Southland Sharks head coach Paul Henare has declared the re-signing of Brian Conklin as the biggest signature in the organisation's short history.
The American forward has confirmed he will return to Southland next year to try to help the Sharks defend the New Zealand National Basketball League title, which they won this year.
Henare recruited Conklin from the states after he finished playing college basketball with St Louis University.
The 24-year-old made an immediate impact in the Southland setup and on the New Zealand league. He averaged 22.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for the Sharks on their way to the title.
He was named most valuable forward in the NBL for his efforts and was picked up by the Townsville Crocodiles to play in the Australia, where he has impressed even further.
Conklin has averaged 16 points a game for Townsville, which included a remarkable 33-point haul against the New Zealand Breakers.
It is hardly surprising there are some pretty big smiles within the Sharks organisation that Conklin has agreed to return for a second season with Southland.
"Brian's signature is arguably the biggest signing in the Southland Sharks' short history. He was one of the premier players in 2013 and to now see him excel in the ANBL with the Townsville Crocs only reinforces what a star he is," Henare said.
"It was a real pleasure to work with Brian in his first professional season in 2013, I believe he will be just as effective and efficient in 2014."
The Conklin signing continues a good pre-Christmas recruitment drive for the Sharks, with 2013 starters Reuben Te Rangi, Gareth Dawson and Leon Henry also already locked in to return to play in Invercargill next year.
"With the core group of our championship team returning, I believe we have the ability to do something really special in 2014," Henare said.
One player who will not return to try to defend the title next season is Dan Peck, who is battling with a knee injury and is also looking at life after basketball.
Morgan Natanahira will also not be back after a suffering another knee injury playing in his first season with the Sharks this year.
Henare has suggested he takes the year out to try to fully recover from his knee problems.
A decision on whether 2013 starter Luke Martin will again line up for the Sharks in 2014 has yet to be made.
Meanwhile, Sharks captain James Paringatai played a key role in helping the New Zealand Maori win the Fiba Oceania Pacific Championships in Porirua last week.
The tournament included Samoa. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Guam, Tahiti and Samoa.
Reuben Te Rangi
- The Southland Times