Short-handed Sharks vow to meet challenge
Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare says imports Brian Conklin and Kevin Braswell love a challenge and tomorrow night is one the two Americans are ready to tackle.
The Southland basketball team was rocked this week with Reuben Te Rangi, Shea Ili and Leon Henry all suspended indefinitely after being arrested in New Plymouth on Sunday morning and charged with assault with intent to injure.
With Gareth Dawson also stood down following confirmation he tested positive for a banned drug, the Sharks squad is depleted.
It has left a lot resting on key players Conklin and Braswell to get the job done tomorrow night.
Henare said he had noticed a steely resolve in his American duo this week to step up to the task.
"Guys like Kevin Braswell and Brian Conklin are two of the toughest human beings I know and they see this as a challenge and a challenge they'll accept head on. While we may be undermanned, I have full faith in some of the guys we have here that can step up and do the job, and represent the Sharks with pride."
Henare talked with the team in their first training back on Tuesday night about the situation and what was ahead of them.
"It was the first time, as a whole team, we sat down and had a chat about everything that's gone on - and look, they are really driven. They really want to come out [tomorrow night] and put on a good showing for the club and for the community."
Despite the dark cloud the three suspended players have left over the Sharks' campaign, Henare said the team was in full support of the trio.
"One thing that has never wavered - and that I love the guys for - as hard as it has been on everybody, they are still supporting those three guys," he said.
"They are like brothers and like any family member you support them through thick and thin. They are a really tight group and part of what they are going to do [tomorrow night] is going to be for the Sharks and the community of Southland, but also, in part, it will be for their three brothers who won't be playing."
Southland will take on Taranaki tomorrow for the second time in eight days.
The two teams met in New Plymouth last Saturday night, when the Sharks produced a dramatic come-from-behind win.
Southland outscored Taranaki 48-16 in the last 13 minutes to claim what was one of the most remarkable victories in the Sharks' five seasons in the league.
Meanwhile, Henare will make a left-field comeback to playing tomorrow night. Close to four years after playing the last of his 243 national basketball league games for Hawke's Bay, Henare will suit up for the Sharks.
Dan Peck will also make a comeback against Taranaki.
The 26-year-old played 50 games for the Sharks before he retired at the end of last season. He is stepping out of retirement to help the depleted Southland team.
AT A GLANCE
What: National Basketball League
Who: Southland Sharks vs Taranaki Mountain Airs
Where: ILT Stadium, Invercargill
When: Tomorrow, 7pm
The Southland Times