Shea Ili happy with move to Southland Sharks
The lure of playing alongside experienced guards Luke Martin and Kevin Braswell was enough for Shea Ili to put pen to paper and sign with the Southland Sharks during the off-season.
On Friday night the 21-year-old from Auckland made his debut in the orange singlet of the Sharks in the National Basketball League.
Though it was not the best of night's personally, and for the team, Ili was happy as he got his first taste of Sharks basketball.
"It's an awesome stadium, it was great. It's just unfortunate we didn't get the win."
Tapping into the knowledge of the Sharks' veterans has been a priority for Ili.
"It's good to play with Kevin and Luke, they are guards that are teaching me heaps in training, it's good."
Ili played alongside Martin in the now defunct Auckland Pirates team that won the National Basketball League in 2012 and last year he was one of the Super City Rangers standouts despite them just winning just two games.
He has played alongside many of the current players in Auckland at various levels, including Leon Henry. It was those players who put in a good word to Sharks coach Paul Henare suggesting he take a look at Ili as an option to replace Dan Peck for the 2014 title defence.
Ili admits it has taken some time to adjust to the quieter lifestyle of Invercargill and said his main focus during his time in the south was to work hard and get better.
His sporting abilities don't end at basketball, with the Onehunga High School product also a talented rugby player.
As a halfback he progressed to the Auckland under-21 team but his rugby ambitions have been put to one side because of his basketball commitments.
"I've played a lot of basketball and rugby but picked basketball because I love it," he said. "I wish I could play [rugby too] but it's the way it is."
Ili will come face-to-face with some of his former team-mates in the Super City Rangers in the round two game on Friday night in Invercargill.
While the Rangers were competition strugglers last year they are expected to be a much tougher this time around.
Henare is certainly viewing the assignment as a tricky one.
"They've recruited really well. Obviously they've got quality imports with [Eric] Devendorf and Daryl Corletto and it will be his first game [on Friday night]. He's a guy I know really well with his strengths and weaknesses so they've done well there.
"Duane Bailey's had a good off-season being a development player with the Breakers so, yeah, they've done well. They are definitely a team we cannot take lightly."