Sharks coach hopeful import Conklin will play
The Southland Sharks' semifinal buildup has not been as smooth as wished for with star player Brian Conklin unable to train with the team this week after being hit with the flu.
The Sharks will take on the Bay Hawks at 6pm tonight before the Nelson Giants and Wellington Saints square off in the second National Basketball League semifinal at 8pm.
Both tonight's games will be played in Wellington.
Sharks coach Paul Henare said yesterday Conklin's illness had hindered the team's preparation.
"He's been bed-ridden for pretty much the best part of three days, so obviously [it's] not ideal, the timing is not great. On Monday it hit him so he hasn't trained with the team this week, but hopefully he bounces back in time," Henare said.
The Sharks flew to Wellington yesterday morning and Henare is hopeful the American import would be up to getting in a couple of sessions with the team before tonight's knockout game.
The 2014 NBL season has been full of disruptions for Conklin with a hamstring injury restricting his playing time in the early stage of the season.
When he returned from that injury he picked up an ankle injury, but he played through the pain because the Sharks' playing depth had already taken a hit.
Not being able to train with the team is not something new for Conklin considering he skipped training through most of the time he was struggling with the ankle problem.
"It hasn't been the best of the years, I don't think we've had Brian at 100 per cent very much this year. So if anything we are used to it and he's used to it, so I'm just hoping for the best that he will be feeling alright."
Henare is bracing himself to go head-to-head tonight against one of his coaching mentors, Hawks coach Tab Baldwin.
Baldwin was Henare's coach in the Tall Blacks and Henare said they have a strong relationship.
"Tab's one of my best friends and one of my most trusted mentors in terms of since I've been coaching. I've always looked to him for advice and on a personal level he's been great for me this year with everything that has gone on, so I'm looking forward to going up against him.
"As much as we love each other like brothers, it doesn't mean we don't want to kick each others arse though."
Baldwin said he was delighted the likes of Henare, Pero Cameron, Mark Dickel and Dillon Boucher had progressed from players under him in the Tall Blacks to the coaching ranks.
"I just think it is a testimony to why those Tall Blacks teams were so good, those guys are incredibly passionate about the game and very knowledgeable. So to now see them giving back the way they are and doing it so successfully, I'm very proud of them and as I always was, and I am still very privileged to have been a part of their careers."
Semifinal one: Bay Hawks (1st) v Southland Sharks (4th), 6pm
Semifinal two: Nelson Giants (2nd) v Wellington Saints, 8pm
Final: Teams TBA, 7pm
The Southland Times