New Shark a perfect replacement - coach

Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare has given new import Dave Gruber a big pass mark, saying the ease with which he has fitted into the squad has been astonishing.

Gruber, who is from America but is a naturalised Australian, had just completed the Australian National Basketball League season with the Wollongong Hawks.

He flew into Invercargill last week at short notice to join the Sharks as a short-term replacement for the injured Brian Conklin in the New Zealand Basketball League.

Just a day after arriving in Invercargill from Sydney, Gruber played an important role in helping the Zero Fees-sponsored Sharks to a 117-88 win over the Super City Rangers. He contributed 11 points and eight rebounds.

Henare said yesterday he had been blown away with just how quickly and easily Gruber had fitted into the environment.

"It's credit to who he is as a person, as a professional, and as a player. He's just been outstanding.

"Honestly, it's like he has been here the whole time; he's such an easy going personality and just slotted in. If you were around Dave with the guys, you would have no idea that he's only known these guys for a few days. I don't think I'm stretching it too far to say he is a perfect replacement for what we needed."

Sharks fans will be hoping for even more out of Gruber tonight as the Southland team eyes what looks like the benchmark team of the 2014 National Basketball League season - the Wellington Saints.

"He's got his wind back, he told me this morning. He's had a chance to run around a fair bit this week after having a week or two off after the Hawks season so, hopefully, we can get something similar, if not more out of him, this weekend."

Wellington have won three from three to date in the 2014 competition and have good a roster, led by Australian basketball legend Shane Heal as coach.

Henare isn't shying away from the fact they have one heck of a challenge ahead of them.

"As good as it was [against the Rangers], and as pleasing as it was, we have a true test against Wellington on the road. It's going to be a better gauge as to where we are at rather than that result last week."

Tomorrow morning they will make the trip from Wellington to Palmerston North to play Manawatu in the evening.

The defending champions have an important month or so ahead if they are to again push on to the playoffs, Henare said.

"We've got this double-header and then we've got four home games in a row.

"You always take one game at a time but, if you want to cement yourself in a good position heading towards the end of the season, you need to take care of business at home. So if we were to get some wins on the road heading into those games at home, we'll be doing well," he said.

"Those four games at home are all against potential top four sides so it's a big month for us, a real big month."

The Southland Times