Tai Wesley a prize catch for Southland Sharks

ON THE BALL: Southland Sharks player Tai Wesley.
ON THE BALL: Southland Sharks player Tai Wesley.

Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare is pleased with what he has seen from new recruit Tai Wesley, and is predicting even bigger things from him in the weeks ahead.

The Sharks signed the 28-year-old former Utah State College player to fill the void when Gareth Dawson was stood down after testing positive for a banned substance.

Henare did a good job in sourcing Wesley, considering his two "import" spots were already taken in the Sharks squad by Kevin Braswell and Brian Conklin.

With the options in New Zealand limited, given most players are already signed to NBL clubs, Henare looked at the new Fiba Oceania rule.

The rule allows players from the Pacific Islands to be signed to play in the New Zealand league without being classed as an import.

Wesley has Fijian heritage and has an association with Guam Basketball. He arrived in Invercargill last Friday from Europe, where he had been playing in the Netherlands league, and in the next two days lined up for the Sharks against Manawatu and Otago.

Henare said he was impressed with what he had seen from Wesley so far.

"I think all things considered he did pretty well. He's a high-IQ basketball player, he's quite a smart guy, and I think that showed in the way he played and the way he fitted in. He has also really fitted in well with the guys and I think he will only get better once he feels a bit more fresh. He's been a great fit," Henare said. Wesley has given Southland another key player under the basket alongside Conklin.

Dawson's key role with the Sharks was his rebounding ability, but it seems Wesley brings another scoring option as well. "It's obviously not something we've had for the past couple of years - two legit scoring threats down low, so I'm more than happy to be able to use those strengths to our advantage," Henare said.

"Like I said I think he's just going to get more and more comfortable as long as he is here."

The Sharks have five round-robin fixtures remaining and it seems two wins might be enough to book a playoff spot.

Southland will take on Waitakere in Auckland tonight, followed by Hawke's Bay in Napier tomorrow night.

Puke Lenden remains with the Sharks on a game-by-game basis, but he did head back to his home city of Hamilton this week, limiting his training time with the Sharks.

"He is working fulltime and got his family in Hamilton, but he has agreed to come and join us on the road, so he'll be up there playing for us this weekend in Auckland and down in Hawke's Bay. He's been awesome."

Conklin is still struggling with an ankle injury, limiting his time training this week.

"He is still hobbling around a bit. I guess realistically, it is probably an injury where he would be sitting out if we could afford it, so he's pretty much had to sit out all last week in training."


Southland Sharks vs Super City Rangers, tonight at 7, Auckland
Southland Sharks vs Bay Hawks, tomorrow night 7, Napier

The Southland Times