Breakers sign Guam international Tai Wesley
Guam international and 2014 Southland Shark Tai Wesley is the latest addition to the New Zealand Breakers for the 2014-15 Aussie NBL season.
Under Fiba's new Oceania rule, Wesley, who was a standout as a late callup for the Sharks in the New Zealand NBL, qualifies as a ''local'' player in the Australian league.
That makes the signing of the hard-nosed 2.01m banger even more crucial, with coach Dean Vickerman desperately needing to add some depth in the big man stocks behind Mika Vukona and Alex Pledger.
Following hard on the heels of the announcement that former league MVP and fan favourite Cedric Jackson was coming back to run the show as the star import, today's signing is another positive step for the Breakers as they look to bounced back from their disappointing 20013-14 season.
Wesley impressed in his time with Paul Henare's Sharks in the NBL, helping the undermanned Southlanders into the semifinals with 16 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
Wesley has a Fijian father and played college hoops at Utah State alongside two-time Breaker import Gary Wilkinson, and is a quality pickup for the Breakers who still have to add a second import to their roster.
Henare believes Wesley, who has solid range and bangs the boards well, will be a good fit for the Breakers.
''He is a very versatile player, a very high IQ player, for a power forward he can handle the ball well and is a good passer and is mobile. [It's] a bit of a unique skillset and he brings a real versatility to the team,'' Henare said.
''Tai is very good in the low post. I spoke to Gary about him when I was recruiting for the Sharks and [he] rated him highly as a post player. But he seems like a guy that will do whatever we need -- rebound, pass, score, and has that versatility.
''He is obviously a very high quality person as well. he immersed himself into New Zealand in his short time at the Sharks and fitted in well. The new Oceania player rule is a great bonus, and to have this calibre of player as a local is a big advantage.''
Wesley said his friendship with Wilkinson had led to him heading to New Zealand to further his hoops career.
''He and I are really good friends and played college ball together for two years at Utah State so he actually recommended me to first go play with the Southland Sharks. From there, with Pauli being the assistant with the Breakers, we worked out a deal.''
The 28-year-old said his expectations for the upcoming season with the Breakers were high.
''I know the Breakers organisation is very well respected and has a tradition of winning. I expect nothing less from this upcoming season,'' he said.
''I would like to improve on the little things that make the difference when the game is close, things like rebounding, defence and setting screens. I think if I can improve on those things then I can help the team achieve our collective goals.''
Wesley will join the club in late August to begin preparations for the new season.
The Breakers now have the following players on contract for the 2014-15 season: Cedric Jackson, Tom Abercrombie, Mika Vukona, Alex Pledger, Corey Webster, Reuben Te Rangi, Duane Bailey and Tai Wesley.