Late-season Breakers import Kevin Braswell loves his new basketball club so much he wants to stay.
Whether a more long-term deal works out for the former Georgetown Hoyas standout remains to be seen, but he's certainly not doing his prospects any harm as he becomes a sort of last-gasp talisman for the desperate New Zealand club making a late push for the Australian NBL playoffs.
Since Braswell arrived, the Breakers have won four of their five games, the last quartet on the trot. And though the 1.88m southpaw point guard isn't exactly setting the world on fire statistically, he's providing some distinctly useful contributions off the bench as he quickly finds his feet with his new team-mates.
He had a game-high 22-point breakout in the crucial road victory at the Gold Coast, dished out nine assists in a home win over Adelaide that got the ball rolling, and also had 15 points, five assists and five steals in the upset over the Crocodiles in Townsville.
In last night's season-best 88-60 victory over the Wollongong Hawks – taking the Breakers to 13-13 with two games to play – Braswell was a bit quieter, with just five points on two-of-nine shooting. But he also dished out four assists and had two steals and continued to show glimpses of the undoubted class he possesses.
He sees the court like the quality point guard his pedigree suggests he is and makes things happen when he has the ball. Some of his passes ooze class and, given his short time with his new team-mates, there's definitely a high degree of upside.
Plus Braswell's addition appears to have changed the Breakers chemistry for the better. It's allowed CJ Bruton to push into a shooting guard role where he's thriving and Kirk Penney to play mostly at small forward, which he handles with ease. Paul Henare is also bringing his aggressive defence from the outset at the point.
Things are definitely flowing better now for the Breakers, who must win their last two games against the Gold Coast Blaze (home) and Cairns Taipans (away) and hope for the right results elsewhere.
Braswell admits it's a tough situation coming in so late to a team playing for its playoff life, but says he's tried to make the most of it and contribute the best he can to making an unlikely goal a reality.
"Coach has lot of plays, and still to this day I'm trying to learn them all. It's been pretty tough, but what makes it easier for me is it's a great group of guys, a great coaching staff and they're always helping me."
But Braswell, who's played professionally in Israel, France, Bosnia and the Dominican Republic, says the no-second-chance end-season scenario is nothing new for him.
"Every year for the last three years I've been on teams fighting to make the playoffs. Two out of three years we've made it. We won seven games in a row last year in France, so I'm used to this."
Braswell said the key for a player in his situation was not to press too hard to impress. "I've just tried to step up when the team's needed me but when you come in this late you just try to fit in and that's all I've tried to do and the guys here have accepted me.
"They just needed apiece in the puzzle and hopefully I can be that piece."
Braswell, who cut his teeth in the physical Big East with the Hoyas, says he's enjoying the style of game in the Australian NBL.
"In a lot leagues they call a lot of touch fouls, but here they let you play. If you can accept getting fouled, you can dish it out too. I really like the league."
So much that Braswell would love another crack with the Breakers. From the get-go. "I'd love to come back here. The management and owners have been great, they've accepted me with open arms, and I just wish I had been here from the beginning of the season and we wouldn't have had this.
"But we've shown we can be a good team with me here, so hopefully I can come back."
That may depend on how the next week, and possibly beyond, plays out, but the Breakers could do a lot worse than re-sign a know quantity like the powerful; point guard.
For now anyway Braswell says his task is a simple one. "It's bringing a little bit of leadership on court, and getting the guys the ball when they need it. I've got two great scorers on my wings, in CJ [Bruton] and Kirk [Penney], and they make it pretty easy for me."
Braswell said nothing much changed over the next week when it was still about focusing on the next challenge and forgetting about the externals.
But he is certain of the quality that will be needed to keep this season alive.
"Defence wins championships. This team is offensively blessed, and all of us can score. Offence is going to come and we're going to score 80 on a bad night. But for us it's just locking it down defensively."
- © Fairfax NZ News