NZ Breakers get Australian guard Rhys Carter
The Breakers believe journeyman Australian guard Rhys Carter gives them the missing piece in their backcourt puzzle as they move closer to completing their roster for the 2014-15 season.
Today's announcement of the signing of the 30-year-old combo guard for their ninth roster spot leaves just an import big man to come, with the club hoping to firm up a "high-level" American over the next few weeks.
Carter will line up alongside the returning Cedric Jackson, Tall Black Corey Webster and youngster Reuben Te Rangi in the backcourt mix for next season, with Te Rangi's role changing significantly from last campaign.
Up front the Breakers have Tom Abercrombie and Duane Bailey covering the small forward spot, and Mika Vukona, Alex Pledger, new signing Tai Wesley and the soon-to-be-announced second import taking care of duties at the four and five spots.
The Auckland-based club, coming off a second-from-bottom finish last season to halt a run of three straight championships, has had a significant makeover, with Vickerman moving to address what he saw as some glaring deficiencies.
Gone is the retired CJ Bruton, the released Daryl Corletto, as well as both imports and late fill-in Casey Frank from last season's group. Vickerman believes their replacements give him a more well-rounded group for next season.
"We've been very considered in every recruitment we've made so far," said Vickerman today. "We've taken our time, and put each one of those recruits against the requirements of how we want to play. We were still a pretty good offensive team last year but we lacked at the other end. Everyone we've recruited so far we believe are good defenders and I think we'll improve in that area."
Carter said he was rapt to join a roster he believes will be back in the championship mix next season.
"I wrote to Dean a week ago to gauge interest, and when he called to discuss the role it sounded perfect for me and I jumped at the opportunity," Carter said.
"I was only a day or two off signing with a club in Europe, but I'm glad I got the call in time.
"I tweeted that I thought the Breakers had jumped back into championship contention the day that Cedric signed - he adds so much to the team. But around him, there is a great core group and a real mix of skills that has amazing potential. I think I can fit in great with this group."
The Breakers had looked closely at Tall Blacks guards Lindsay Tait, Jarrod Kenny and Everard Bartlett before settling on Carter. Vickerman felt the Aussie, who has played for five previous NBL clubs over a 12-year career, ticked the boxes better.
"We were looking for that combo guard who can come in and back up Cedric but also play with Cedric a little bit as well, and be good perimeter threat. He's a high level passer, and also has the ability to get hot from perimeter where he can break open a game.
"We need to be better defensively this year and Rhys has great hand pressure -- quite similar to Cedric's in that regard -- reads passing lanes well and can be a full-court defender which we're after at that spot."
Vickerman said the Kiwi trio didn't quite fulfil all the needs.
"Lindsay and Jarrad are very good as ones, but didn't quite have the shooting we are looking for, and Everard had the shooting but if he was required to handle the basketball and run the team for a period of time that's an area he still needs to improve on.
"Rhys gave us all those things."
Vickerman confirmed his last spot would be an import big man who would address rebounding and shot-blocking needs.
"We've got Tai Wesley more as a guy who will back up Mika, and with his strength and abilities he can play some [centre] as well. But when we didn't have coverage at the five spot last year we were exposed both defensively and in rebounding, and the import we sign will be a high-level shot blocker and rebounder."
It's no coincidence that Vickerman has upsized significantly for the new season. Pledger's injury struggles have dictated that, as has last season's performances. "We just weren't a great rebounding team last year, but now if do have foul trouble or injuries we've got great backup coverage in that area."