Craig Bradshaw still a force despite injuries

STILL A FORCE: Sharks' Craig Bradshaw in action.
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
STILL A FORCE: Sharks' Craig Bradshaw in action.

If it wasn't for a series of pesky injuries, Southland Sharks' centre Craig Bradshaw would probably be in Europe right now on a lucrative basketball contract.

Bradshaw put his name up in bright lights in 2006 when he scored 25 points to help lead the Tall Blacks to their first away win over Australia.

The 2.07m Bradshaw was destined for big things in the game, but during the last three years his career has been stalled by a shocking run of injuries, which has prevented him from playing to his full potential.

He suffered a stress fracture in his lower leg three years ago and then required corrective surgery on his ankle in 2010.

These days, the 28-year-old is still a handful in the New Zealand Basketball League, but understands he will never be 100 per cent healthy again and must manage his body as best he can.

Bradshaw is not the dominant force inside he once was and he said it was a matter of being smart out on court and knowing his limitations.

"I realise now I can't jump and run like I used to. I have to find other ways to score. I've always been able to shoot the three. I concentrate more on that and post work now rather than jumping over people and running around the court."

Bradshaw has always possessed an impressive outside shooting touch for a big man, but that area of play has become even more of a strength for him this season.

He is the second most accurate three-point shooter in the league at 54 per cent, with only Harbour's Reuben Te Rangi better at 58 per cent.

Bradshaw has been unstoppable from beyond the arc during Southland's last two games, draining six of seven three-pointers, with several of those coming during the final quarter to inspire the Sharks to victory.

In last Saturday's game, against Wellington, Bradshaw hurt his ankle during the first half and said he fought through the pain barrier to finish the game.

With several minor injury concerns in the camp, Southland trained lightly earlier in the week to allow players the chance to freshen up and Bradshaw said he would be fine for this weekend's home double-header against Taranaki (tonight) and Nelson (tomorrow).

The Sharks have played some of their best basketball of the season over the past fortnight at home – knocking over top-of-the-table Hawke's Bay, then pulling off a dramatic come from behind win over two-time defending champions Wellington last weekend.

Southland sit just outside the top four with six games remaining and could place themselves in a wonderful position if they can secure two wins at home over the next 48 hours.

Since joining the NBL in 2010, the Sharks have been plagued by inconsistency and will be attempting to win their third game in a row for the first time in franchise history tonight.

Bradshaw believed his team would likely need to win five of their last six outings to make the finals for the third consecutive season.

"We could do it with four from six, but we probably need five out of six. It's going to be tough, but it's possible."

Taranaki will be buoyed by Wednesday's road win over Nelson and, like Southland, are fighting for their playoff lives.

They have one of the most lethal backcourts in the league in American guards Darryl Hudson and Jack Leasure, while boasting experienced big men in Aaron Bailey-Nowell, Damon Rampton and the ageless Link Abrams.

Tipoff at the velodrome today is at 7pm.

Southland Sharks: Larry Abney (c), Kevin Braswell, Shaun Tilby, Dan Peck, Craig Bradshaw, Dion Prewster, James Paringatai, Jimmy Todd, Paratene McLeod, Andrew Wheeler, Rhys Smolenski.

Taranaki Mountain Airs: Darryl Hudson, Jack Leasure, Chris Daniel, Aaron Bailey-Nowell, Link Abrams, Damon Rampton, Mada Adbelamid, Brad Anderson, Eli Paurini, Matt Wallace.

The Southland Times