coming month.

Bolger said they were keen to get the bulk of the squad back that won the competition but at this stage no signatures had been put to paper.

Invercargill-based bench players like James Paringatai and Dan Peck are almost certain to suit up again next season, while everything is pointing to Kevin Braswell returning in what could be an extended role with the Southland Sharks organisation.

However, since the end of the season the big questions have centred on whether Leon Henry, Reuben Te Rangi, Luke Martin and Brian Conklin will feature again in the orange singlet.

Henry is currently living in the United States and there are doubts about the Tall Black's future in New Zealand basketball after he was cut by the Breakers.

Bolger was confident if Henry did choose to return to play in the National Basketball League he would opt to play for Southland.

Teenage sensation Te Rangi, who is just coming off his first series with the Tall Blacks, is about to head into his first fulltime season with the Breakers in the Australian National Basketball League season and whether he returns to Southland for the New Zealand competition also hangs in the balance.

Te Rangi is understood to have enjoyed his time in Southland, and like most the attraction of being coached by Paul Henare is strong.

However, he has indicated he is keen to make sure he is studying outside his basketball commitments, which may make staying in Auckland after the Breakers season appealing.

Bolger was hopeful the Southern Institute of Technology may also be a study option for Te Rangi.

Luke Martin has expressed an interest in returning to Southland but the fact he has missed out on an ANBL contract this season may have him looking for other employment opportunities.

American Conklin also has said he would love to play for Southland again but a lot will depend on his circumstances following his stint with the Townsville Crocodiles in the Australian league.

Bolger said while there were a lot of balls in the air at the moment the organisation was in a strong position to form a team capable of defending the title.

"We havn't yet put any pressure on anyone really. I'm picking we might be spoiled for choice. There might be a few players that think ‘I want to play under Paul', and ‘that's a pretty good setup, I'd like to get down there'," Bolger said.

The Southland Times