Shark Tai Wesley becomes hot ANBL prospect

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 08/07/2014
Tai Wesley
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
SHOWING HIS TEETH: Shark Tai Wesley has impressed with Southland.

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It seems Tai Wesley's impressive seven games with the Southland Sharks may have Australian National Basketball League clubs circling.

Wesley was called into the Sharks squad midway through the 2014 season as replacement for Gareth Dawson, who was stood down after he tested positive for a banned drug.

Henare did a good job sourcing the 28-year-old former Utah State College player, considering his two "import" spots in the Sharks squad were already taken.

With the options in New Zealand limited, 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 imports.

Wesley, who has Fijian heritage and has played for Guam, arrived in New Zealand after playing in the Netherlands league.

In his seven games in the NBL he produced 15.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

Given Wesley would also not count as an import in the ANBL, he has become a hot prospect.

If Wesley were to sign with an Australian NBL club instead of going back to Europe, it would put the Sharks in a strong position to try to get him back for next year.

"He's obviously showed his class and for a local player he is quite a catch, really," Henare said.

"I imagine he would have created interest in the Australian league with his eligibility, so obviously that would work out best for us. But he's got to do his thing and see what happens there, and once he knows, we'll hopefully be able to finalise something with him.

"Hopefully, we did enough as a club for Tai for him to enjoy his time in Southland and see it as a place where he wants to play in the future but obviously he is going to have some interest from all corners if he does come back to New Zealand."

Kevin Braswell is the only player from the 2014 Sharks squad who has signed on for the 2015 season at this stage but Henare hopes they can again retain a few more.

As well as Wesley, Brian Conklin will be on the top of the list of players to try to keep.

Luke Martin will head back to Australia this week but it is likely the Sharks will be keen to get the guard back again next year, given what he produced in 2014.

There is no doubt about Reuben Te Rangi, Leon Henry and Shea Ili's talents but their careers are in limbo as they await sentencing for serious assault charges.

Henare hinted he would still like to have them play under him despite this year's off-court dramas. "Put it this way, I haven't discounted them. Obviously it will depend on what happens with their own personal circumstances but that one is just a bit of a wait and see. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy coaching every one of those guys."

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logan.savory@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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