Star import injured in Sharks opener
The Southland Sharks have dropped their opening 2014 National Basketball League game tonight, but probably more concerning for their title defence is the fitness of star American import Brian Conklin.
In their first game in the rebuilt ILT Stadium Southland the fans come out in their numbers with the crowd of 2300 delivered one heck of a game even if the result wasn't what the hometown fans were after.
The Nuggets led the entire game and eventually won it 83-77.
The telling statistic was in the rebound department as the Sharks were out rebounded 46-35 and at halftime that stat sat at 27-18.
The situation was made even harder when Conklin limped off in the third quarter clutching at his hamstring.
The St Louis University product injured his hamstring playing for the Townsville Crocs but had declared himself ready to go for the Sharks season opener last night.
However, Southland was left short when he took no part in a good chunk of the third quarter and all of the crunch fourth quarter.
The Sharks need Conklin fit and many eyes will be on how he can bounce back and whether he can shake the latest hamstring twinge off and play a big role for the Sharks in the coming weeks.
The Sharks already lack depth and they need to stay healthy to ensure that depth is not tested too much.
The reality is the Sharks were generally below par tonight and despite being poor they were never out of touch right throughout the game. It is something to hang onto for Sharks fans as they reflect on the first game.
Teenage livewire Rueben Te Rangi as usual tried his best to spark his team tonight.
He showed plenty of energy and produced a game high 28 points in 38min 32sec on court.
Interestingly former Tall Blacks player Mark 'Sparky' Dickel, who is now the Otago Nuggets player/coach, never took to the court for the entire game as he called the shots from the traditional coaches post on the sideline.
To start proceedings there were a couple of special moments for the Sharks with the traditional championship banner raising.
The entire 2013 Sharks squad was in attendance as coach Paul Henare was handed the honour to raise the banner into the Stadium Southland rafters.
The now retired Dan Peck was also honoured at halftime tonight for his 50th game for the Sharks which was in last year's NBL grand final.
For the Sharks they will now eye the Super City Rangers next Friday night at Stadium Southland in Invercargill with much of the interest in the lead up expected to centre on the fitness of Conklin.
Otago Nuggets 83 (Troy Payne 24, Brendon Polybank 19, Warren Carter 13) Southland Sharks 77 (Reuben Te Rangi 28, Brian Conklin 13, Gareth Dawson 12)
- The Southland Times