Saints boss Nick Mills has slammed Leon Henry's decision to defect to the Otago Nuggets but says his organisation is still committed in its attempts for an historic NBL three-peat.
Henry, a Wellington crowd favourite and swingman for the Tall Blacks and New Zealand Breakers, yesterday confirmed he would be leaving the two-time defending champion Saints, prompting long-time owner Mills to say he felt personally let down by the manner of his unexpected departure.
"It came as a major shock and I'm very disappointed he hasn't even spoken to us. We basically picked him up from Auckland when no-one else wanted to know about him, when he was a kid," Mills said.
"Pero [coach Pero Cameron] started him for the last two years to give him the exposure to get him a Tall Blacks position and for him to do that to the club is very disappointing."
The Saints have no players on the books for next season but Mills defended that approach, saying it was the way the club had been "operating for 30 years".
"We let them go out and feel what's going on and if it's better for them to go and get more money or go for other reasons, then we let them go. I think Leon wants to be the big dog and it's very hard to be the big dog on the Saints."
Otago were last season's wooden spooners, winning just two games, but the capture of Henry gives them the ability to be a playoff contender.
The Nuggets had already signed two Tall Blacks in point guard Mark Dickel, from Southland, and power forward BJ Anthony, from Waikato.
Mills said he was confident the Saints would remain a strong team next season.
"We're working on a very exciting prospect ... the three-peat's never been done before in the history of the Saints so we're not going to take the season lightly. Obviously we need to get over the disappointment of losing Leon and work on what we need to do."
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