The 2013-14 Australian National Basketball League season is days away from starting and there will be three key figures Southland basketball followers can keep their eye on as the season progresses.
Basketball in Southland reached a high point in July, when, against the odds, the Southland Sharks won the New Zealand National Basketball League title.
The success at home will add a little extra appeal in capturing the interest of even more Southlanders for this year's ANBL season.
Sharks coach Paul Henare is in his first year as the Auckland-based New Zealand Breakers assistant coach, while teenage talent Reuben Te Rangi will suit up as a key player for the Breakers.
One of Southland's 2013 American imports, Brian Conklin, will play for the Townsville Crocodiles in the ANBL.
The Breakers will open their season against the Perth Wildcats on Thursday night while Conklin's Townsville team will play Cairns on Saturday night.
The following Friday the Breakers will head to Townsville with Sharks team mates Te Rangi and Conklin having the chance to go head to head on court.
As expected, Te Rangi is excited about the prospect of making a mark on the 2013-14 ANBL season, although his buildup has been hampered a little as he tries to recover from a bout of the flu.
Te Rangi skipped training yesterday as he tries to shake it off.
Despite this, the youngster is looking forward to Thursday night as he braces himself to take on a bigger role in the Breakers setup after having been a development player last season.
"I'm pretty excited about the game. Hopefully I can just make the most of the opportunities I get out there on court."
For Te Rangi, it has been a lengthy and busy run into the Breakers' season.
It started with the Sharks' victory in the New Zealand league, and he quickly headed into camp with the Tall Blacks before joining the Breakers for their pre-season programme. There has been no rest yet but the youthful Te Rangi wasn't fazed.
"I kind of like it because I always like new challenges," he said about bouncing from one team to another.
In what will be music to Sharks fans' ears, Te Rangi confirmed yesterday he was keen to play again for Southland in 2014, although nothing has been officially signed off at this stage.
- © Fairfax NZ News